By Kim Farrar

I don’t speak Cantonese
or Mandarin, and she spoke
little English, yet kindly explained each scroll
adorning the stairwell:
This one happiness. This fortune.
This family. Then she paused,
slightly panicked, and rushed
to her register for a stashed index card.
The creases were soft as fur
from many foldings, and printed
there in all-caps was BEFUDDLED.

This one befuddled.
Our heads cocked in doubt.
Did she mean it befuddled her
or the scroll signified befuddlement?
How had that peculiar word
landed here? What seas had it crossed,
what deserts, to be inked on a card
in the palm of her hand
in Flushing, New York?
Perhaps she copied it
from a battered phrase book,
or when she asked a bilingual friend
he said, I’m befuddled,
and she had him spell it out.

The scroll had six prawns—
four paddling in one direction,
with two turning left—

maybe it meant befuddled after all,
but it easily could have been
knowledge or friendship or destiny
as we searched each other’s eyes
for understanding. Then, in the clarity
of our human need, I said: I’ll take it.

Kim Farrar is the author of two chapbooks published by Finishing Line Press: The Familiar and The Brief Clear. She has published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Salamander, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Her essays have been published in Illness & Grace, Voices of Autism, and Reflections. Her poetry manuscript, Calamities of the Natural World, was a semi-finalist in the 2021 Grayson Books Poetry Contest. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. 

One thought on “Befuddled

  1. These are great poems in this issue of New Ohio Review! I like the specific images and the full development of ideas. Best wishes!

    Janet Ruth Heller
    Author of the poetry books Exodus (WordTech Editions, 2014), Folk Concert: Changing Times (Anaphora Literary Press, 2012) and Traffic Stop (Finishing Line Press, 2011), the scholarly book Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama (University of Missouri Press, 1990), the middle-grade chapter book for kids The Passover Surprise (Fictive Press, 2015, 2016), and the award-winning picture book for kids about bullying, How the Moon Regained Her Shape (Arbordale, 2006; sixth edition 2018). My new book of nature poems, Nature’s Olympics, was published by Wipf and Stock (November 2021).

    My website is


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