Poem Friday: Sue Wootton’s ‘Lingua incognita’ –



Lingua incognita


Some words dwell in the bone, as yet

unassembled. Like the word you want


for Weary Of The City, for Soul Tired; the word

you seek for Confusion Where Affection Once Existed


or the single vowel-filled syllable which would accurately render

Sensation of Freefall Generated by Receipt of Terrifying Information.


Down in the bone the word-strands glimmer and ascend

often disordered, often in dreams,


bone-knowledge beating a path through the body to the throat

labouring to enter the alphabet.


Maybe the bones ache.

Maybe the throat.


Your cells your language, occasionally articulate

in a rush of ease, the body clear as wellspring saying this is


The Moment of Illumination When One Allows that Water Yields to Rock, and Always Flows


and sometimes the only word to assemble in the throat is Yes

and sometimes the only word to assemble in the throat is No.


© Sue Wootton 2015


Author bio:  Sue Wootton’s poetry and fiction has been widely published, anthologised and translated. Her most recent publication is Out of Shape, a letterpress portfolio of poems hand set and printed by Canberra letterpress artist Caren Florance. She was recently placed second for the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize, and longlisted for the 2015 Canberra University Vice Chancellor’s Poetry Prize. A former physiotherapist, Sue has a special interest in the practice of the creative arts in healthcare. She holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Massey University, awarded with distinction, on the subject of creative fiction and the phenomenology of illness. She lives in Dunedin and is the current selecting editor for the Otago Daily Times Monday Poem column. Her novel, Strip, is forthcoming next year from Mākaro Press.

Sue’s website

Paula’s note: I love the way this poem grapples with the elusiveness of words, building in momentum from that point in the bone to that point in the throat. Inventive. Surprising. The elusive moments/notions/images glint as they escape. The ending shifts the pitch of the poem and delivers, for me, a moment of poignancy. I love this.



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