Plenary Indulgence

Abrakedabra! and a plume of white smoke
Habemus Papam We have a Pope!

Through crimson curtains he emerges.
Immaculate.
Cassock and cape like fresh snow.
The conclave gushes behind
all blood red and sanguine.
They are umbilical

Connecting me to my grandmother
who polished her front step
with a tin of Cardinal Red
reciting her thirty-day-prayer
in rhythm with the bristles of her brush –
her incantation
a crucifix of indentation –
up and down, side to side, going nowhere.
The end result gleamed but was slippery
like dripping.

Do you know the Pope wears red shoes ?
I do – for the blood of the martyrs
or maybe for their Ferragamo tag.
Do you know he wears a fisherman’s ring?
I do – for St. Peter who cast
his net into the sea
or maybe to dress his hand
with gold and diamonds.
Do you know he gives out a Plenary
Indulgences on special occasions?
I do.

And then the pope raised his hand
and drew the world to his palm
and to my surprise, for a moment, I remained there.

(First published in Poetry 24)