The extensive coverage of Pope John Paul II’s death reminded me of a poem by Carol Ann Duffy (from The World’s Wife), which, to me, is a perfect example of how language can be used to challenge established ways of thinking and open new paths of reflection to explore. I think that poems are experienced in a very personal manner, so I won’t analyze it further and will just let you read it. Don’t click on French version to see how I translated it; I didn’t. I believe you have to be a poet, which unfortunately I’m not, to be able to translate poetry (however, if a French poet reader feels up to the challenge, I’d love to read his or her version).
Pope Joan
After I learned to transubstantiate
unleavened bread
into the sacred host
and swung the burning frankincense
till blue-green snakes of smoke
coiled round the hem of my robe
and swayed through those fervent crowds,
high up in a papal chair,
blessing and blessing the air,
nearer to heaven
than cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests,
being Vicar of Rome,
having made the Vatican my home,
like the best of men,
in nominee patris et filii et spiritus sancti amen,
but twice as virtuous as them,
I came to believe
that I did not believe a word,
so I tell you now,
daughters or brides of the Lord,
that the closest I felt
to the power of God
was the sense of a hand
lifting me, flinging me down,
lifting me, flinging me down,
as my baby pushed out
from between my legs
where I lay in the road
in my miracle,
not a man or a pope at all.