A World Gone Plaid

by Jon Wesick

CHEERLEADERS wore immaculate letter sweaters
and thigh-length plaid skirts
at a high school pep rally in Michigan.
Argyle socks nuzzled the ankles
of their firm bare legs.
What harm could it do
to join everyone in a victory chant?

At last I belonged
to something greater than myself.
What did it matter
if men in Madras coats took away
a few homosexuals in flower-print shirts?
I kept quiet,
when they rounded up suede-clothed Gypsies.

When secret police arrested journalists in pin-striped suits,
I threw out my solid dress shirts,
bought a pair of Bermuda shorts,
and sought refuge in the crowd
goose-stepping down Adolf Hitler Strasse.

Stalin and Mussolini looked down on us from the reviewing stand.
They wore flannel shirts and bib overalls
and were joined by Pol Pot in his checkered scarf.

Storm Troopers in tartans and platform shoes
roamed the streets breaking tailors' windows
and pinning alligator labels on Jews.

SS squads in lumber jackets
issued kilts and machetes to children,
who hacked off parents' heads
and displayed their trophies on thirty foot racks.

Empty skulls looked on
while smokestacks at Kalamazoo blackened the sky
with the ashes of Calvin Klein and Yves Saint Laurent.

The horror lasted seven years,
until a paisley army from Ontario
braved a hail of bombs and jagged steel
to take the beaches at Mackinaw City.

Next time someone asks you to sing along
a martial tune or a ballad about a cute little skunk,
remember my tale.
Think twice before you join the chorus.
Think twice.

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