This is a list of all the work we’ve published so far, in chronological order of each piece’s historical setting. We update this list at the end of each season.
The beginning of time: How Monday was Made by Guy Biederman
It’s been a rough day. Ice Age in the morning, Vesuvius after lunch, and the loss of God’s favorite trattoria in Pompeii….
406 Million B.C.E. (late Ordovician Period) to early 1900s: Amber Rose by J.B. Stone
When you crawled out of your pod, slinked unto the branches: a newborn insectoid, exploring the earth eons ago, you were told you would rise into a throne of horns, inherit a royal flush of beetle-bodied knighthood.
The Stone Age, give or take an epoch: Wheel of Fortune by Nick Black
Oh yeah, life’s been nothing but sweet for Jasper since he invented that flat round rolling thing of his.
3400-3100 BCE: Ice Man by Jan Stinchcomb
She stitches his leggings and sews his hat, stuffs his pouch with dried mushrooms, and carves her sign into the handle of his knife.
3,000 – 2,000 BCE: Enkidu’s Harlot by Patience Mackarness
Back then I was a legend, at the top of my profession. They called me queen of harlots. When rumours of Enkidu first reached the city of Uruk, I was planning my retirement. I had servants, gardens, a house overlooking the Great River with terraces and fruit trees.
12th/13th century BCE: Thrice Around the Walls of Troy by Gary Duncan
Remembering the stories he’d heard about her: the face, the ships, all that. That first time he saw her, his idiot brother smirking by her side: That’s her? All this, for her?
850 BCE: The Defenestration of Jezebel by Jack Somers
The queen wore her finest on the morning of her death. The lotus silk gown, pale as the blanched beaches of Sidon. The damask linen stole, soft as moth wings, green as the Cyprian Sea. On her head rested the royal diadem, a filigreed band of pure gold, Ahab’s mother’s before it was hers, an heirloom of incalculable value, the greatest treasure in all of Samaria.
508 BCE: Rex Nemorensis (King of the Woods) by Peter Burns
Come, curious minds, back to Old Latium, to Diana’s sacred grove on the shores of Lake Nemi. See her priest-king stalking through the gloom, eyes forever restless, hand ever-steady at his sword.
88 B.C.: The Consort of Closed Fists by Lixin Foo
The legend of her fists spread far and wide. Until one day, an augur whispered it into the ear of the most powerful man in China. At the old Emperor’s touch, her fist fell open — revealing a jade hook left as her grandmother’s only heirloom.
Lady Gouyi, they called her then. The Consort of Closed Fists.
970 CE: ‘In The Arms of Khajuraho, 970 CE‘ by Tara Isabel Zambrano
I am all stone, the monolith giving way to a slight slope below my navel. For a moment it seems as if a dark river has appeared between my thighs, but it’s your long, matted hair that sweeps on my midriff while you rough the remaining panel, a soft sun on your muscled back.
1000 AD (give or take): Love in the Margins by MaryPat Campbell
Two decades ago, my father brought me to this monastery. Our long journey made me sick for home, while he talked mile after mile about the honour of being schooled in the art of the scribe.
1066: Harald Hardrada Intensifies by Lindz McLeod
History would like us to remember that Harald Hardrada died on 25th September 1066, the heels of his blood-soaked boots drumming a faint tattoo on the ground.
History would like us to forget that Hardrada resurrected precisely one week later.
Late middle ages (or not!): The Convert by Clio Velentza
See the swamp under the bridge, how it holds its breath. Its rough skin is an outright lie.
1315: Hunger1315 by Claire Loader
It has rained all May and June, and on into the summer months. We started to eat the seed grain, slaughtered the mule, but there was no salt to cure it. I have sent them out to find berries but even the wild plants cannot find the strength to lift themselves to their task, the bark on the trees already stripped by desperate hands.
Sixteenth century: ‘The anatomy of a hurdy-gurdy‘ by Philip Charter
My instrument is angular yet perfectly rounded, with interruptions. Its rough edges are worn smooth through years of repetitions. Diners at their long tables watch the instrument, not me.
1500: Root by Becky Tipper
Frau Mueller now, her cold hands on Ilsa’s belly, prays to the Virgin, the Virgin’s mother, and all the Holy Mothers. Calls on them to ease the infant out, to end the heaving pains of five long days.
1536: An Encounter Between the Poet and the Mantis by Vanessa Couchman
I think of him rather as a green insect, such as I encountered when walking on a steep Tuscan hillside in untroubled days. The emerald creature poised motionless on a branch of juniper, its front legs held before it, waiting to pounce.
