Skip to Content
Search Icon


Pius Papa Decimus

A poem.


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we groaned through Terce, And unto us the priests all turned their backs, Till Papa Ultra Vires made things worse. Monks prayed asleep. Many had lost their shoes, Yet sang as one with eyes to psalters blind, Inspired as good New Covenantal Jews Upon whom God’s assistance hath inclined.   “New Books! Quick, boys!”—An ecstasy of fumbling, Breaking the brand-new bindings just in time; But someone was still rustling ’round and bumbling, For triple crowns hath purged the Writ Divine. Dim, through the abbey’s stained glass filtered light, As ’neath a deep blue sea, I saw him drowning; To halve the Sunday Psalms yields no delight— Our brother sat there, sulking, pouting, frowning.   If in some haunting dreams you too could pace Around the cloister with a psalter thin And see the calendar descend from grace And find where Hannibal fell into sin— If you could hear the experts resurrect Mark Tully’s tongue in Nineteen Forty-Eight While readying the Missal to be wrecked Beneath the Dewfall’s unrelenting weight— My friend, you ardently would fain discuss The tailor who unwove the Psalms away: The tyrant Pius Papa Decimus, Servus servorum Dei.      Joey Belleza works in the Diocese of Oakland.

To continue reading, subscribe to The Lamp.

Get unlimited access to our complete archive when you subscribe.

Already a Subscriber?