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The Traitor

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A few days before the first snow the soldiers dressed like children began to appear. “Come quick,” said Beatrice, fetching Walter B. away from his scripture, “and bring candy!” Walter B. pulled on his robe and joined Beatrice on the balcony. “Oh look,” said Beatrice, “you can see their small, sweet eyes peeking through the bramble.” Walter B. threw a handful of red gumdrops into the air and watched the soldiers dressed like children scatter, and raise their arms in glee. “Feels sinful, doesn’t it?” purred Beatrice. They watched them stand in the field and chew. “Which one,” asked Walter B., “do you think is the hero?” “That one,” said Beatrice. “Definitely that one. The one with the mittens.” “Yes,” agreed Walter B., “the others seem less... festooned.” “And which one do you think,” asked Walter B., “is the traitor?” Beatrice bit her lip and looked around. “Maybe that one,” she said. “The one with the orange flower in the pocket of his vest.” Walter B. agreed, but to be certain he thought that he should ask. “Little traitor,” called out Walter B. The traitor looked up. “I knew it!” said Beatrice, clapping her hands. The traitor came closer. The wind shook the orange flower loose from his pocket, but he did not run after it. He missed his mother. The traitor came closer, but then he stopped. He curled into his flowerless vest and fell asleep. Walter B. and Beatrice yawned. The soldiers dressed like children opened their mouths as wide as they could, but there was no more candy. There would never again be more candy. And so they sailed away to another land.

Sabrina Orah Mark, “The Traitor” 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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The Traitor

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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 Editions.
     
    The poems in The Babies are haunted by invented characters and fabulous details; mysterious fates, wars, and historical events are hinted at, and characters navigate relationships and terrors in a series of surreally twisted prose poems. Commenting on her unique style, Mark, in an interview for Apostrophe Cast, explained that her maternal family speaks Yiddish and that her syntax has been influenced by their speech patterns.
     
    Mark’s awards include a National...

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