The Pope Replies to the Ayatollah Khomeini

My Dear Khomeini:

I read your fourteen thousand dollar
ad asking me why the Vatican waited
all of these years to send an envoy
to complain about conditions in Iran
You’re right, we should have sent one
when the Shah was in power, look,
I’m in total agreement with you
Khomeini, that Christ, had he lived in
Iran under the Shah, would have led the
biggest damned revolt you ever saw

Believe me, Khomeini, I knew about
the Shah’s decadence, his extravagance
his misdeeds, and how he lolled about
in luxury with Iran’s loot
I knew about the trail of jewels which
led to his Dad’s capture
but a fella has to eat and so when
David Rockefeller asked me to do something
how could I refuse?

You can afford to be holier than thou
What is it, 30 dollars per barrel these days?
You must be bathing in oil
While each day I suffer a new indignity

You know that rock record they made me
do? It’s 300 on the Charts which is about
as low as you can get.
And I guess you read where I
had to call in all those Cardinals and
for the first time reveal the Vatican
I had to just about get down on my hands
and knees to get them to co-sign for a
The Vatican jet has a mechanical problem
and the Rolls-Royce needs a new engine
The staff hasn’t been paid in months
and the power company is threatening to
turn off the candles
To add to that, the building inspector
has listed us as having 30,000 code
I’m telling you, Khomeini, that
so many people are leaving the church
I have this nightmare where I
wake up one day in Los Angeles and
I’m the only one left

Pretty soon we’ll be one of those
cults you read about in the San
Francisco Chronicle
And so, Khomeini, I promise
you that when we pay off the
deficit, I won’t send an envoy
I’ll come visit you myself

I’d like to discuss this plan
that Patriarch Dimitrios, of
the Greek Orthodox Church, and I
just came up with

You know, we haven’t spoken to
those fellows in 900 years but
when you are 20 million dollars
in the red
You’ll talk to anybody

Ishmael Reed, “The Pope Replies to the Ayatollah Khomeini” from New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 1980 by Ishmael Reed. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: New and Collected Poems (Self-published, 1988)