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Mean Time, in Greenwich


Are they thinking of the hours ticking by with every dainty step?

Have they read The Stage yet, or arched an eyebrow about


poor Mr Kelly? Trouble, it seems, is brewing in South Africa,

but hidden on the fringes of the dance floor tonight, tucked away


from polite conversation, as the ladies dip and bow, bow and dip,

with the clasp of a glove, a whisper of a secret resolution.


Mary’s leading the way, safely past the mistletoe once more,

but George is lingering, wondering if he can dance her that way


again before the night is out. Arabella’s sash has fallen lower

than is decent, but she can afford to twirl around the room


tonight of all nights, not yet hampered by long silk skirts,

while secretly coveting Rosa’s new damson velvet,


Sarah’s bold yellow ribbons, Mary’s way with men.

Bella can’t yet read his glance, or his smothered intention,


but she’s savouring her curls flying free, as the dance holds sway.

Not long before her hair is pinned up, her dress dusting the ground.


Meantime she’ll tap her button boots in time to the bells, avoiding

wayward toes, silk scarves still wet with last year’s tears.



© Alison Hill

Picture 10047936, illustration on a greetings card, 1880, image copyright Mary Evans



Alison Hill’s latest collection, Sisters in Spitfires (Indigo Dreams 2015), celebrates the 164 women who flew with the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War, flying anything to anywhere with a particular passion for the Spitfire. The research project was supported by the Arts Council. Previous collections include Peppercorn Rent (Flarestack, 2008) and Slate Rising (Indigo Dreams, 2014). Her work has also appeared in several anthologies, most recently in XXI Century World Literature, published in New Delhi in February 2016. More details at