Lingua Ignota by Annick MacAskill

for Hildegard von Bingen  


You’ll never know why, but one day bend 
your feathered head, still soft   

as an infant’s, over a manuscript, spill 
the peal of your voice   

to one bald scribe, and you’re lost to centuries. 
The wide-eyed nights of oil painters  

are sowed within your verse; you muddle 
efforts, refuse referents,   

one thick strand of unwashed hair arriving 

in circuitry, casting salty electricity 
over cables   

and shorting the whole system. Half of what you are 
is blasphemy, your joke’s on us—   

God is never thought for you, or obligation— 
He is the rain and the air   

and the sleet of winter; one fat wren 
testing the resilience   

of a narrow branch. Shut up in your cell, 
the moon traces the ridge   

of your emaciated jaw, while you etch rage 
and eros   

into your breastbone. Your body teaches you 
the colour red. You’ve died   

again to the world, prayers reborn on parchment, 
a refrain run ragged   

on YouTube. Half of what you are 
is blessing, the divine   

more than experience, exaltations stockpiled 
like layers of unmelting snow,   

packed tight around your heart; a rhyming 
rim of taillights curved   

over the highway, where untouched 
they bore holes into the night. 


Copyright © Annick MacAskill. Originally published in No Meeting Without Body (Gaspereau Press, 2018).


Annick MacAskill‘s poems have appeared in journals across Canada and abroad, with recent publications in Prism International, This Magazine, The Stinging Fly, Event, Arc, and Contemporary Verse 2. Her debut collection, No Meeting Without Body (Gaspereau Press, 2018), was longlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and shortlisted for the J. M. Abraham Poetry Award (Atlantic Book Awards). Her second collection will be published by Gaspereau Press in the spring of 2020. She lives and writes in Halifax. Find Annick on Instagram & Twitter.

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