Men in long robes chant the names of the Saints,
over and over and again —
It is a day of procession, a long somber parade
across cool marble of colossal scale and exquisite detail,
each piece a cross section of the universe, sublime
swirls sliced from quarries in Carrara.
Men with canes, men in scarlet and white robes
process, proceed, male pall bearers in black suits
carry the Pope's body across, beneath, and through
centuries of frescoed walls. Empire at it's most holy
instant can be no greater than this death,
than this procession through which men proceed,
according to habit, then turn to the great piazza one
last time where women raise tear stained faces
to world cameras, gaze one last time
on his holiness — one last time,
one can but hope.
It is said this Pope appreciated art, fortunate—
considering where he lived.
It is said he brought down the iron curtain
in Eastern Europe —
he and a few million factory workers and farmers.
He wanted to ban nuclear weapons —
lost that one completely. Heal the sick —
a wing of the Vatican could buy the end of A.I.D.S.
His was, according to the US president, a significant life —
this Polish freedom fighter who drew his last breath
in the jaws of the colossus which he became
when he dawned it's god hood.
The president who has no time to attend
services for fallen soldiers he commands,
will lead the US delegation Rome for the
funeral of the Pope.
I bought a slice of watermelon
across the street from the Vatican a few years ago
for 8 Euros, then proceeded through marble hallways,
ripe with the pageant of god art, culminating
at the Sistine Chapel, which I had always wanted
to witness, was disappointed by the crowd,
by low light, by the dullness of the room compared
to Time/Life photos I memorized years ago,
by persistent "shusshing" when I wanted
to sing aloud, a full operatic bellow,
or maybe it was culture shock.
The day before I'd stood on the African street
where whole families live in rooms smaller
than my kitchen, no screens, no running water.
I couldn't take my eyes from the marble floor.
There were witches in it.
©Susan Bright, 2005.
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.