Rope a Pope: Francis Bacon’s “Innocent X”

by Walt Shulits

Rope a Pope: Francis Bacon’s “Innocent X”

~After Bacon’s “Study after Velazquez’ Portrait of Pope Innocent X”

No, I’m not a malcontent monk or a condescending cultural critic
who snickers at the Vicar, presumes, impugns that there’s nothing
papal about this pontiff... but what if his raging religious rectitude
is really just dastardly deceit, what if this pope IS morally bent,

of Satanic descent, sent to earth young boys to torment or maybe
this bloke’s a practical joke, a woke masterstroke to evoke might in
the fight against the Christian right, smite its acolytes, which makes
him a buffoon, an opportune cartoon, a metaphoric goon to lampoon.

He looks so suave bedecked in mauve but that pansy purple is pul-
verized, buried by the bordering black, is it the bile of his barbarity
or bitterness from some baneful betrayal...and now behold that he’s
trussed in gold, oh how he cajoled, but despite his bulging billfold

he’ll never be paroled, perhaps it was something flimflam, financial
scam in the Vatican, gifting a nun a diaphragm(!), the public pissed
that he refused to desist so he was dismissed, is he an alchemist or
the Vicar of tryst, maybe that’s the gist but other theories exist,

some critics insist that you need go no farther than Francis and
his father, the dad was bad to the young lad and the painter stayed
mad but despite harbored hatred he found it harder to go furder
than metaphoric murder, papal patricide preferred.

One theory highfalutin but difficult to be disputin’, and not meaning
to impeach Nietzsche, to throw his ideas into the breech, but forget
about wanting to deprecate any unholy apostate reprobate, Bacon
simply got it into his head that God herself was surely dead.

An explanation far less banal— and perhaps some might even term
it anal— is that he wanted people to hear him “say” that he had an
inherent right to be gay even in a sadomasochistic way despite
cultural norms in the UK, anyway... he was the shock cock of the walk.

I’ve never understood the dismissive mystique, the intolerable twaddle
of artistic geeks, pedantic poseurs oh so highbrow expecting us peons
to be wowed and kowtow, pretentious pundits trying to be what they
ain’t— not a one of them knows how to paint— so I’m not even certain

why I wasted my time in uneven meter but not-too-bad rhyme trying
to understand what’s the big deal, the nature of this painting’s morbid
appeal, when I knew at first sight if I recall, despite the crap from the
critics’ cabal, I’d never want the damn thing on my wall.

Dumpster Fire Press (

Walt Shulits is a retired bond market professional and lifelong paddling fanatic-canoe, sea kayak, outrigger canoe and surf ski-who stumbled upon writing poetry while searching for a non-sport activity that would give him the same sense of living in the moment as paddling. Residing in Provence, France he spends as much time as possible in his beloved Hawaii. He tries to write poems for the multitudes who find poetry as incomprehensible as Sanskrit or as unappealing as mountain oysters.

Last updated July 21, 2022