• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 05


We learned sign language as children
My brother and I –
Tom Thumb equals A,
Three closed fingers across your palm for M,
Spread wide for W –
A simple alphabet mastered
In the radio days of childhood
From a comic page.

It served us best at night –
In bed by six-thirty,
Sleepy or not,
When Mum called ‘Quiet!’
We talked with shadow hands
In the street-lamp shine.
No tame rabbits or doves for us –
Whole stories were told,
Adventures lived, on our wall.

That summer my brother was ill –
Quinsy closed his throat
So he couldn’t breathe.
One rattle-gasping night
I saw his shaky fingers spell out ‘HELP’
And I yelled for Mum.

His life saved by shadows.