Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


by Jesse Millner

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto / Pool via Reuters

“He is picky about his robes and his red shoes are tailor-made, but Pope Benedict has taken the meaning of bespoke to a whole new level by ordering a custom-blended eau de cologne just for him. The fragrance, which mixes hints of lime tree, verbena and grass, was concocted by the Italian boutique perfume maker Silvana Casoli, who has previously created scents for customers including Madonna, Sting and King Juan Carlos of Spain.”
                                            --Tom Kingston in Rome, The Guardian,
                                              Wednesday 14 March 2012 20.33 GMT

So, now the Pope’s got his own specialty cologne
that he can wear with his silk pajamas and fancy slippers
when he reclines in his Pope chair and convenes with the angels.

I imagine, that at this very moment, a thousand poets
are writing about the holy man’s perfume, and the sweet
irony of an alleged follower of a poor Palestinian carpenter

spraying himself with Eau de Pope before praying
to Jesus and then issuing his infallible commands
about birth control, aliens, and universal love.

I say, pontificate all you want, you good smelling old dude!
Personally, I prefer to wallow in my sacred human stink,
that odor of sweat, dirt, and righteous movement

through this humid, tropical world
where right at this moment light is assembling
the areca palms outside my window.

Because I am a failed Southern Baptist,
I have spent much of my life
defending the persecuted Catholics,

once a much maligned minority in Protestant America.
When I was little, the preacher told me
that Catholics and Jews were all going to Hell.

I rebelled by embracing polytheism
and looking for god in the green reign
of Whitman’s grasses.

These days, however, some Catholics
seem as silly as most Baptists,
and I wonder what’s the difference

between them, really?  Catholics like
pomp and circumstance, believe in mommy
Mary, fill their churches with iconic splendor,

while the Baptists insist on a leaner diet
of gospel pie, on a much narrower
road to salvation.  And there is

this: Baptists believe the Pope
is the Antichrist.  Which makes me
consider marketing an Eau de Antichrist perfume,

when properly applied, would cause
the believer to tremble and speak in tongues about
the coming Apocalypse.  My own wife

hates perfumes and colognes, complains
every time we fly, trapped in those aluminum
scent boxes with hundreds of other humans

who smell of fake flowers and  real b.o.,
who like us, fasten their seat belts and ascend
into the Florida sky.  Here’s the honest

to god, infallible truth: the Pope, like all of us,
is merely another mammal,
another smelly seeker on this journey

of stargazers and reality show contestants
all looking for that sublime moment
of delicious, good-smelling transcendence.

Jesse Millner's work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including River Styx, Willow Springs, and Pearl. His most recent poetry collection, Dispatches from the Department of Supernatural Explanation, was released by Kitsune Books in April 2012. Jesse teaches writing courses at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.