‘– tear up the planks! here, here! –’ – The Tell-Tale-Heart, Edgar Allen Poe.

A sign on the front door says ‘broken home’. But is it broken as in smashed, cracked or splintered, like an egg or a mirror? As in faulty, defective or malfunctioning, like a toy or a watch? As in beaten or despairing, like a human being? Or broken as in interrupted, like the home is a sentence someone is trying to get out? Broken like the home is the seal on a letter? Broken like the home is a rule of law? Broken like the home is a promise? Broken like the home is held together by trust? Or broken as in solved, like the home is a code designed to keep things hidden from some, known by few? Broken, as in break-out? And who put up the sign?

The home looks like a building, as in a shelter, as in property, as in construction, as in something we made up. Like most buildings, it has a floor. Like most floors, that’s far from the bottom of things. Just as there are cracks in the walls where the light gets in, there are dark spaces under the floorboards. Dark spaces in which to hide, or in which things are hidden. Dark spaces that mean something’s missing. Insects scuttle. Rodents nest. Garbage swells. Mould extends its reach. Treasure waits like bones. Guilt grows heads like a Hydra. Ghosts breathe their names through the crevices. The earth growls like hunger. The children hide from what they were told was safe. 

In the home – the broken home – it’s never solid ground you’re standing on. To build is to build upon, never to start from scratch. There is no cleansing, only forgetting. Underneath are layers, roots, other broken things, other buried hearts. Tradition has trapped live cats in the foundations of houses to ward off evil spirits. What else? We housed the dead before we housed the living. Isn’t everything built from something else’s broken-down bits? The home has always been a graveyard, the house a prerequisite for haunting. So, if we did break it open, what might we find, and what might be set loose? When the home is blown entirely away, all that remains is what’s under the floorboards.

Following issues 0-40 ‘Take Me Home’ and 0-87 ‘Not At Home’, for this issue we invite submissions that continue to explore the concept of ‘Home’ in contemporary society – what’s hiding in the dark of its foundations, and what it might mean to be broken. You may submit up to three poems to abridged@ymail.com which must be in a Word or PDF format. Unusually formatted poems we prefer in an PDF format, material that is more straightforward in Word. Please also send a short bio and put your name and address on the email or it might get lost in the Spam folder. We can’t send proofs so please send the final version of your poem. The deadline for submissions is the 16th of February 2024.

Abridged is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.