dumbfounded is a place
cut like a chasm in the gut
a sharp and instant color of
the space between two moments
dark and seeming without cause

one goes there not by choice
but as the pawn of psychopomps
whose garbled voices suddenly
make clear demands from under
customary drapes of gauze

then nothing is the same
not the piano or a slice of bread…
to breathe is stunning…one cannot
remember the cat’s name…one moves
slowly like a walking bruise

who said time heals all wounds?
who said time wounds all heels?
it matters not…with time the place
dumbfounded turns to so much sand
easily shaken from the shoes

60 responses »

  1. It seems to me you have captured almost precisely the free-fall from grace that occurs when something or someone cuts through our personal space, our etheric bodies, with some thing or some words in which there is no sense. It truly amazes me what you can make a poem from Cynthia – where I might just sit down and weep and stew, you craft a work of art! Brilliant xo

    • I’ve certainly done my share of the weeping and stewing, too, Pauline. Sometimes, though, like a demon begging to be exorcised, it results in a poem…usually like this one, written at great speed and—unlike my usual practice—-not needing revisions or editing. Of course you know the particular genesis of this poem, and your understanding is a gift and a real help to me. I’m especially fond of your expression “free-fall from grace.”…Where will it all land, I wonder….

  2. This speaks to me directly Cynthia, here in the UK a few days after the referendum that will take my country out of the EU: dumbfounded at the loss of a future I was counting on, dumbfounded at the way in which it happened as though by accident or misjudgment. Then again, within the last few hours, there’s been the shocking news of another terrorist atrocity, this time in poor besieged Istanbul. But of course the poem is not a political one and will speak to others on an intimate level, of the intensity of personal loss. Dumbfounded – I had not thought of it as a place – but indeed it is, and we may arrive there for many reasons.

    • As you surmise, this was not intended as a political poem, but perhaps its impetus in a private experience joined with the general atmosphere of shock in our world currently, to force its writing. I am so, so sorry for what you must be experiencing in your homeland as a result of what seems so dumbfounding, John. Pauline (above) described it as a free-fall from grace, and it certainly feels like that. I hope there will be a safe landing of some sort for us all. Bon courage.

  3. Brilliant poem, Cynthia! I am stunned by the way you capture the essence of an experience with so few words, exquisitely chosen. I particularly like the opening “dumbfounded is a place/ cut like a chasm in the gut” – yes, that is how it is for me, too!
    Thank you.

    • Dear Julie…thank you for coming and commenting today. We both know about this kind of place and one has to believe that it will sometime turn into just so much sand, easily shaken from the shoes. There’s always hope.

      • I love the way you present it as a place. I so totally “get” that and I agree. I had a health scare which turned out to be a tiny storm in a big teacup and I went straight to “that place” I don’t like that place but feel empowered that it can be named. ❤ ❤ ❤

          • thank you, Cynthia and now please prepare for my apt pun.
            clears throat (ahem)

            chostroconditis is a storm in an E. Cup.

            It is bad manners to guffaw and gigglesnort at one’s own joke but under the circumstances of RELIEF, I hope I might be pardoned.
            gigglesnorts all the way! 😀

            • I did not know what chostroconditis is and, of course, googled it. I can understand why the symptoms would have alarmed you that something really serious was happening. But it seems, as you first said, a smaller tempest in the teacup of stuff that can afflict us. I’m so glad to hear that! Obviously you are much relieved. And I love your joke. Go ahead and gigglesnort to your heart’s content! 🙂

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever been more dumbfounded than I am at the thought that Donald Trump has gotten to the point of possibly being elected President of the United States….but I digressed when I should be impressed (with your poem….and I am).

  5. Cynthia, I am dumbfounded by many things, and it therefore makes sense to map these little apologies on a diagram of the human soul; unfortunately, I could not find the precise location of the soul–maybe it is on the outskirts of Oregon, but I have no way of knowing this: I am surrounded by water and unable at present to venture forth, as voyages by sea make me misanthropic.

    • I empathize with your misanthropy and extend it, in my case, to include voyages on land.

      But don’t blame yourself for not being able to locate the soul…it’s one of those things we have a word for, but no visible thing for….or one of those words we have a thing for, but no fully satisfactory word for.

      The Greeks thought it was a person called Psyche but she was kidnapped by the Psychologists, a pseudo-scientific, soulless bunch, and never seen again. Dumfounding.

      • Unsatisfactory places where the soul may be located ( a list in progress):

        1) near the appendix (leading some experts to question whether the soul is also a useless appendage)
        2) in ‘mint chocolate chip’ ice cream–in between the chocolate chips and the mint (not as dumb as it sounds)
        3) on the roadside (need to disentangle it from the pernicious weeds that congregate there inexplicably)

        Are you dumbfounded?

    • Yes. It is most perturbing to discover that one’s genuine esteem for someone was not mutual— shocking and hurtful, in fact. But one folds one’s tent and leaves. The biblical Matthew 10:14 warns us, when we find ourselves unwelcome, to shake the dirt from our feet and go away.

