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.
Joseph Millar’s first collection, Overtime, published by Eastern Washington University Press in 2001, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Millar grew up in Pennsylvania and took an MA from Johns Hopkins in 1970. It would be two decades before he returned to poetry. His work has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Oregon Literary Arts. In 1997, he gave up his job as telephone installation foreman and moved to western Oregon, where he teaches at Oregon State University and in Pacific University’s low-residency MFA program.