The Frontal Cortex

The Poetry of Decapitated Dogs

First, watch this:

Then read the poem it inspired, which was written by one of my favorite poets, Wislawa Szymborska:

The Experiment

As a short subject before the main feature –
in which the actors did their best
to make me cry and even laugh –
we were shown an interesting experiment
involving a head.

The head
a minute earlier was still attached to…
but now it was cut off.
Everyone could see that it didn’t have a body.
The tubes dangling from the neck hooked it up to a machine
that kept its blood circulating.
The head
was doing just fine.

Without showing pain or even surprise,
it followed a moving flashlight with its eyes.
It pricked up its ears at the sound of a bell.
Its moist nose could tell
the smell of bacon from odorless oblivion,
and licking its chops with evident relish
it salivated its salute to physiology.

A dog’s faithful head,
a dog’s friendly head
squinted its eyes when stroked,
convinced that it was still part of a whole
that crooks its back if patted
and wags its tail.

I thought about happiness and was frightened.
For if that’s all life is about,
the head
was happy.

Via the always interesting Vaughn


  1. #1 Emory K.
    March 19, 2008


    (Sorry. Couldn’t help it.)

  2. #2 Coyote
    March 19, 2008

    They could have easily faked the head thing with electrodes.

  3. #3 KP
    March 19, 2008

    Your book brought me to this blog.
    This blog brought me to this post.
    And then this amazing poem and poet.
    I’m looking forward to many more visits here.

    Thank you.

  4. #4 Corey
    March 20, 2008

    Does anybody else get a kick out of the bottle with an English label floating over a Russian one?

  5. #5 Arapaima
    March 20, 2008

    Did anybody feel like the poor dog, indefensibly closed in his aware conscience, in this completely useless experiment? What did the experimenters conclude then? Was it something applicable clinically? Or just to sublime a psychopathic mind? Why in the hell the experimenters did not rerun the experiment on each other´s head? This would be much, much, immensely funnier. Pure science shit. Utmost ignorance reflex of that time. What can I say about the experiment´s idealizer? Who can say?

  6. #6 Coyote
    March 20, 2008

    Arapaima, the best way to learn how something works is to take it apart and try to put it back together again. Admittedly, most of the time you break the thing you take apart. But you learn so much in doing so.

  7. #7 okey oyna
    March 13, 2009


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