Terminus is the end of the line. The point where the train tracks stop, or the currency changes, or the signs start bearing names you don’t know. Picture an emptying station; an unlit shelter; a layby at the mouth of a terra incognita (desert, estate, it’s all the same). Even in the sparsity of margin, something marks the edge: a line in the sand between one territory and another, the bracket we live in. This is as far as the bus will take you, where the choice is get off or go home again. Or maybe you’ve missed your chance: Sorry, not in service anymore… Maybe you’re going to have to choose between hopeless waiting and walking on into the dark. With both comes the chill of uncertainty, a new sensitivity to the strange and its threats. More than ever, you want to go home, and home feels so far behind you.

Terminus was the Roman god of boundaries and their markers, standing where one territory ended and another began. A stone pillar with a face representing a line on the map, a mark of culture, power and separation on the blurred sprawl of landscape. A statement of property, celebrated by landowners. A warning to those approaching that this is the fringe of where they’ve been, of the familiar. Sometimes, a point of no return. The boundary marker – the terminus – is a first twist of architecture into the shared environment: there is a wall here, even if you can’t see it. The other side belongs to someone else, someone you probably can’t see.. Beware.

The limit. The extremity. The cut-off point. The frontier. The end. Terminus is linear, whether we’re talking about space or time. In contrast with the cyclical, it takes us increasingly far from home, increasingly into isolation. An illness that can’t be cured. Growth from the tip, not the root. The terminal is fixated on death, and obsessed with everything there is to lose. So we panic, frantically looking over our shoulder for enemies, searching for saviours, for someone to take us home. When the end feels all too near, the old lines, walls and boundaries might seem like shields against the shadows, what you’d left behind like a beacon in a new darkness, something to believe in: you/them, ours/theirs, good/bad, true/false. Nostalgia comes in black and white. The danger of the terminal takes us to extremes, when all you want is to feel secure, and to protect what you’ve come to think of as your own.

Abridged is looking for poetry that explores the borders of our lives, the edges of our consciousnesses. Poetry that explores how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go. Poetry that explores movement and sudden stops. That feeling when we know we’ve missed the last bus… You can send up to three poems to abridged@ymail.com in MS Word, or similar format. Please also send a short bio. Please put your name on all emails otherwise they may end up in the Spam folder. Deadline is 10th March 2023. Please note this issue is A5 landscape shaped.

This issue is a collaboration with the Belfast Photo Festival.

Image by Brett Evans Biedscheid: http://be-biedscheid.com/ 

Abridged is supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.