1542 / 1520: Whispers, behind closed doors by Rosanna Hildyard
Many years ago, back in our green days, we played at the new game of tennis, dressed up for May masques and dared call King Harry’s wife ‘the Spanish woman’ almost openly behind the backs of our hands, our eyes gleaming sideways like Holbein’s drawings. We were careless with our talking as with our dice; there were no forfeits.
1577: Santo Spirito, 1577 by Michele Finn Johnson
My parents consign my eldest sister, Paola, to Venice’s Santo Spirito convent. There is no dowry for Paola and so her duty is our salvation.
1587: God’s Image by Carys Crossen
Eleno lives in a world that shifts and moves like the sand on the shore. He has worn skirts, married a man, given birth, gone for a soldier, practised medicine, married a woman, undergone countless physical examinations, been held in isolation by the authorities because they weren’t sure whether to cage him with the men or the women.
1600 – present: ‘In Whitby you may have the misfortune to be caught‘ by Daphne Milne
We start with wood. Oak’s traditional for its strength and durability, like ship’s timbers. The men hammer in the nails when the oak’s young. After that it’s up to us. They’re too squeamish and the smell upsets them.
1600s: Fragments by Katie Oliver
Eve has been informed by her mother of what is to happen: there can be no negotiation. She smooths her brown dress over her knees, focusing upon the weave of the linen; the pulled threads and the darned patches. She thinks about her mother wisping a stray hair away from her forehead: You’re turning out beautiful, Evie duck.
1683C.E.-1799 CE via 2010=2019 CE (the high Qing era as seen from the Chinese harem drama television era): The Peony Hairpin by Q.Y. Tie
The empress dowager whispers open the seals between her selves. The empress stabs the dying emperor with her peony hairpin, watches his blood spurt in impossibly bright streaks, listens to his impossibly hurt accusations.
1643-1644: ‘Boye‘ by Christine Collinson
Before the battle, we said that Boye was bulletproof. A white devil-dog with a black heart and enchanted blood: a shapeshifter, a sorcerer.
1645: The Essex Girl by Michelle Hemstedt
I have told them she killed my daughter.
I have told them she kissed her and gave her an apple, and the child perished.
Late 1600s: In Dead Waters by Sarah Arantza Amador
We held our fortified port for six weeks while the King killed Protestants in the northern lowlands but the South Gate finally gave way during a fight for fresh bread. So many died in battle that no sacred ground was left for burying the dead. We stacked the bodies one on top of the other in the gendarmerie tower and covered them in salt, of which we had plenty.
Late 1600s: ‘Infanta‘ by Carolyn Oliver
Infanta, you dance as a gull sways on a salt breeze, as a fan swings closed between jewelled fingers, as a whisper stalls in a hot room. Eyes tally your subtle steps, the weight and cost of the silk heaped about your narrow hips. All dazzle-daunted, except the little maid, the one you left rubbing her jaw in your new apartments.
Late 1600s/Early 1700s: Footsized by Sarah Peploe
Her breasts hurt with milk, still. They’re heavy. They leak sometimes, dark and obvious through her dress. She is behind with the washing. Her big girl who is nearly seven has been helping, and her sister Doll, but Doll is close to her own confinement.
Mid-18th century: Hidden in Darkness by Diane E Tatlock
At the dank, doomed mine they pay money to see where I took my last steps two hundred years ago, to hear the tale for entertainment.
18th century: The Garden Statue by Amy Barnes
The lady of the house pays me not to move. It isn’t enough for her to have garden statues made of stone. To have a genteel party, there must be living statues.
1750: Gibbet by Mark Cassidy
Once I was a young boy, clambered limber, surefooted, into an empty gibbet and swung the blackwood, gristle-crusted cage bang tight.
1752: The Fire She Feels by Kate Finegan
Mama always knew there was something about that lightning, even before that old rascal Franklin tied a key to a kite.
1775: Declaration by Madeline Anthes
“I’ll come home,” he said, taking on the face of a soldier. Serious. Focused. “We’re fighting for independence. Liberty.”
He liked to repeat things I already knew.
1780s: ‘Foundering‘ by Matthew Richardson
It’s only when Ma and Pa wake me that I realise the cries weren’t in my dreams. I’m told to get dressed quickly. Truth be told there’s not much to put on – a shirt and the only pair of breeches that I own. I dress and sit on my bed, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and watching the cruisie lamp throwing its flickering light against the stone walls.
