All Is Fair in Love and War

By Sabrina Orah Mark b. 1975 Sabrina Orah Mark
“Who is Beatrice,” wondered Walter B., “to give Beatrice up her hope?” Beatrice sulked under her cauliflower-colored hat. “It is like,” said Beatrice, “I can barely crack another joke.” “This is correct,” said Walter B. “It is most certainly like that. Nevertheless, whoever you are it is not up to you to give up your hope. And additionally you are spoiling the day.” “What is ‘giving up your hope’?” asked Beatrice. “It is when,” explained Walter B., “you have to ask.”


It all began with the appearance of The Unlikelies. It was difficutl to anticipate in these small men sitting cross-legged on the living room floor the havoc they would bring. They held hands. They sang a song about trees, and as they sang their tree-shaped ears swelled with what Beatrice would later describe as pride. They asked for gently steamed vegetables. They seemed genuinely concerned. “Pick a heart,” they cheered, “any heart.” Beatrice picked one. “Expect for that one.” Beatrice picked another. “And that one, too.” “That was less joyous,” said Beatrice, “than I’d expected.” “The hearts you picked,” explained The Unlikelies, “had been picked yesterday.” “It is unlikely,” said The Unlikelies, “that will happen again.” Walter B. hid in the kitchen. Whose side The Unlikelies were on, Beatrice began to wonder. “Pick a heart,” they urged. Beatrice picked another. “Except for that one.” Beatrice picked another. “And that one, too.” With each heart Beatrice picked The Unlikelies grew larger. They seemed genuinely concerned. “All is dare,” they reminded Beatrice with their mouths full of broccoli, and carrots, and peas, “in blur and core.” By dawn, Walter B. could still hear Beatrice picking hearts. Their empty husks filled the floor. The Unlikelies huddled closer together. “Except for that one,” they mumbled sleepily, moving closer to the door. The Unlikelies were, by now, as big as the furniture. “And that one, too.” Walter B. hid in the kitchen. He imagined he would make out of all the husks a hearty soup. He rummaged for a pot. He would feed Beatrice the soup, drop by drop, until she forgot this highly unlikely event impossible to forsee by any hopeful thing. “All is spare in buds and more,” promised The Unlikelies, as they squeezed their enormous bodies out the door.


Days later, when Beatrice asked Walter B. if The Unlikelies were still standing outside in the sunlight, congratulating each other, Walter B. said “no.” But Beatrice knew they were there. And she knew they would return for her. They seemed genuinely concerned.

Sabrina Orah Mark, “All Is Fair in Love and War” 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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