#SelectedPoetry – March


In our selected poetry feature for March, The Broken Spine is honoured to spotlight the profound works of four distinct poets, each bringing their unique voice and perspective to the fore. Handpicked by our esteemed editors, David Hanlon and Katie Jenkins, this collection embodies our commitment to celebrating the diversity and depth of poetic expression.

Andrew Lafleche offers a raw and visceral journey through his piece Lobotomy Train and Kerosene Lungs, drawing upon his experiences as an infantry soldier and his life thereafter. Lafleche’s stark imagery and compelling narrative invite readers into a world where survival and memory intertwine, reflecting the complexity of human resilience and vulnerability.

Bob King explores the metaphysical spaces of love and existence in When You Think About It, Love Is Mostly Air. Through thoughtful analogies and rich philosophical musings, King’s poetry navigates the intangible aspects of our lives, encouraging a deeper reflection on what binds us together and the spaces in between.

Vikki C. delves into the essence of human connection with The Alchemy Of Strangers. Her work, informed by a blend of science, existentialism, and the human condition, offers a poignant meditation on the transformative power of interactions and the mysterious chemistry that binds us in fleeting moments of understanding.

Sue Finch presents Unwanted Rabbits, a narrative that captures the heart with its blend of whimsy and poignant reflection. Finch’s ability to weave together themes of responsibility, compassion, and the unexpected consequences of our actions speaks to the core of what it means to care for another living being, highlighting the nuanced dynamics of empathy and the complexity of kindness.

Each poet, through their distinct voice and thematic focus, enriches our March feature with layers of meaning, emotion, and insight. These selections not only showcase the incredible talent within our contemporary poetry landscape but also underscore The Broken Spine’s dedication to amplifying voices that resonate with authenticity, creativity, and depth. As we celebrate these poets and their contributions, we invite our readers to immerse themselves in the beauty and diversity of their expressions, finding moments of connection, reflection, and inspiration within the pages of our publication.

Andrew Lafleche

Andrew John Lafelche is the award-winning poet and novelist from St. Catharines, Ontario. He served under Operation Enduring Freedom during the Afghanistan War. Following his duty as an infantry soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces, Lafleche received an M.A. in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Gloucestershire.

X: @AndrewLafleche 

Instagram: @laflecheandrew

Lobotomy Train and Kerosene Lungs

That night on meth—those months
down in the bunkie
middle of December
too cold to keep the windows
open and let the Pall Mall
ghosts escape—didn’t
have no fuel oil neither
so I poured that can of Kerosene
in the stove, turned up the radio static
whatever noise the wire antenna
was able to capture all the way
up here on the mountain—you
looked bored
so I grabbed that little pistol
from its taped position
underside the table
cocked its cowboy thumb piece
quick as professional
couldn’t even here the first notch
did it so fast
zero to sixty how you liked it baby
except you didn’t like it, not that
even though I never kept it loaded
even if I had cartridges for six holes
least didn’t look bored no more
be certain of that
wanted to show you
how safe it was, responsible
I’d been, rested the steel
barrel tip under my chin, smiled
squeezed for the click—which came
as expected, but just that vacant
stare again, like the speed be
boring through your brain
a lobotomy train, and kerosene lungs
said, “maybe we should get some air”
then our song came on
so we couldn’t leave then, tossed
another white chicklet back of the throat
same place all of life goes
lit another cigarette
breathed the smoke—a wonder
how any of life goes—at all.

Bob King

Bob’s a Professor of English at Kent State University at Stark. His poetry collection ‘And & And’ is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press (August 2024). Recent nominations include 3 for Pushcart Prizes & 2 for Best of the Net Anthology. He lives in Fairview Park, Ohio, with his wife & daughters. 

X: @KingRobertJ

Website: bobking.org

When You Think About It, Love Is Mostly Air
For Bibi

When you think about it, the Eiffel Tower
is mostly air, its black iron bones without
a dress, veins or arteries, alimentary canal,
or brain. And yet it still has a certain
je ne sais quoi—how might you charade
or mime it?—consciousness? An air of
knowing that what makes a thing a thing
is-yes its backbone, its structural craft,
architectural precision, but also what
isn’t there, the lacuna as interesting as
what is there, the certain lackness
giving it fullness. Monsieur Gustave
admitted it could be—if you really wanted
to use it as—a military or weatherperson
observation tower, a tongue forever
poking the Germans, but also he just
wanted it to be what it is—maybe like
Apollinaire’s famous poem, concrete, yes,
but with the arc & swoop of the handwriting,
the font, the black characters on the white
page about the literal meaning they create,
yes, but also about the gist, implication,
elliptical construction, between-the-lines
more interesting than the lines themselves:
curiosity, antagonism, empathy, or wind
imagination, these monuments to love.
This lackness doesn’t work for everything,
though. And mere presence, just visiting
or being in the same room, is never sufficient
enough to show them you love them,
you’ll still need to unanchor your iron
from their concrete stanchions, clank
& clamber over, rust flaking & slowly
drifting down on the indoor breeze
as you drag your old bag of bones
to the sofa, creak down next to her—
for it’s not enough to simply imply love—
sometimes you—even after all these years—
you still need to enfold her, show her
she can belong to more than what she feels
& yes, even sometimes some things
still need to be said out loud. 

