Marching Orders  

Gayle Brandeis

i.

 

The day I left my husband,
a crew was tearing up
the road outside our house,

peeling away asphalt I thought

would be there forever,

easy as navel orange rind. 

 

They had been working down

the street the last week,
a sign near them blinking

“OPEN TRENCH”,
then “SLOW SLOW”
in dull orange bulbs. I heard

this in my head for days 

 

OPEN TRENCH

SLOW SLOW

OPEN TRENCH

SLOW SLOW 

 

ii.

 

My parents came out to help me

find a fridge for the new place

after the one I bought for twenty

bucks smelled so bad, I was scared

to go in the kitchen. 

 

We stared into empty white Frigidaires

for hours, dazed by the clean, bright light,

then fell into step on the sidewalk--
our legs in perfect unintended synch,

arms laced around each other’s backs like

Rockettes—and my dad began to call
out one of his Army marching chants: 

 

I had a good home and I left

I had a good home and I left

Left right left right left right

Leftright! 

 

We were giddy with our rhythm
until the words sank in, and then
I was glad their arms were around me

because they had to hold me up. 

 

I had a good home and I left

I had a good home and I left 

 

iii

 

I had a good home

SLOW SLOW
and I left
SLOW SLOW SLOW 

 

Open trench

SLOW SLOW

and I     left

                     right

          left

                    right

          left

                    right

leftright 

 

I had a home.
I was entrenched.

I found an opening

and I left. 

 

SLOW

SLOW 

 

Right? 

 

I had a good home.

I dug a slow trench.

I may not have left right.

But I opened.
And I left. 

Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne), and the novels The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction of Social Engagement, Self Storage (Ballantine), Delta Girls (Ballantine), and My Life with the Lincolns (Henry Holt Books). Two books are forthcoming in 2017: a memoir, The Art of Misdiagnosis (Beacon Press) and a collection of poetry, The Selfless Bliss of the Body (Finishing Line Press).