1788: A Quiet Day in Hell by Mary Byrne
She knows each sheet intimately. Four priests live in the presbytery, her brother the oldest, her son the youngest. In a few years from now both will be dead because of the Revolution, her brother from sadness, her son guillotined. She will live to mourn them both.
1796: The 1796 Spinning Wheel List by Karen Walker
At supper, he declares the flax can spare one boy. But neither the straightest nor the tallest of the crop. He points to Abraham. ‘You will wear clean britches and a coat — blue like a flax flower — and sit with the schoolmaster and books.’ The other brothers, straighter and taller, twist in their chairs and cross their tanned arms.
late 1700s: Blood Orange by Sherri Turner
I thought about what had made the orange bleed. Was it hurt when it was picked, when it was cut? It wasn’t special, it was tainted and I didn’t want it.
Nineteenth century: ‘This House‘ by by Ahmad Adedimeji Amobi
I mustn’t take a step further. This house hoards the memories that shred before me.
Early 1800s: Eleanor’s Last by Nuala O’Connor
I see those small ones about me betimes, when I bind rope or thresh corn. My living childer work with me, all three, but the others appear and do their share
Early 1800s: ‘Faerie Coffins‘ by Barbara Buckley Ristine
Ma says not to go to Arthur’s Seat. “The faeries will snatch ye—they come for bairns.”
1800s: Tyn by K.B. Carle
Tyn, a man the color of the coals that collected under his mama’s good cooking pot before turning to ash when the fire got to them, digs his hands deep into the earth, letting every bit of pain loose through the tips of his fingers.
1800: ‘Beating the Herring‘ by Marie Gethins
Cross to shoulder, you bear the burden, sleeves covered in white fragments. A single herring remains. It trembles, glinting silver, then gold in the Easter Morning light. The river beckons.
1800-1950: ‘Soul Theft‘ by Remi Skytterstad
They built internment camps in red, white and blue: and called them schools.
1805-1810: Professor Lazzo’s Stupendous Flea Circus by Jennifer Falkner
Perhaps there are actors, however lowly, however unrecognised in the world, who are born to act, to take on other names and others’ words. If they cannot — well, possibly they end up here, in a grubby boarding house in miserable London.
1810: Regarding Gray, Carmine, Pyrope by Mandira Pattnaik
Gray is a morass of doubt and indifference and coot is a water bird with black feathers and a white bill. Black and white. Not Gray. Not in the sunlight.
1825-35: Water Over the Tunnel by Sian Brighal
This ain’t no rock or land I’m familiar with. It’s as though the stone has steeped too long in the river above it, becoming soft and corrupted on what the city adds to the brew. From which stinks and damps rise up like disturbed spirits to tighten round our throats or drown our thinking. The subtle and vicious ways this earth works to keep us in our place.
Early 1830s: A Note on the Understanding of Fossils by Cathy Lennon
Don’t wake the baby, don’t wake the baby, don’t wake the baby.
1830s–1870s: The Sort-of-True Story of Princess Alexandra of Bavaria by Hannah Hoare
When I was a child I swallowed a glass piano.
1832 – 1845: Life at the Colliery, 1832 -1845 by Matt Kendrick
It’s dark. Darker than coal. Darker than Ma’s eyes when I came home caked in mud after football on the common. Which is before. When we weren’t down here. Crouched in our sidings. Waiting.
1840s: ‘Invisible‘ by George L. Hickman
We had been whipping the whiskey wash for three hours now, my socks long soaked from the Scottish rain. Four of us boys stood around a bubbling vat of yeast and barley, piercing its thick foam with long sticks, splattering a sugary grime into each other’s faces.
1846: A Falling from the Sky by Aileen Hunt
That night, the wind bore a strange cry. Not the cry of a banshee. They knew that sound, carried it around like a familiar chill.
Mid-1800s: Tilda Always Did Love Her Flowers by Christina Dalcher
A miracle became—
“Necessary,” said the midwife.
“Imperative,” insisted the father.
“A thing best left to God,” thought the mother, meaning the miracle, not the baby, but possibly meaning both.
Mid-1800s: There Will Be No Lace by TM Upchurch
I shrug them loose, lean in and swaddle you tight so you won’t feel the cold. Pretend I’m still here. Your eyelids close, open, close, open less… As they slide down, sealing you into sleep, I am still here. I brand my mind with the moment, breathing in deep, sucking you into me before they take my wrists.
