He carves the meat up expertly,
Blood splatters and smears the knife,
Oozes out across the chopping board,
Still thick with the scent of life.
It still feels warm – he imagines a pulse
Beating against his palm,
A connection that he’d never felt
In meat killed on a farm.
He scrapes the meat into the pan
And leaves it there to fry,
He ponders on which sauce to use,
He cannot leave the dish dry.
While waiting he then makes the sides
To complement the meat,
Something not too powerful,
Tasteful yet discrete.
Tilting his head, he takes in the smell
That fills the kitchen space,
His tongue gets slicker with his spit,
His heart begins to race.
He serves the meal up to his guest,
The guest picks up his fork,
‘What meat is this?’ His guest soon asks.
Hannibal pauses. ‘Pork…’
Sliced & Diced is written in the form of a traditional ballad. It’s based on Thomas Harris’s fictional character, Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist with a taste for the human flesh. Inspiration for this ballad further comes from the 2013 TV series adaption, in which the opening scenes show Hannibal preparing human organs for a meal which he later serves his dinner guests. I’ll spare you any additional gory imagery and not include a link for this!
The tension in those scenes are thick with dramatic irony. The guests never suspect that the meat was once a living and breathing human being, while Hannibal and the audience (having witnessed him preparing the dish) are aware of this. Though the ballad is intentionally vague with its references to ‘meat’, I begin to hint in the second verse about its origins.
Other initial clues in the ballad centre around the violent and bloody description of Hannibal preparing the meat, and the sinister way ‘he imagines a pulse’ whilst holding it. The revelation of his identity is deliberately delayed until the final verse. I include a pause after this reveal, prompting the reader to pause alongside Hannibal. It interrupts the flow of the ballad, creating an unsettling affect which reflects the scene.
I think that this poem works well as a ballad because the form’s precise simplicity is similar to Hannibal’s own conciseness. The regular rhyming scheme both distracts the reader and emphasises the primitive way in which Hannibal treats the meat. This is like how his civilised nature disguises the truth of his cannibalism. The contrast of tone and subject further serves to make the ballad’s narrative more shocking and horrific.