Walter B. Needs Some Time

By Sabrina Orah Mark b. 1975 Sabrina Orah Mark
When Walter B., one evening, explained to Beatrice that he “needed time,” Beatrice pulled the last bite of fish from Walter B.’s mouth and shook it at him. She wished he had said instead that he needed a timbrel, and off they would have gone together to the spectacle where the timbrelist often played. But Walter B. did not need a timbrel. Walter B. “needed time.” So Beatrice wrapped what was left of the fish in a red wool cloth and set out to find him some. It was cold outside. If I was time, wondered Beatrice, where would I be? She watched the humans in the distance breathe into the grass. If I was time, wondered Beatrice, how would I remind myself of where I was? She held the last bite of fish up to her mouth for warmth. It began to feel heavy in her hands. She wished he had said instead that he needed a timbrel. She wished she was for Walter B. the time he needed. But she was not. She unwrapped the last bite of fish and studied it. It reminded her of a world inside of which Walter B. was mostly gone. She rubbed her arms with it. She buried her face in it. It began to grow around her like a soft, white house. It grew, and it grew, until at last Beatrice was inside. She slowly walked through its rooms. In the first room, a pile of shovels. In the second, a pitcher of milk. When she stepped inside the third, Walter B. and the timbrelist were helping each other on with their coats. “If you were time,” called out Walter B., “where would you be?” Before Beatrice could answer, Walter B. saluted her, took the timbrelist by the hand, and left her alone in the soft, white house. Beatrice sat on the floor. Much later she would drink from the pitcher of milk. She would lean against the pile of shovels. But for now all Beatrice could do was sit on the floor. She would sit on the floor of the soft, white house until she grew hungry again for Walter B.’s last bite of fish.

Sabrina Orah Mark, “Walter B. Needs Some Time” from Tsim Tsum. Copyright © 2009 by Sabrina Orah Mark. Reprinted by permission of Saturnalia Books.

Source: Tsim Tsum (Saturnalia Books, 2009)

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Poet Sabrina Orah Mark b. 1975

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Sabrina Orah Mark grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She earned a BA from Barnard College, an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a PhD from the University of Georgia. She is the author of the book-length poetry collections The Babies (2004), winner of the Saturnalia Book Prize chosen by Jane Miller, and Tsim Tsum (2009), as well as the chapbook Walter B.’s Extraordinary Cousin Arrives for a Visit & Other Tales from Woodland . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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