Mid-1800s: Shoes in the Wall by Olivia Fitzsimons
They took his shoes, they slipped them from his feet and placed them in the wall, beside the lintel of the door.
Mid to late 1800s: Cordsby Isabelle B.L
I’m a whale, a bell and a multifunctional cord.
Today, I receive something to make my waist smaller. The giver says:
“It’s made with 98 whale bones, my dear.”
1850: Tussaud by Noa Covo
She grows up in a house of abandoned arms and legs. She is taught to count on wax hands severed at the wrist, she caresses faces that end at the neck as her mother dusts.
1857: Comfortless Cove by Linda Walsh
I grip the sides of the swaying rowing boat, my face scorched by a cold-hearted sun. Ahead is Ascension Island, Queen Victoria’s lonely outpost, lying between Africa and the New World, a desolate rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. As Assistant Surgeon, it fell to me to order Captain Butt to evacuate the sickest men to the shore.
1862: The Bathtub by Amy Slack
I’d have his bath waiting for him, the water warmed by the same coals he blasted and carved from the earth, the same coals they paid him with. A bonus, they called those coals. A pitman’s hearth should never go cold.
1866-1869: ‘Erased‘ by Winston Bribach
The bosses told us Chinese to stay away from the photographer. Most didn’t need to be told. They didn’t want to lose their souls.
1867: Postbellum by Fiona J. Mackintosh
Somewhere outside Jacksonville, Illinois, the train slows to a crawl. Clara cups her hands and peers into the darkness but sees only the rail bed stones and the ragged edge of a sorghum field.
1870s: Gutshot by Peter Jordan
With this same rifle he learned to shoot at Cemetery Ridge, taking Confederate soldiers from a distance of two hundred yards. In those three days of slaughter he knows exactly how many men he killed. At night, each pallid face comes to visit.
1870s: A Piecer’s Tale by Christine Collinson
Cotton fluff swirls around us like snow, only it is as hot as an oven. All the windows are shut, but I can see grey sky if I peep out when no one’s watching.
1870s: The Inheritance by Joyce Bingham
My widows’ weeds are stiff in their newness, the taffeta rustles, the heavy jet necklace thumps my chest, keeping time with my rock of a heart. I look around the study, his books, his leather chair at the fire. He never stinted on having that fire aglow, my drawing room cold whilst he drank and read in comfort.
1879: When the Walking’s Done by Mary Scott
The outback never ends. Frank’s seen nothing but orange and brown for hours now. Burned colours. Enough to drive a man mad.
1879 – 1890: The Last of El Dorado by T. L. Ransome
“La Reina! La Reeina!” they cried, stamping mud-worn heels on the dented boards.
But she was in pieces in the desert, miles of lace-melt, skin flinted red between saguaros. The tall green ancients covered her with crowns of flower-shred; her trail was marked in nectar.
1880s: You May Hear of a Killing by Becca Borawski Jenkins
The heat made her an inch shorter as she watched the dust devil tread toward her down the only road in this not-even-a town. Her hands rested at her hips. No—her palms hovered, brushing the grips of her pistols.
1887: Becoming Helen by Stella Klein
Though sometimes, lately, insistent in her touch, my somebody-other comes to still me in her folds, tap-tapping with her game of lines and dots. And sometimes, tapping back, I feel her urgent pleasure more than mine.
1890s: Eliza Brightwen Waits for Dawn by Caroline Greene
When I walk out here in the night I hear all the sounds of my wakefulness: the clumsy rustle of the hedgehog, the ghoulish bark of the fox, the lonely shriek of a tawny owl. The sounds go unanswered, much in the way of my thoughts that strive and search for meaning, then stall and freeze, unresolved, incomplete, like the creatures in my little museum room.
1895: Frau Roentgen’s Left Hand by Anita Goveas
The thumb is indistinct, mid-sized and slender. If it were a tree limb, it would reveal I was fifty years old.
1896 – 1940: Oh Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me by Donna L Greenwood
Edward’s large head looms like fat, round cheese whilst he watches her; ready to whisk away her ideas as soon as they are born.
June 1898: ‘The Lost, Independencia‘ by Ryle Lagonsin
From my window overlooking the mountains, I watch a line of soldiers climbing up the footpath, small as ants in the green totality of the range. They are all the same, only multiplied in the distance. Each one, a shaded head under a Baliwag hat, defying the high noon.
