I heard once that after doing the math on Bruges
Hitler determined that it was too far off for him to bomb,
and so instead, he sent them a flock of swans—
a flock of swans as a scourge, as if such smallness
could itself be sophistication, as if he thought himself
a more elegant version of King Solomon—but he sent swans
as a scourge, swans instead of scorpions and swans
instead of bombs . . .
It is, of course, a myth but an amazingly easy one
for me to believe,for me to imagine the words
coming to him like a bad peace slogan from three decades later:
Swans Instead of Bombs!
The sort of phrase that begs so strongly for its repetition
that I’m surprised I’ve never heard it chanted before.
The sort of thing that Yoko Ono might have said
before we all stopped listening to her (though she could be
saying it right now). The kind of thought that smacks
with the snide priggishness of leaving too good of a tip
for a bad waiter, or worse, for a waiter you just don’t like.
Once, after being served at a nice restaurant by Nick,
the captain of my middle school soccer team,
I got to the check before my wife could, and left
a thirty dollar gratuity on a fifty dollar tab. Left for Nick
who I hadn’t acknowledged all evening, a nice little
fuck-you tip, before standing up to stumble off
into the rest of my night, professing in my silence
and in my intermittent stride an exquisitely forgettable maxim
for my better self.
Caleb Curtiss teaches high school English in Champaign, IL. He is the winner of the Fall 2013 Black River Chapbook Competition for his book, A Taxonomy of the Space Between Us.
“Swans as a Scourge” was originally published in The Rogue Idea (TLR Winter 2011)