Before I knew the difference between long i and short i,
tidy appeared in a column of vocabulary words,
spellbinding me with questions.
Was I witnessing how the world changes for adults,
when one day certain words are judged okay
to place in polite conversation, and more importantly,
why only the one tidy, and not the pair?
I spread the word, told the fellas the scandal of our luck.
We giggled, pushed the days out in front of us like lawnmowers
to get to that word’s assigned day,
and when the teacher read long i tidy,
asked us to repeat after her, tidy, we did so bewildered,
de-mapped on the spot, sounding the word out.
It was there all along, the betrayal of nuance,
the unteachable labyrinth of letters upon letters.
How could I ever trust again the tongue, and you, eyes,
my betrayers, such words, such places that kept us afloat?
About the Author
Fred Dale is a husband to his wife, Valerie and a father to his occasionally good dog, Earl. He received his master’s in English from the University of North Florida, where he serves as a Senior Instructor in the Department of English. He is also pursuing an MFA at the University of Tampa, but mostly, he just grades papers. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sugar House Review, The Summerset Review, Chiron Review, Crack the Spine, Clackamas Literary Review, and others. His audio chapbook The Sleep of Blue Moon Flowers was released through Eat in 2016.