October 1898: A Despicable Article by Lourdes Mackey
You asked how it began Alice. Well God and His Mother knows that from the very minute Ned Kelly opened his eyes as a babe in Beveridge till the day they were closed by the hangman in the Melbourne Gaol the traps were dead nuts down on him and all the Kellys, never once letting up on the stain of Da’s bondage in Van Diemen’s Land and dragging it through the family like a black river of contagion.
Late 1890s: The Fur-puller by Peter Burns
Mr Matthews lays the sack on the scales. Rose doesn’t blink, for fear of missing the tilt of it, doesn’t breathe, for fear of losing more than she already has.
Present – late 19th century: ‘Awake Since ’78‘ by H. A. Eugene
A white male and an Asian female left 222 Club shortly before 11 PM when three African American males in black “hoodie” sweatshirts allegedly pushed them to the ground and escaped with two iPhones (one silver and one pink) as well as one red leather Prada-brand purse.
1908: Marie Curie’s Kitchen by Ellen Goldstein
Your mother spreads out pitchblende from Czechoslovakia. Your job is to pick out the pine needles from the crevices of the lumpy grey-black ore, a radioactive Cinderella.
1908: Three Hundred and Eighty Five Yards by Rob Walton
Some say Conan Doyle is only here because the organisers offered him a good seat to watch the athletics. Others say he is here on behalf of the Daily Mail. I really don’t mind about that.
1908: The Writer’s House by Caroline Greene
The great man is in the drawing room sitting for a portrait. We’ve had to roll up the rugs, but there’s sure to be paint for me to scrub off the parquet. He’s had that many pictures done, there can’t be anyone in England who wouldn’t recognise him on a dark night.
1911: Stones Heavy in Their Pockets by Gina Headden
As she nears her destination, she stops and scans the street. All clear. She chaps the door, tapping out the code, her heartbeat hopscotching in her chest.
April 15, 1912: Iceblink by Mary Morrissy
You was the senior man. Four years on the Oceanic, you. You stared straight ahead, damned near blinded with concentration. And saw nothing at first.
World War I: Plum Jam by Frances Gapper
From our ladders we can see the plum-blue Malverns. The army’s bought up this harvest, still on the trees.
World War I: Ogdens by Gaynor Jones
She scoops a clump of dirt-brown tobacco from the barrel and tries not to think of gunpowder.
World War I: Potato Masher by Jake Sullins
He’d found the stick grenade half-buried in mud in a bend of the Somme, in the days after Amiens…
World War I: Casus Belli by Melanie Haws
John Haas went to war, aged twenty-three, a plumber’s helper, with a few dollars saved, and a picture of his Dresden-doll sweetheart he carried in his left breast-pocket…
World War I: Life After Death by Jennifer Moore
After he died they put a stranger in his stitched-up shell, sewing his name into the fellow’s mud-mushed brain to keep it from slipping.
1915: ‘The Colours in His Hair‘ by Davena O’ Neill
We only had one hour.
Sixty minutes alone, without sympathetic looks or words of encouragement. Everyone asked me after where we’d gone, but I never told.
‘We lost track of time,’ was all I said.
1916: 1916 by Jac Harmon
You lie on your back, staring up at the sky, an arcing, heart-aching infinity of blue, stretching beyond the limits of your sight, beyond the limits of the mud that sucks and clings…
1917: Gutted by Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon
She collapsed into my arms, where she belonged. We knew each other inside out, solid together since her husband enlisted.
1918: Granddaddy at War by Barbara Diggs
My grandfather stands straight as the rifle he won’t be allowed to touch. Trenches may be choked with corpses across the ocean, but a weapon in the hands of a black man is no less disruptive to world order. Better for him not to know the sleek feel of power, become intoxicated by its kick and heft. In the battle for democracy, he is best armed with a shovel.
1920: All the King’s Puppets and All the King’s Strings by Avra Margariti
King Alexander dreams of puppets. Stringed dolls of tanned wood and fabric-scrap fatigues fighting losing battles for freedom. You must never forget that we are foreigners, his father used to say before his exile, but you must make your Hellenic subjects forget.
1922 (told several decades later): On The Ethics of Book Burning by Nick Lord Lancaster
These are the facts of the matter. The warehouse fire was entirely accidental. I don’t know the cause of it; I’m not privy to that level of information.
31 August – 1 September 1923: Haori by P Akasaka
If an apprentice could wear a haori coat, what could we, the seamstresses, wear? There’d be nothing left, said Little Plum.
