Those Pesky Geese Again
A.M. Juster, Sleaze & Slander (2016)
One of the many charms of this collection of comic and satirical verse is that, among the versions of Martial, Horace and Ausonius, and various other witty poems, it contains one that specifically addresses Canada:
A Stern Warning to Canada
If you want peace
withdraw your geese.
This is a very funny little poem, and as there’s nothing worse than explaining a joke, I’m going to try not to go on about it at such length that I spoil it.
In two brief lines, however, it implies a lot about Canada-U.S. relations. Of course the title and minatory tone of the first line are intended playfully (aren’t they…?). For the joke to work, however, there has to be a kernel of truth behind it, and that kernel is that the U.S. is a much more militarily powerful nation than Canada, and so at least the possibility of a threat is real.
The demand that Canada remove its geese, while absurd, also implies that there has been an unwanted influx of Canada geese into the U.S. We could read this as a sly reference to our famously undefended border, which has recently been in the news, and which wildlife can cross even more easily than people.
For more about Canada geese in poetry by non-Canadians, check out our post on Derek Mahon.
To learn more about the book, you can read my review of Sleaze & Slander, which appeared earlier this year in The Literateur.