“Punching Nazis” by Russel Swensen

Punching Nazis

The trick is to make sure you don’t cut your knuckles
On their teeth. Even if you’re careful,
This may happen. Once, punching a kid in fourth grade
I broke my hand, and I swear, I landed clean.
In a different world, I would remember
Why I hit him. Perhaps he said something,
Or there was something about his behavior.
But, since I do not think he was a Nazi, perhaps
This is not relevant. The trick, really, with punching
A Nazi is figuring out what to do next.
You’ve punched a Nazi and your hand may be aching,
Or not, but is punching him once enough? And if not,
How many times should you punch him?
Until he’s changed his mind? This is difficult to ascertain from
A smear of blood. Besides, his mind, or “views,” exist as an
Abstraction and you are doing a concrete thing—
The one has very little to do with the other. I think yes, once
Would not be enough. Twice? Would three times
Suffice? Perhaps we are looking at this all wrong.
Punching the Nazi is not a symbolic act. Which means
You should punch him until he is insensible.
Once he is shattered like so many twigs, only then…
But what if he recovers? I am here to tell you,
They often do. And having recovered, what is there
To prevent him from continuing to be a Nazi
Or seeking revenge? We must walk back to the body
and make sure that it is not, later on,
A man.


2017-10-05 15.41.54-1

Russel Swensen earned his MFA in fiction from the California Institute of the Arts and his doctorate in poetry from the University of Houston. He is the author of Santa Ana (2012) and The Magic Kingdom (2016). His fiction and poetry have appeared in Black Clock, Quarterly West, Pank, Third Coast, Devil’s Lake, The Collagist, The Destroyer, and elsewhere. He lives in New Orleans.

Featured image by Mike Wilson

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