1928: No More Than an Eggshell by Bronwen Griffiths
I wake early in thick darkness to a wind crashing over the rooftops, a wind howling like our neighbour’s dog after he was run over by a cart last year. I hear the fire of the maroons and my husband sits up in bed and says he must go and all I say is to take care as fear swells in me like the storm itself.
Early 1930s: The Blockcutter by Sarah Smith
In the factory, blue overalls hung loose on a wiry frame; lavvy-brush hair and jug-ears stuck out in permanent surprise. He studied the older men, deep in concentration at their workbenches, paunches solidifying.
Early 1930s: ‘cottonmouth‘ by Audra Kerr Brown
ma dont sit sit with the baby no more not since pa caught her starin barebreasted at the lantern light found his boy beneath the feather tick pale and limp as a stillborn pig […]
1932: A Pot of Usefulness by Jane Lomas
When he was used up the lads gave him the grand title of Chief Splosh Maker, and he’d spent a few happy weeks warming the pot, spooning loose tea and pouring for the exhausted gang. But they couldn’t cover for him for long.
1933: Der Bibliophile by Nicola Davison
My timeworn lungs buckle, but I don’t want to close the window.
I push it wide open to be reacquainted with Freud, Kafka, and Hemingway as they rise, shifting and swirling to reach me. It stings to breathe them in, but still, I inhale every charred word.
Spring, 1934: Something That Can Never be Held by Cathy Ulrich
You are being photographed with a stolen camera. You are pretending to smoke a cigar, you are wearing your best dress, you are holding a shotgun. You are going to be famous. You are going to be hunted. You are going to have time to scream before you die.
1938: Kaala Paani by Mandira Pattnaik
Bakru can’t sleep because his father can’t because his mother can’t, so he turns on the bed rags and watches the rain through the open window, rain so insistent it doubles up to cover for his father sobbing and his mother trying to drown hers with the pillow, for there’s a time between now and noon tomorrow when the boots will come…
1939–1945: Half Past Two by Genevieve Allen
The street outside was dreary in its emptiness. He couldn’t recall seeing it crowded since the local lads had left to a chorus of cheers, waving and songs nobody had sung for over two decades.
1940: Aetheris Avidi by Louise Mangos
Our other sister Joan is delivering a Lancaster bomber for the Air Transport Auxiliary. It was the first thing she wanted to do when our boat forged its way across the Irish Sea and we stepped off the gangplank. She prefers the thrill of the sky over amorous young soldiers heading to their destinies on the frontline.
1940s: I Was a Man Who Breathed by Chris Milam
She was statuesque with a face that could make a soulless man swoon. Or a soulless woman. Skin as flawless as fresh paint.
1940s: Send Him Victorious by Jude Higgins
I last saw my big brother Charlie laugh in 1937, the day after George VI’s coronation. He nearly wet himself when I asked him about a word in the National Anthem. Why were we supposed to send the King Victorias? They weren’t in season.
1940s: It’s Raining Today by Mark Left
When I dream it is raining. That is normal, that is what it does in Poland. Rain falling in sheets like wire mesh stretched to the four horizons. Keeping me in, shutting me out – it is all the same thing.
1940: Black Two by PJ Stephenson
“Next time I looked, he…”
My voice catches, like someone releasing the R/T button too quickly. My lower lip quivers. What’s wrong with me? I’ve lost sprogs before.
1941: Freedom Pass by Tamsin Cottis
Jackie and me on the bus. Front seat, top deck. Number 38. Hackney Central to Victoria. Memory of this bus came with me to Hospital. German Doodlebugs screaming through clouds. Stop. Wait. Boom! Doctors said I’d be better off out of it. Ma was crying the day they left me at St Caths. Told me it was a palace in a park. Turned out more of a prison. Only a boy I was, but a man when I left.
1941: Phoenixes by Sophie van Llewyn
Mother’s pinkie draws away from the teacup, reaching towards our glorious past. The footmen have been drafted, the maids soldier on in factories, but the afternoon tea is holy in our house.
1942: Inner Thief by Claire Polders
He says they have enough. Their eyes meet. The word “enough” sounds foreign to her, as though it has lost all meaning.
1942: Windows by Ranjabali Chaudhuri
I love shop windows. Their colours, jewels, and mannequins sing the dulcet promise of possibility. They let me be anyone. Superimposed upon the clothes on display, my reflection can be a soldier in a red and gold jacket, a doctor in a white coat with deep pockets or even a gentleman in a gray suit, a red silk scarf and a cream hat. They take my imagination to places I am not allowed to enter. I wish they were the only windows I had to clean.
