Lydia Davis - Head, Heart

Heart weeps.
Head tries to help heart.
Head tells heart how it is, again:
You will lose the ones you love. They will all go. But even the earth will go, someday.
Heart feels better, then.
But the words of head do not remain long in the ears of heart.
Heart is so new to this.
I want them back, says heart.
Head is all heart has.
Help, head. Help heart.


Lydia Davis on this poem, in an interview with The Paris Review:
It’s a story about grief. When I came to try to express this particular grief, a poem was what I wanted. No “story,” no talk, but that distillation. That difficulty speaking, almost. But I don’t consider myself a poet, so it was hard for me to sit down and write a poem. It was very close and very private. It’s ­funny how now I can talk about it—at the time, even though I wanted to write it and I wanted it to be good, and finished, I did not have any intention of publishing it or letting it go out into the world. I wrote it and finished it and got it right, then I put it aside. It was only years later that I felt enough distance so that I could let something so private become public. It has its roots in Anglo-Saxon literature and in Gerard Manley Hopkins, who was himself very influenced by Anglo-Saxon literature. All the alliteration—“help,” “head,” “heart.” That is from Anglo-Saxon poetry. And then the ­vocabulary. “Remain” is Latinate, but all the other words are Anglo-Saxon. They’re very simple. Almost all of them are monosyllables. To me the simplicity of the vocabulary, the repetition, the alliteration all get closer to the most basic and most difficult emotions. There’s no fancy language coming on top of them. If you can do that without sounding simpleminded, it’s very powerful.