Grief Bacon

This entry is part 14 of 20 in the series Highgate Cemetery Poems

Split gravestone

Kummerspeck (German) Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.
15 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent

Strip of blubber
sputtering on
high heat,
red stripe
that whispers
to the whip,
curling like
a tongue
at touch of
something bitter,
shrinking
& shriveling like
a spent cock
or drought-
struck leaf,
turning brittle
as the cover
of an old pulp
magazine,
ah bacon—
if I were to
bring you home,
it would be
as a flag
draped over
a coffin,
red & white
& red,
or some
long rash
I’d feed with
nervous nails.

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16 Comments

  1. JMartin

    Fine, indeed. So controlled that the second ampersand contains an extra beat.


    1. I always pay pretty close attention to rhythm when I write, but this one even more so than usual, for some reason.


  2. I was surprised to look this up and find “grief” the first definition given for kummer, with “trouble” only a colloquial sense. I would have translated “trouble fat” without blinking an eye. But the literalism of “grief bacon” certainly serves you well, here!


    1. I double-checked only in one source, I confess, and not a very authoritative one: the Wiktionary. So thanks for verifying that.


  3. Excellent poem – I have nothing to add. Except maybe butter.


  4. I love the poem, and its shape: the unrelenting strip that slides slick down, curling only slightly at the edges.


  5. Thanks, Luisa and Cynthia. This was an odd one because of its double prompt: I’d been pondering the photo of the gravestone with its suggestive curved split for a couple days when I ran across kummerspeck. I did play around with different line lengths before settling on the most obvious shape. I’m thinking maybe I should’ve tried a little harder to get “rasher” in there, somewhere near “rash,” but I guess not every resonance needs to be spelled out. I also think the idea of grief bacon is a fruitful one that this poem barely begins to address, over-consumption being at the center of so many of the social and environmental crises of our time…


    1. Like the way it obliquely glances at the two strips of the headstone. I think “rasher” is there, in an interesting submerged way. Like the twisting of feeding and food in the “rash.”


      1. Thanks, Marly. As I was working on the poem, I was also thinking of several points I might make if/when I write the defense of free verse I’ve been pondering. The trouble is, I have no idea whether this in fact qualifies as free verse. (Should’ve taken at least one poetry class in college! What the hell was I thinking?)


        1. Wow, I didn’t realize it needed defense! XD It’s the majority rule, isn’t it?

          I’d say it’s free but tending to move toward form, both with the “eye” pun of the whole poem as strip of bacon and with the line lengths that entails. Might be interesting to scan it and see what happens–clearly it’s a mix of monometer and dimeter.

          Eh, who needs school? You’d know more than the teacher most of the time! I mean, you might not know all the labels…


  6. Love it, and “Kummerspeck” is a great word.
    Another German word with “Kummer” is “Liebeskummer,” which means love troubles. It’s a noun and I guess there isn’t an English equivalent either, but we do have the adjective “lovesick.” Never heard anyone use “lovesickness,” but it certainly could be out there in circulation somewhere.


    1. Yes, I’ve wallowed in the liebescum from time to time myself. I’m not sure that “lovesickness” has been much in use since the 18th century, but I could be wrong.


  7. Another learned poem to add to my repertoire. (Though hardly a repertoire, as I only ever recite to myself in the garden!)


    1. I’m honored as always that would find my work worth committing to memory, Clive, even if it’s only for a vegetative audience.


  8. I can see the bacon. Can see the grief—draped over a coffin. Then, it could also be a stretch of a rash full of itch ripe for a deep scratch. Visceral, and ideographically sensible. A good rendition of the crack on the stone. Bravo, Dave.

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