Commotio Cordis (Athlete)

Photo on 2010-05-11 at 23.58_2

Commotio Cordis (Athlete)

Impact at the exact wrong place,
at the exact wrong time.
Astonishment turned stone his face–
that this was all of it.

off left–chest’s pleat.
off-centering–heart’s beat.

And all he’d been, all that he would be–
just stopped, like a watch dropped
on marble, the odd gravity
that will find a marble

roll it to the

corner, the lone collapsed crawlspace–
how could the boy grown tall
fit into it so fast?  His face
too soft for fixed wonder.


The above draft poem was written for a prompt by Fireblossom at With Real Toads, to write in a kind of Victorian format, like A.E. Housman and/or to write about athletics.  I am also linking it to the dVerse Poets Pub prompt by Mary Kling to write about place or Leonard Cohen.  The place here is the center of the chest, and although I’m not sure this completely suited for the prompt, Leonard Cohen certainly writes of loss.

Commotio Cordis happens (as far as I understand it) when someone receives a sudden hard thump in the chest – often by a ball or puck – that hits at a certain vulnerable point in the heart’s rhythms.  It can cause cardiac arrest or arrhythmia and death, and there have been many tragic occurrences in sport.  I’m sorry if the poem seems flippant or sentimental–it’s perhaps a difficult subject to write about in a form.

Here’s a reading of the poem:

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33 Comments on “Commotio Cordis (Athlete)”

  1. Mary Says:

    How very sad to have one’s life end so accidentally, so suddenly….

    “and all that he would be– just stopped” Tragic indeed!

    A difficult subject for a poem, but you achieved it believably and well.

  2. I think the form and your measured pace brings the necessary gravity to your subject. Listening to your reading makes the compassionate tone all the more telling in what I thought was an excellent expression of the price one may inadvertently pay for sport.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks- I am sure no one means to pay such a price. It’s an incredibly random kind of accident – all the bad factors have to converge at once – my understanding is that there’s really a relatively small moment in the heart’s cycle where it is so vulnerable. k.

  3. hedgewitch Says:

    I don’t see any flippancy here, and any misread into it would be dismissed after hearing your reading of it. You highlight how vulnerable we all are, how little we know it, and how random life can be. I think this makes us think more seriously about our own lives, not less seriously about your subject. I don’t find the form here saccharine or flippant at all, though it certainly could be, as Housman writes from an age where sentimentality was valued far more than our own, and to some extent, all highly cadenced tetrameter has that memory-feel to it–but you freshen it up with unusual rhyme carry-overs (it, Hit) and sharp word combinations, plus using non-cliche lines for all the really potent images, such as the last couplet. IOW, an excellent, strong poem.

  4. coalblack Says:

    I don’t find it flippant, either, k. I think you did a great job, and i love that you both used the form AND wrote about an athlete! I thought more people would do that, but few did.

    I actually saw this happen, on tv, in a hockey game. A player named Chris Pronger got hit in the chest with the puck and dropped like a stone and lay still. It was scary, but in the end, he was fine.

    Thanks so much for doing such a bang-up job on my challenge!

  5. Helen Dehner Says:

    To take a subject difficult to hear about, read about … turn it into an awesome poem ~~ amazing.

  6. vivinfrance Says:

    You did a wonderful job with this prompt: not at all flippant, and very clever. Some wonderful phrases, and you made the whole thing crystal clear.

  7. Sherry Marr Says:

    “His face too soft for fixed wonder”. Utterly gorgeous poem. You have captured it to perfection.

  8. brian miller Says:

    like the stopped watch…frozen in that moment…dang…full of emotion this one…and hard ones as well…the boy stuck in the crawl space at the end as well another emotional hit…

  9. claudia Says:

    oh wow…this is a difficult subject to write about but you really did well k. some wonderful phrases that go under the skin…

  10. Grace Says:

    That is some kind of impact ~ Good work on the form K ~

  11. Ooh lots in here to like. Particularly enjoyed the ‘hit’ stanza, and the crawls pace and stone face. Very tight, liked it a lot 🙂

  12. Tony Says:

    I’m struggling to say what I want to without seeming flippant myself. This is an incredible poem about a really difficult subject – and the line “just stopped, like a watch dropped” did exactly that to me – it made me stop.

  13. I feel to flippancy here, and I do think it fits well with the prompt.

    That said. Wow, this is strong stuff. You captured surprise so well here, and sadly too.

  14. A strong take on the prompt, the center of the chest. your poem hit me as hard as a puck.

    Really sad when that happens to a young person.

  15. Startling and beautiful – ‘like a watch dropped
    on marble, the odd gravity
    that will find a marble’ – wonderful! K

  16. And all he’d been, all that he would be–
    just stopped, like a watch dropped
    on marble, the odd gravity
    that will find a marble

    Wow… what a description that sums up what can happen in sport. Wonderful write on a tragic subject.

  17. Bodhirose Says:

    Yes, I’ve read of these sudden deaths by a “just right” hit to the chest. Stunning and filled with the finality of such a tragedy to one gone too soon.

  18. Anna :o] Says:

    Extraordinary k – not flippant at all. ‘just stopped, like a watch dropped’ – perfect.

    If this is a draft – I wish I had your talent for reaching draft form.

    Anna :o]

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha. Thanks, Anna. I write draft some times when it is a very fresh poem that I feel a bit uncertain of. I don’t have specific changes in mind, but when something is quite fresh, I know my feelings about it are likely to change. k.

  19. Margaret Says:

    His face
    too soft for fixed wonder.

    Very tragically tender. And all in perfect form!

  20. Susan Says:

    This poem gave me pause thinking of my nephews and the hockey puck. Somehow this reminded me of Emily’s “I had no time to stop for death . . .” tho death is much quicker here and more vividly placed a t the core of the body. Life just stops. Pow.

  21. I can see that marble rolling. Beautifully written

  22. ninotaziz Says:

    Difficult, but so real. And so beautifully done.

  23. How sad. Well written. A marble on the wood floor of an old house with a raised foundation will always do exactly as you stated. What a great way to try and grasp a departed soul- still there but out of reach.

  24. Kim Nelson Says:

    I’ve seen collegiate athletes badly injured in the blink of an eye. You tell of the extreme, yet not terribly uncommon, example.

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