+ Inspired by At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson (2010) & Calligrammes by Guillame Apollinaire (1913-1918). 

Vikki C. 

Vikki C., author of ‘The Art Of Glass Houses’ (Alien Buddha Press), is a British-born writer and musician whose work is informed by science, existentialism and the human condition. Vikki’s recent work appears in EcoTheo Review, Ice Floe Press, Black Bough Poetry, Acropolis Journal, Nightingale & Sparrow, Ellipsis Zine and FeversOf.

X: @VWC_Writes

The Alchemy Of Strangers 

No one cares to remain the element — 
either inert or madly volatile,
nor the compounded grief of a routine experiment. 

We want the aphrodisiac of liberation.

The lightning survived by common citizens.
Blue mothers and estranged fathers. 
Orphans of war. Lives too hard to bear.

We need anise to cancel hardship.

The fragrance a girl spritzes on her wrists
before stepping out to meet a lesser violence.
The placebo which saves the addict from the edge.

We thirst for holy water.

By a highway of broken speed limits,
mourning dew laid over the victim’s wreckage —
the colours of volition in dirty stained glass. 

We want the chemical leak none could contain.

No one needs a crucible — unless it’s a collarbone
stricken with shimmer. Not cosmetics – the seduction of dusk.

So won’t you let your breath fog this surface
to see how far we’ve come —
breaking up, diffusing, to arrive at this moment?

A mercurial thing, already leaving its golden other.
Could we be the undiscovered?

Anywhere the air tastes of a potential bond.
Anywhere the sun slips low— into a field of vanishing snow.

Sue Finch

Sue Finch lives with her wife in North Wales. Her work is published in a number of journals and online magazines. Her debut collection, ‘Magnifying Glass’, was published in October 2020 and her second collection will be released in 2024.

X: @soopoftheday

Blue Sky: @suefinch.bsky.social

Unwanted Rabbits

I have fitted forty-two of them 
into the bottom of magicians’ hats
thrown in some dandelion leaves to keep them going 
while they wait to be pulled free.

I took the ten largest ones to the field behind the supermarket 
where they can fend for themselves
and do a bit of breeding.

The ones that have been thump, thump, 
thumping out the loudest warnings 
I am going to take to the top of the cliffs
to make burrows.
I imagine them echoing out announcements 
for the Northern Lights,
becoming famous for being able to predict 
the arrival of that electromagnetism. 

The pure white one with a serene smile 
is on a lead tied to the fence post 
because its eyes are different colours –
one red and one blue.
I am planning to make it 
part of a fortune telling act.

The tiny ones look like they would sell well, 
but I am not sure how I feel 
about making ‘For Sale’ signs for bunnies.  

I imagine the tender ones skinned on trays
in a butcher’s window
with a price per pound notice
written in red ink.

Perhaps I should never have asked 
how many unwanted rabbits there actually were.
And yes, I admit it, I did ask, 
but please bear in mind 
I didn’t ever mention I needed living proof.

These rabbits have been turning up 
on my front doorstep for days now 
and I am almost out of ideas.

Emma Lee

Emma Lee’s publications include “The Significance of a Dress” (Arachne, 2020) and “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, 2015). She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea,” (Five Leaves, 2015), reviews for magazines and blogs at https://emmalee1.wordpress.com. 

X: @Emma_Lee1 

Blue Sky: @emmalee1.bsky.social

Returning to the Place Where She Lives

Blink and the flames licking a building
become an autumnal Virginia creeper,
a pile of rubble, someone’s rockery.
She hugs the dark side of the street.
Let the lamplight shine on stalkers,
that drunk, reveal the shadows
for what they are. Is that car stopping?
She tugs her skirt, knee-length, not mini,
and is wearing her low, block heels,
walks as soundlessly as possible.
She unwraps her fingers from her keys,
slides one into the door lock and hopes
the weight of silence will tell what mood he’s in.

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