Monday, September 15, 2014


First Grade: Handwriting Practice
Lydia Davis
Were you there when
they crucified my Lord?
Were there when
they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me
to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when
                (turn over)
they crucified my Lord?
Though this piece is featured in The Collected Stories by Lydia Davis, it is more a poem than a story--at least in technicality. It is repetition of lines from the hymnal, “Were You There.” The only original line is the penultimate, indented, parenthesized “(turn over).” This small insertion does the tremendous work, along with the title, of putting us back in First Grade, our hands cramped around a pencil and bored. For me, it’s a very powerful piece, if only because I’m impressed that Davis could do so much with so little.

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