Rick Bursky



The History of Traitors


Every army has one The night before battle

Caesar’s cousin dulled the edges of swords.

Later, the cousin’s severed head

– a black ball of maggots and flies –

on the side of the road.

No mention of what to do with this information.

God is the original traitor.

Ask the defeated facing the firing squad.

Hesitation is an indictment. Late in the cold war,

the United States Army coated spoons

with a chemical that turned orange under ultraviolet light

once exposed to an enzyme produced by stress.

The theory was that it would be present in traitors.
It is said that seventy-two

of these spoons were placed

in army mess halls in Korea.

An army counterintelligence manual observes

that traitors smile more than other soldiers.



“Death Obscura,” Sarabande Books, 2014

Crazyhorse, The College of Charleston, Issue 68