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a poem for the pope 2005

Patti Smith was scheduled to give a benefit concert for Antonio Bassolino, Democratic candidate for governor of the Campania Region in Italy in Naples on April 1st (Naples is the capital of the region). On April 4th Bassolino was elected, and Patti asked that this statement regarding the passing of the Pope be placed on Signor Bassolino's website:

"I asked Antonio Bassolino to insert these words on his website, because what has happened deeply struck me, and I wish to share it with all my Italian friends. To be in Italy today and be able to share these days and nights with all Italians is a very great privilege for me. John Paul II is also my Pope. He is an important figure because he was opposed to all forms of war and had the ability to pardon everyone, even the man who tried to kill him.

Above all, he was a person who struggled against his illness with great dignity. The terrible news of John Paul II's illness brought me back in time to 1978 when he became Pope. I was writing a poem on the death of John Paul I, so unexpected, when I saw the photos of Pope Wojtyla published. It immediately transmitted a feeling of strength and peace and I immediately had faith in him, in his determination to defend peace. My sadness became joy, and hope in the future.

To John Paul II I dedicate this poem.

Patti Smith

Time is expressed
in the heart
of an instrument
Something that stops
in the heart of a man
Time is the wall and the space around
Time is the tree a life that resounds
Time to adore and time to go
To give to the fisherman
the slippers of Rome
the whirling embrace
the arms of the fold
to gather together
the swirl of the leaves
turning and falling
returning as thee
to the clay of creation
tho' your children will hold
the wave of your hand
the smile of your soul




Pope John Paul II - Karol Josef Wojtyla
May 18, 1920 - April 2, 2005

"The particular vocation of individual artists decides the arena in which they serve and points as well to the tasks they must assume, the hard work they must endure and the responsibility they must accept. Artists who are conscious of all this know too that they must labor without allowing themselves to be driven by the search for empty glory or the craving for cheap popularity, and still less by the calculation of some possible profit for themselves. There is therefore an ethic, even a "spirituality" of artistic service, which contributes in its way to the life and renewal of a people."



"Karol Josef Wojtyla was born in Wadowice, Southern Poland. He was a vigorous, athletic and artistic young man who carved a living writing plays and working in a quarry. He received his calling into the priesthood and climbed the holy ladder of the Catholic Church. On December 30, 1963 he was named the Archbishop of Krakow. On September 28, 1978, at the age of fifty-eight, he was elected the Bishop of Rome following the mysterious and sad death of Pope Jean Paul I, his humble and pastoral predecessor.

Though one could argue against many of his dogmatic policies, his outspoken stance against war and political oppression cannot be disputed. His courage in the face of infirmary is an inspiration. On May 13, 1981 he was shot four times and gravely wounded by Mehmet Ali Agca. On December 27, 1983 he visited his assailant in his prison cell in Rome. For twenty minutes the two men sat quietly and conversed and prayed like brothers. Jean Paul II pardoned him and appealed for all to do the same. This simple, human gesture dissolved the robes and the papal cap. Karol Josef Wojtyla, for a brief respite, stood bareheaded, smiling in the sun."




Patti Smith

In the garden of the fugitive
he knelt singing
I am with thee

In his white cassock he cried
I pray for that brother
who shot me

A black crucifix appeared
as he lay dying
forgive me

I am one

Crepe streamed from three windows
a flag dropped bound in mourning
these words entered the heart

You have come
the door is open
you will not find me
you will find my love




Patti Smith