the Golden Committee

there was no longer ‘ei,’

the combination was banned without malice
by the Committee on Lexicography, which,
despite the Santa Barbarans’ pitiless exhortations,
did not meet in cold halls made of mercury teeth fillings

but in the capital building—the spelling
of which they set right once and for all
with over-sized displays and examples
of usage on the public radio stations—

a young girl, from Allegheny County
who was not even book-wormish,
wrote the letters on a scrap
of paper she tore from the corner
of an envelope

and hid it under the flower pot
in the kitchen

orphaned at twelve, the girl was lost
in a deluge of paperwork from the auto accidents
of ’27, and allowed to stay in the
house on Porter Street

she lived simply, like a grandmother
widowed 20 times over, in a
gracious solitude that belied her age,
underlining the forbidden letters in the books she
read and reread,

each night watering, and then

removing, the bougainvillea from its stand
in order to satisfy something within her
and also to defy the Committee,

though by then the members had all moved
on to other posts, where each and every one of them
used ‘ei’ on a regular basis

and there was no committee
to outline the proper repercussions

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