Writings and Witterings

Formication … Itch


In response to Anna Montgomery’s dVerse prompt this weekend, in which she asks us to join her ‘ … on an expedition into the wilds of language.’ And either, ‘… incorporate a foreign language; blend in highly specialized vocabulary or jargon …; or focus on crafting your diction in a way that creates an aesthetic.’  Here is my poem about an English word that is close to (if not an exact match with) the Ulwa word ‘yaputka’.

Yuputka (Ulwa)
A word made for walking in the woods at night, it’s the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.

ant party

Ant party (Photo credit: sbfisher)

Formication … Itch

Au contraire!
Be aware!
Of an English word for yuputka,
An Ulwa word meaning the phantom sensation of some…thing,
On your skin.
On your skin.

Ulwa? You ask …
The language of around 400 people of Karawala,
In Nicaragua,
Where snakes and lakes abound,
In the forest, and Karawala means ‘dry fish’.

But what of the English?
The word is Formication.
OK, so,
The Ulwa word somehow includes
Reference to
Walking in the woods at night …
In the pitch black darkness.
Whereas, the English, oh, the English word is clear as daylight,
Confined to
That feeling of some…thing,
On or under your skin.
On or under your skin.

A medical term, specific to
A set of sensations called
Tactile hallucinations, of insects or bugs creep…ing,
On or under your skin.

Feel the itch.

A tingling, burning, pins and needles, kind of itchiness;
Leads to twitchiness,
Makes you sickly,
Caused, they say, by use of  cocaine, amphetamines,
Crystal meth, aka,
And a side effect of prescription drugs.
Suffered by some during “power surges”,
[That’s to say … menopause;]
The list goes on … diabetic neuropathy,
Diseases of the spinal cord and peripheral nerves, and
Extreme alcohol withdrawal …
It’s a common yet illusory complaint,
Which leads some to cut out the ‘worms’ with scissors.

Derived from formica, [Latin for ant,]
This word is
Sufferers often get delusional parasitosis.
In extremis, people have ‘gathered’ the bugs
In matchboxes and demanded investigation.

Not to be confused with the English word in which ‘n’
Is the fourth character.
The word is, formication. Some…thing,
On or under your skin.
On or under your skin.
Creep…ing, creeping,
Crawl…ing, crawling,
Sprawl…ing, sprawling,
Slimy slithering,
Wriggling, wiggling, squiggling, tickling,
On or under your skin.

Polly Robinson © 2012


37 thoughts on “Formication … Itch

  1. Crawlies and slimy slithers they get us all on ends except for some rare snake charmers. However way these are called they make the stomachs turn. Nice write, Polly!



  2. Absolutely brilliant. I’m quite prone to formication myself, so now I’ll have to take myself off to the shower to get rid of the phantom tingling, crawling, itching sensation. Fantastic write, well done: very powerful. And great title-I bet you’ll get tons of hits. Inspired! XX


  3. is it wrong that i felt it as i was reading….great use of your… to give that affect as well…the room in the words give it room to create that….and the repetition as well…smiles….might need to collect a few now for further verification…smiles….


    • No, no, Brian … it is right that you felt it as you were reading … I love your comments … made me smile and smile … further verification needed, I’m sure 😀

      Thank you so much for your thoughts.


  4. I must admit …I did do a double take on seeing the word ‘Formication’… because at a quick glance your mind wishes to add the ‘N’ ..lol
    You made me ITCH madam! Great poem…Yes, the ….. between the creep…ing….crawl….ing… made it even more effective.
    Now, I must go collect those nasty bugs .. put them in a matchbox and ask for them to be investigated but, first, I need to stop scratch…ing 🙂


  5. hahahahahahaahahhahahahahah … ROFL … again, I wish we could use animated emoticons on WordPress, I’d love to put the little guy that rolls backwards and forwards with laughter in here …

    Thank you so much for your thoughts Bren – always most welcome 😀


  6. That prompt is a really interesting and cool idea (and so is your poem!). I think I may have to try writing something based on that premise myself.


  7. Nice work…I felt the sensation and itch crawling on my skin. I like the medical terms too ~



    • Ah, good, just what I was after … glad you like the medical terms, don’t think it would work as well without them …

      Many thanks for your thoughts and not sorry I made you itch! 😀


  8. Everytime I scratch and itch today, I’ll think of you. Creepy but fun!


    • heh-heh, I now have visions of you on hols cussing me every now and again!

      Thanks Carrie ~ hope you’re having an ace time ~ and that you don’t scratch too much. 😀


  9. Pingback: Uvakshatara | The Noise of Silence

  10. Very clever. It’s really a kind of phantom ant syndrome (which is actually a terrible reference but you know what I mean. )


  11. Anyone read this and not get a mild case? Fascinating.


  12. Haha, yes your excellent explication of paresthesia induced synaesthesia! Love the tone and slap dash, put it in a box with a clear label, feel of the contrasts between our clinical approach and the ecological approach of the Karawala. Your short lines and ellipsis interrupted words all combine to add a visual sensation of bugs. Really awesome take on the prompt!


  13. Only you, darling Anna, could write that the ‘explication of paresthesia induced synaesthesia’ – love it!

    I am dreadfully pleased that you like it … that means a great deal to me. Again, my thanks for an excellent prompt.


  14. Love it. I love the break in the words. It creates almost a beat when reading it.


  15. I think this is an especially wonderful treatment of incorporating foreign or “odd” words into an English poem. yuputka itself is fascinating its meaning, as distinct from the English equivalent. Your poem goes into wonderful detail about the differences, bringing close to understanding how words can overlap but often differ between languages, depending on cultural and environmental factors. I really enjoyed the repetition of the creepy/crawly effect, which obviously means a lot to you individually, thereby introducing individual meanings of words into the overall pattern of the poem. Obviously, this is what makes your poem a poem and not a linguistic tract, though those elements are present I think, which only adds to the multi-dimensional quality of the poem. BTW I see you joined my blog on wordpress.com. Actually, I use my metanoeticpoetics.blogspot.com blog for my work. The wordpress blog is just a back-up, unused mostly.


    • I was keen to get the creepy / crawly aspect across as this, to me, is what the sensation – the point of the poem – is all about, glad it seems to have worked. The differences between the two words is minimal, but I agree, important … similarities too … and it does, it seems, boil down to cultural and environmental factors – I reveiwed a government report about the forests in Karawala – not the most edifying reading.

      So pleased to see you regard the ‘poetic’ parts as stronger than the linguistics, this also was of concern, but to view them as adding a dimension is a good thing, thank you 🙂

      I did join your WordPress blog, as you know, I use WordPress so it seemed like a good plan, however, I have now joined your metanoeticpoetics.blogspot.com via email, so that should work, it’s just not as easy as following / viewing daily the WordPress blogs … the differing platforms do make a difference to those I comment on or not on dVerse, like it or not, that’s how it is …

      Thank you so much for your comprehensive comments Chaz, much appreciated 🙂


  16. Polly, I admit, I skunked out on this prompt, but yours is a stream of consciousness poem filled with funny lines, a lesson on languages, and general fluidity. The “…ings” were the best part for me, as well as the return to that theme with each new word. Formication, indeed! Now there is a great word for misinterpretation, no? Great stuff, Polly! Amy


  17. AMAZING!!! I am always flabbergasted when I see such deliberate skill and engaging also!


  18. Cortisone needed now…


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