  6. Like Pauline, I marvel at your ability to make a poem. I have only been writing poetry consistently for about 3 years and as I learn more about writing them, I grow more appreciative of your work (and more dismayed at my own). I read this poem initially as a political statement but with the help of your astute readers, see that it is intended otherwise. I do like the way the poem leads from the hurt of the slight “from under customary drapes of gauze” to turning to sand easily shaken off.

    • Don’t judge your own work too harshly. It’s all a time-bound process, and if you genuinely like it, you will find your own way. Those drapes of gauze….they can fool even an old fool like me; and so I am trying to get to that “shake it off” stage. Thank you very much, Susanne, for the attention to the work, and the appreciation.

  7. You have voiced so very clearly what I, and so many people I care about, am feeling since the referendum results in the UK came through (i.e. the UK decided to cut loose from Europe and managed to spew a lot of ghastly xenophobic rhetoric all over the people in the process). I only hope your conclusion comes about instead of the earth opening up to swallow our sour little island. It’s a great poem and it hits the spot.

    • Such big, sudden change has to be dumbfounding and scary. As I said to John Looker above, I am so sorry you must go through this. But you are not by any means a “sour little island;” you are a great, great nation that has survived and thrived through most every kind of craziness humans can devise. Thanks for coming by to read.

  8. When I use the word dumbfounded, it usually has a slightly comic aspect, so there was a point in your poem when I thought “this is serious.” It is packed with disappointment, shock, and confusion. It packs a punch, and I’m sorry for the event, words, wrench that caused it. But like all good poetry, it already has many associations with the dumbfounded experiences of others and is exercising its universality. Good for you for another such effort.

    • Yup, I see the comic aspect, too. Maybe it comes from the fact that dumb, as in silly, stupid and idiotic, can be comical. On the other hand, struck dumb, as in stunned to speechlessness, mute from shock, is something else again. It’s gratifying to see the extent to which it ‘exercises its universality’ (love that phrase of yours) and moves out of my particular acute experience of it. One always hopes for that.

    • It’s hard not to throw one’s hands up in complete frustration and disbelief when on political watch these days…practically everywhere. The best thing about elections is when they’re done; the uncertainty is over, and you know which of the devils you must learn to live with. Thanks for coming by, MoSY.

  9. A thought-provoking poem, Cynthia. I especially like the second stanza – those ‘garbled voices’ ‘suddenly making clear demands’. Just incredibly spooky, capturing that feeling of clarity in the midst of a horror.

  10. This poem haunts and impacts the reader in the gut. I love the phrase “slowly like a walking bruise”. It is a profound analogy, to which I can truthfully say, “been there, done that.” although I’ve never been able to desctribe it so lucidly.

    • That kind of analogy seems to come to mind only when one is acutely in the throes of actual experience. Obviously a bruise can’t walk, so the idea wouldn’t likely occur in a moment of tranquility….but when one’s entire being feels like a bruise…? There it is. At our advanced seasoning, Jane, there’s bound to be a lot of “been there, done that,” as well as “life goes on.”

  11. Very impressive. When we have some serious health issues we all of a sudden realize time passes by so fast and it is the only thing we will be short of at the end. It always comes as a shock: the realization that we are not immortal. Your poem is just like that: reminder sharp as a cutting blade.

    • I had lost track of you, Inese, until I saw the post on Cynthia Reyes’ blog a little while ago. I am sorry to hear about the serious health issues. I know what that is about, too. (I still have a few of the notecards I bought from your shop—the ones with the beautiful cardinal.) I hope your present journey will result only in blessings.

  12. You describe with talent a great shock that lets us flabbergasted, dumfounded . Some of your readers have interpreted in a political manner, others by psychological and existential way.
    You speak of sand and I think of a beautiful French song: “… And the sea erases on the sand the footsteps of separated lovers” ( et la mer efface sur le sable les pas des amants désunis ) .
    Beautiful poem ,Cynthia .
    Love ❤

  13. Filled with deep sadness and passion, a robot-like existence. ‘dumbfounded turns to so much sand
    easily shaken from the shoes’ speaks volumes.

  14. Visiting here is like drinking hot chocolate on a rainy day in an atmospheric cafe with a friend with a planet-sized brain. The treasures uncovered, such as ‘psychopomps’, are quite delicious!

    • Now I’m imagining such a delightful rendezvous, beeblu, not just here on my blog but in a parallel universe where it doesn’t make any difference that I am in New England and you are in Australia…..we could swap poems and you could tell me about your latest academic adventures and world travels. What a grand old time we would have!

  15. Am empathizing with your Cynthia… I know that “dumbfounded” feeling when suddenly nothing is the same, and perhaps never will be again. It’s then we hopefully (and eventually) discover the new perspective. Whether that be a better one, or a worse one, it’s good that we always have the power to turn it into a piece of art as you’ve done with this poem. Then it reaches out and touches others, (as this has done with all your readers) where on some level we all share in the burdens and shocks, as well as the joys, of life. Alas, that all sounds so cliche – but I know you understand what I’m saying. Thoughts are with you.

    • No worry about cliché; something true cannot be said enough times. It was so interesting to me how this one came immediately out of a very strong personal experience and then meant several different things to different people. It’s amazing—and good, I think—when that happens.Thanks for your insight and your empathy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s