Casting Type

He squats by the ancient flywheel
jiggling a piece of baling wire
into a tiny hole near the type carriage
and straddling an electrical motor,
untapped wires connected in series,
definitely not up to code.
He aims a squirt of silicone grease
under each side of the cross block
slides in the matrix for a lower case “e,"
the most common letter in English, he tells me,
then fires up the gas torches once again
under the hot tin and lead:
this day an ornate Italian face
adapted from Jenson or the early Venetians,
its delicate joinings and curved serifs
more suitable for a sonnet or ode
than the woodcut likeness of Joe Hill
taped underneath the exhaust fan,
and the splash-marks of metal
belched from the melt pot
spangling his jacket and hat.