There are some words…

I wrote this poem during a month’s writing fellowship at a Scottish castle. It was commended in the 2017 YorkMix poetry competition.



Grief needs feeding.

At first we feed it sweet and boneless things:

memories, halva, meringue,

the songs the gone used to sing.

We feed it whole boxes of Cornish fudge,

honey spooned straight from the jar,

cold custard sucked from the carton


and for a while, we appease it

until it starts begging for blood

and then we turn to the dead things

and though we’ve not touched flesh for years

we find ourselves in the supermarket

filling our trolleys with meat-

the reddest, most visceral kind:

packs of mince and liver,

black pudding, knotty hearts,

plump kidneys, slabs of beef and livid steaks-

things that leak and mourn in colour

in their polystyrene trays


and though we cook without tears

our lonely kitchens smell of dying.

Our garish fridges

stink of butchers’ gutters,

drift-tide rot, things on the turn,

gashes on the brink of gangrene.

Each meal is a little wound. (every meal’s a little wound)

Our plates are holes

we cannot fill.

Like grief, our hunger’s



Kummerspeck is a German word to describe the excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally translated it means ‘grief bacon’.




~ by Gaia Holmes on April 10, 2017.

7 Responses to “There are some words…”

  1. Heartbreaking, every single time I read it. (And I am especially lucky to have heard you read it, so now I have the echo of your voice in the poem.)

  2. I’m impressed by Kummerspeck. Its theme is universal but its style is original and it has real power. Two minor criticisms: I didn’t like the word visceral because it sounds too much like a critic’s word, whereas the rest of the vocabulary is down-to-earth-off-the-bone. Also I don’t think the (almost) repetition in Each meal is a little wound. (every meal’s a little wound) achieves anything. But, as I say, minor criticisms indeed.

  3. Thanks for the feedback Michael. Glad you liked it. I’ll considered your points but I think, for me and my creative processes and purposes, when a poems done, it’s done. I’m not one to spend ages and ages editing one poem. I have done in the past and often found I smoothed down and rubbed out the energy and drive of the poem! My mum’s an artist and she does the same. Sometimes she does a painting then decides to change a bit. 3 hours later she’s got a completely new painting…I

  4. I’m not convinced that when someone puts an evidently deeply personal poem out on their own blog site that she’s inviting the kind of comment that may, at a pinch, be appropriate in a workshop. Or like this, like something written on a student essay. I suspect that if it happened every time we put out a poem we feel we’ve finished then we might just stop, and the world would be poorer. ‘A minor criticism indeed’.

  5. You are right Gaia to stick with your feelings about a poem. I sometimes go back to a poem after years and think, with experience, I should not have put it like that. but mostly after a bit of editing after the first draft, I leave them as they are. This is utterly beautiful. I love the view of an emotion as a physical thing. I shall read it at lots of groups as an example of the essence of Gaia! Thank you.

  6. Hi Gaia, I think your poem is outstanding

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