Philadelphia has the poet laureate it deserves in Frank Sherlock.

And as poet laureates go, Sherlock, 46, a native of Southwest Philadelphia and a product of 12 years of Catholic schooling, could not be better suited to this particular chapter in Philadelphia history: the papal visit.

The pope and the poet share a name, a patron saint - St. Francis of Assisi, man of poverty and peace - and, as of this past week, their portraits share space on the celebrated wall at Dirty Frank's, one of the city's more iconic dives, decorated, of course, with images of famous Franks.

There is Pope Francis, smiling and waving, nestled among Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw; Frank Lloyd Wright; and Frank Burns, the character from the TV show M*A*S*H. There is Sherlock, reflective and introspective, hovering over Frank Perdue and Frank Oz.

And some nights the poet laureate of Philadelphia has the perfect vantage of the Dirty Frank's mural: his post at the bar door, where he has long worked as a bouncer.

Oh, that's another thing he and the pope have in common: Before he was Papa Francisco, Jorge Mario Bergoglio worked the door at a Buenos Aires nightclub.

So, it's only fitting the bard of Philadelphia would mark the pontiff's visit with a poem, from one Frank to another.

In fact, the poet-bouncer's poem for this famously pastoral pope is a natural extension of the kind of poetry Sherlock has been writing for decades.

The son of a secretary and a city worker, the author of four books of poems and many more chapbooks - and winner of a 2013 Pew Fellowship - so much of Sherlock's work revolves around his idea of Philadelphia, as he puts it, as a city of "otherly love."

Many of his poems are mined from those "other" Philadelphias: Immigrant Philadelphia. Homeless Philadelphia. Gay Philadelphia. The often-overlooked communities that Francis, with his message of inclusion and charity, has made the cornerstones of his papacy.

"These Philadelphias that don't make it into the visitors bureau, but are part of the formation of our everyday now," said Sherlock, who worked with the Food Trust, the Mural Arts Program, and other nonprofits before being named poet laureate in 2014.

Sherlock, as poet and his sometime collaborator C.A. Conrad says, "really believes in Philadelphia. Even if you love it, he can help you love it in a different way."

It was Sherlock's mother, a devout Catholic and a longtime archdiocesan secretary who passed away last year, who gave him the idea to write a poem for the papal visit.

"Are you going to read for the pope?" she asked him excitedly, upon hearing Francis would be coming to Philly.

His poem is called "What All the Dark Cannot Extinguish," a play on a quote from St. Francis. And the poem itself based on the saint's famous prayer, itself a call to action and compassion. Sherlock's poem begins:

Make me a channel of peace

a throughway for the lost & old, the alone & refugee

Woven through are details from the life of St. Francis that parallel Pope Francis' teachings on issues that resonate in our city.

From the environment to the plight of the immigrant, the poor, and the prisoner. From the hypocrisy of power to school closings and police brutality.

Teach me to silver a mirror in which I can see the other as me

It is a call for shared action. It concludes:

Your work is my work is our work together amen

Lindsay So of the city's Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, which oversees the poet laureate program, say they would love for Sherlock to have an opportunity to read his poem at one of the papal events.

But Meg Kane, a spokeswoman for the World Meeting of Families, who is planning the pope's program, says they have not received a request from the city for Sherlock to read.

Well, here's one: Have our poet laureate read his poem. It is a fitting tribute to a saint, a pope, a poet, and a city.

The regulars at Dirty Frank's dig the idea, too.

T.J. Jackson, 68, a retired children's psychologist, sat at the bar Wednesday night, nursing an Old Grand-Dad. He said he had read everything Sherlock has written. The "humanism" of it speaks to him.

"The poet, just like the pope," he said, "should always be among the people."


What All the Dark Cannot Extinguish

By Frank Sherlock

Make me a channel of peace
  a throughway for the lost & old the alone & refugee
  Guide me as visitor across the desert
  just to extend an embrace Where there are slats in jail windows whisper me through with a message
  Apprentice me as a breaker not a maker of chains Here
  the sick the dead the strong the alive are among us
  Give me what it takes to dejewel
  laying robes at the feet of power to laugh & walk away
  Allow me to be passage for the newest arrivers
  eyes to see sisters/ brothers in the convent the rowhouse the tent
  Grant me literacy to read this crate as fragile
  understanding it's more than machine parts that move the brightly unsighted
  Project me as more than a fictional image of love
  as a sculptor of marble no longer inscribing for wars
  Broaden this scope to recognize the many
  configurations of family Spread me as seed in the midst of thorn & rock
  Allow me sense to leave the dung of the devil as fertilizer
  for the most beatified blossoms among us
  Make me a channel for living waters from l.a. to sao paolo
  eroding doomed idols of greed
  Give me the smarts to be an opener not a closer of schools
  Supply me with tools to make a damascus road Undeafen me to hear
  I Can't Breathe from brooklyn to bangladesh
  Teach me to silver a mirror in which I can see the other as me
  Sister brother animal tree may we be reunited as kindred
  Where there is song string me as instrument to accompany
the hymn the nasheed the amidah
  Where there is disappearance speak through me as witness
  It can be dark but please one last prayer Make me in the image of love
  Your work is my work is our work together amen

215-854-2759 @MikeNewall