July 1942: Bird Sounds by Lilly Posnett
I was cupping water in my hand, letting it slip over my daughter’s shoulders as she sat in the bath, when she turned to face me.
“Remember,” she said, “when I found the baby birds?”
1944: Snow in March by Emma Venables
Anna crouches, wonders if the pilots can see her: if she stares right at them will her image haunt them long after this day, this raid? Will they remember the defiant German woman? Will they tell their grandchildren she had it coming?
6 August 1945: I Have Suffered the Atrocity of Sunsets by Morgan Quinn
Today you wake up late, but Mama doesn’t scold. She plaits the inky waterfall of your hair as you eat your breakfast, then presses an onigiri into your hand and ushers you out into the world.
1947: The Partitioning of Dreams by Susmita Bhattacharya
Years later, she would think back on how she had cried for her dolly, and not her brother who had been buried by the roadside. Years later, she would wonder about the home they had left – if the new owners feasted on the mangoes from their trees.
Late 1940s: From Darjeeling, with Love by Kiira Rhosair
Uphill, lush rows of foliage are speckled with faded cotton saris. Her sisters in suffering have moved on. She wonders if one might have a drop to spare. Neither her legs nor her voice will carry up. The country is free but she is not, trapped in the mazes of this place the sahibs call Heppi Balli.
1950s: Promiscuous by Elizabeth Burton
Promiscuous, they called Dorrinda. Callie wasn’t sure what that meant. She reckoned it must mean forced down on the dirt and pushed into the way fourteen-year-old Dorrinda had been by that man.
1950s: Tapeworm by Kristen Loesch
Mei knows she has tapeworms because she’s felt them squirming, slithering, shimmying in her belly since she swam here from Shenzhen, or maybe it’s just one long tapeworm longer than a fresh-water eel longer than the straw mat she sleeps on longer than the last smile her mother will ever give her…
1952: What We Believed by D.E. Hardy
Art class was the best hour of the week; Miss Cunningham’s poster of the color wheel told the truth—everything had an opposite—blue to yellow, green to red; our desks were magic shields; sharpened pencils smelled like progress; Billy Sullivan was a genius because he knew things like England just got the bomb, and Brad Majors was right when he said the Russians were gonna get it—it was two against one now….
26 July, 1956: This is not a story about my grandfather by Salena Casha
As it lay there amongst the wreckage, the suitcase reflected that it had not been in expected company during either the journey or now. In fact, it had made the immigration upon the SS Andrea Doria alone. Pre-boarded days ahead of departure, it had no knowledge that my grandfather had journeyed to Rome for a final goodbye.
1957/8: She arrived at the mountain hideout on horseback by Bryan Harvey
She arrived at the mountain hideout on horseback—rain evaporating from the leaves in a gray shroud. He couldn’t see her. Having tossed his spectacles to the ground, he had stomped the fogged lenses into fragments of dark earth. Before she descended her horse, she revealed a brand-new pair of spectacles glistening in the dusk’s archipelago.
“For the comandante,” she said.
1958: A Long Way Away by Diane Simmons
It is really horrible here. The journey took AGES and AGES and I blubbed and the lady took my pear drops away so I didn’t choke.
18 September 1959: In the Hours Before the 1959 Auchengeich Coal Mine Disaster by Marie Hoy-Kenny
You wake, your wife Jean still serene in sleep, breathing deeply beside you. The sky is dark through the cracks between the curtains, but last night you dreamed you were at the sea watching the sunrise cast purples, pinks, and oranges across the sky and it was beautiful, beautiful, you didn’t want it to end. You rarely have those bad dreams any more, of the mine walls closing in on you like an angry clamp.
1950s &1960s: Balm by Charmaine Wilkerson
“What? What?” her son said, with that down-curved oh-shape that his mouth took on when he was annoyed. He wouldn’t understand. She couldn’t expect him to. Tiger Balm in America, after all these years.
1960: In 1960… by Grace Palmer
The foetus curled, I swear, somersaulting and dreaming in my watery home. I thought, it will stop soon, lay down bone and blue, grow into the caul.
