The New Pope Talks About the Contents of His Briefcase

Dante Di Stefano

Asked what was in the black briefcase
that he carried onto the plane by himself
en route to Brazil, Francis said he had
a razor, a breviary, a book about St. Teresa,

a razor because favelas rise like stubble
all over the world, a razor because turning
the other cheek often exposes five o’clock
shadow, a razor because the meek

shall inherit the cutting instruments,
a razor because the meek shall inherit
the sting no styptic can staunch, a razor
because the sharp edge recalls Gethsemane

and Gethsemane is the world right now,
a breviary because prayer requires prompting
even among the holy, a simple breviary
because a flock forgets the shepherd’s staff,

an ornate breviary because the basilica
of orchard, the basilica of forest and field,
obliges its priests to chant down the Babylon
of Rome, a breviary because the liturgy

always takes place in the dirtiest street,
a book about Saint Theresa of Avila
because recollection leads to devotion
and devotion leads to ecstasy, a book

about Saint Theresa because the prayer
of quiet culls a blessing from tears,
a book about Saint Theresa because if you
have God you will want for nothing,

a book about Theresa because the church
canonizes a new saint every minute
as if desperate to bludgeon us into heaven,
a razor, a breviary, a book about a saint,

because Christ has no body now on earth
but yours, and you have no baggage
now on earth save what nicks, what abridges,
what records, what beatifies what sorrow.

Dante Di Stefano is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Creative Writing at Binghamton University. His poetry and essays have appeared recently in Shenandoah, The Hollins Critic, The Grove Review, Brilliant Corners, Bayou Magazine, and elsewhere. He won the 2013 Academy of American Poets College Prize and was the first place winner of the 2012 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award. He is also a poetry editor for Harpur Palate literary magazine.


  1. says

    I *love* the poem. The hurried hammering keys of that worn out canon, not so much. The spoken word alone would have been a better fit for the meager and meaningful contents of that brief-case. Spoke me mind. :)

  2. Miguel says

    Lovely, very moving. I for one happen to think that the music complements the voice really well (and it was, indeed, extremely well read). At the point the reader gets to “when you have God you will want for nothing” both the music and the voice takes on a certain inflection that just pierced me like a sword.

    • says

      That’s one of the wonderful things about art and about life, differing taste and how God works within our (even God given) differences to bring his blessing and grace. :)