Breaking the rules

by Nina Boyd

We are forbidden to speak.
I drum on the table when the guard walks away:
dot-dot dot-dash dash-dash dash dash-dash-dash dash-dash

The others are curious, one even taps out
a jumble of long and short. I listen, hear nonsense,
keep my eyes down, shake my head.
I try each meal’s new neighbours:
dot-dot dot-dash dash-dash dash dash-dash-dash dash-dash

“Hello, Tom!” He’s opposite me, grinning into his gruel.
Our spoons introduce us on the scrubbed deal.
Sometimes we can’t speak for weeks.
It’s a slow-growing friendship.

The governor raps the edge of his desk with a pencil,
spells out by chance the name of a planet.
He can’t work out how it’s done, or even what it is
that’s being done.

In solitary the walls ring with my message:
dot-dot dot-dash dash-dash dash dash-dash-dash dash-dash
I am Tom.
I am Tom.