1960: We, the School Dental Nurses, 1960 by Frankie McMillan
We are the dental nurses, our cardigans tulip red, our feet rubber soled, we are the foot soldiers, we wave to the bomber jets as they unleash their arsenal of bright apples, oranges, bananas and bottles of milk…
Late 1960s: Estelle by Sheila Scott
‘It was on the clipboard at the last check.’ The commander pulled open a small drawer beneath the seats and rifled through its contents, sending odd items drifting into the air around them.
22 November 1963: November by Sarah Freligh
The president himself has called us soft, urges us to exercise. He hikes fifty miles on weekends, waving to photographers, lugging the bad back he shattered in the same war that wounded our fathers.
1967: Torrey Canyon 1967 by Sam Payne
We wash seabirds in the sinks at the hairdressers. Their thin bones tremble in our hands as the brown foam slips over stained porcelain.
1971: East Bengal, 1971 by Mehreen Ahmed
It was lunch time in Madhupur. Taramon, a motherless farmer’s daughter of 24, was just getting ready to sit down with her four siblings for lunch. Their father had left for the field early in the morning. The farmer didn’t join them for lunch.
24 December, 1971: Footprints in Water by Robert Barrett
On Christmas Eve, she fell; sucked downwards through the angry, screaming wind, head first, through two miles of unencumbered sky, and no thought can take root, only the biting of the seatbelt across her stomach. A white sandal flicks from her foot, like a scrambling dove, whipped heavenward, and there is no fear and no regret in half a minute of time, only, this is happening now and this is happening now.
17 November 1973: rEVOLt by Mileva Anastasiadou
She’d never forget that day, that glorious day of protest, a joyful day at first, as joyful days are when change is around the corner. She’d never forget his hand in hers, the warmth of his words when he told her, they can’t beat us, we have the power, and she believed him for they were among the people, they were down in the streets, fighting together, fighting oppression.
1979 or after: RRS Discovery: by Struan Gow
She cannot glimpse the sea. She cannot feel it wrap around her hull—salt within the wood, burning hot to cold warping her skin. She cannot hear its rhythm like she cannot hear her heart. They have taken that from her and pinned her on a wall.
1980s: Red Eye by Lee Hamblin
First time in New York; first time in Brooklyn. Johnny P has a bit of blow and some weed he needs to dispose of on account he doesn’t indulge during the week. Would be rude not to help him out.
1980s: The (almost entirely true) Story of Jessie and the Mountain by Dreena Collins
Jessie would not go.
They told her that she had to move. The mountain, y mynydd, was sliding ever closer: inching and scuttling shingle and stone, until one day it would subside. It was for her own good, they said. Her safety.
1982 / 2012: The Landmines Up Near Sapper Hill Sing by Santino Prinzi
He knew the dangers, we all did, and it weren’t as if he were taking risks. We all had experience of clearance projects like these, heard the stories, seen appendages blown to mist or found a few miles off. But this was Yousef’s legs. Yousef’s. The kindest heart in the group. S’way it always goes, though.
1983: Not a Rehearsal by Anne Summerfield
We should have gone to Greenham and slept under the tarpaulins, under the stars. We said we would, knew too that there was more at stake than protest.
1985 / 1994: Senna by Steve Campbell
Go, Go, Go, Go, screams the commentator. The cars burst toward us from the start line and Dad reaches over and grabs my arm, squeezing each syllable. Go, Go, Go, Go.
1985/now: Once Upon A Time In Philadelphia by Tia Ja’Nae
Steel melts at 2500°F. Pigs made sure it’s hotter than that so our dark, meaty flesh roasts to a crisp at the police barbeque. Feels like I’m melting. Can’t barely breathe.
Guess that was the end result they were counting on.
1991: Compost by John Nicholson
The Berlin Wall is down and my pension is in real marks. The notes feel good between finger and thumb, substantial. My shovel feels good too, balanced horizontally in my left hand, cold wood and colder steel. It gleams in the dull sun, low in the sky as the days grow short. Using it will give me pleasure.
2000: Y2K by Charles Duffie
Kaamisha squeezes her eyes and prays to wake up at home but she’s still here, in a bathroom stall at school.
…?: Two by Two by KM Elkes
They say Noah died, 350 years on from the Great Flood, as a naked, purple-lipped drunk. But some know better.
- Present day, informed by first century AD: Artifacts by Veronica Montes
The archaeologist, I’ve noticed, cycles through the same two hundred or so photographs and stories. Tonight she will post a beaded dress from the reign of King Khufu, but this afternoon she has shared the ivory hair comb again.
Image of Prague’s Astronomical Clock by Vera Kratochvil.