Goose Step

by Lois P. Jones
Pen Shells
Second Place, January 2008
Judged by Fleda Brown

The Goose-Step
. . . is one of the most horrible sights in the world,
far more terrifying than a dive-bomber. –George Orwell

He loves to goose-step in her parking lot,
fluorescent light casting the stage
for Dachau. He grins in his brown
skinned suit, marvels at the way the Germans
treat him like a countryman. Loves the coarse
consonants of their commands, the wild sex
with the German girl he’d had on the road to Spain.

He wanders through Jewish graveyards to feel
the faded dates of the tombs. A pastime,
in the way that stepping is his pleasure
in the darkness. He loves the swastika,
tells her about its ancient origins, the dotted quadrants
of the Hindus, the Neolithic symbols 10,000 years
before Christ. “A tradition” that dates to the 17th century,
the Prussian army stepping on the faces of the enemy.

She finds him aesthetic, like the tall leather
boots of the Reichswehr. Tries to think
about his love of flamenco, the dark hollows
of his song unbedding a command. She knows
to pass under him is the terror
she needs. He knows to pass over her

like another graveyard. She prays the neighbors
are not looking. Begs him to stop but he smirks,
lifts his legs higher and higher. A sign of unity
like the men who stepped around Lenin’s tomb.
It says that man can withstand all orders
for love, no matter how painful, how ludicrous.

A tightly controlled, dense poem that in its language evokes the goose-step itself. I like the way this poem moves from the image of marching (under the fluorescent light, scarier still!) to all the ramifications of the love affair, from flamenco dancing, to wild sex, to the study of gravestones--all at the emotional pitch that the word Nazi implies. "She finds him aesthetic" says everything we need to know about their relationship, and about what can drive people into inhuman behavior. --Fleda Brown