by Abby E. Murray
They schedule a reintegration conference
at the Doubletree two weeks after we pick you up
from the Fort Carson gym, your rifles oiled
and the dead weight of armor locked up
behind chain-link. For two weeks we reintegrate
our mouths and hands because there isn’t much to say
after twelve months of letters. We forget
there is a colonel until his wife calls to tell us
the conference is mandatory, ladies included,
and she thinks the couples’ seminar
will be especially worth my while.
In the hotel ballroom, a chaplain introduces
two volunteers: a husband and wife
who are here to demonstrate three ways
to be married after Iraq. He says we can use
the alphabet to identify a healthy marriage.
The couple stands side by side, bends away
from each other with their arms up,
and the chaplain says this is a V:
this couple is growing apart, pushing away
from one another by choosing different paths.
He has them demonstrate the letter A:
a codependent pair who lean forehead to forehead
and tremble from the effort. If one falls
the other will too. A woman in the row
ahead of me draws a strike through the letter A
on a notepad. Then, finally, the right choice
for officers and their wives, a letter H:
two people who clasp hands but stand a safe distance
apart, their spines pointed straight up to heaven.
They are balanced and he tells them to smile.
The chaplain sends us home with a workbook
that tells us to report domestic violence.
I fold it in half and use it to scrape snow off the car,
take you home where we practice the letter S,
the Y, the L, all of them brought to us by war.