The Compositor

Perhaps it’s the smell of printing ink
sets me off out of memory’s jumbled font
or maybe it’s the printer’s printing lingo,
telling how various phrases came about.
How, for instance, mind your p’s & q’s
has as much to do with pints & quarts
and the printer’s renown for drink
as it has to do with descenders.
But 1 don’t say anything about
how I discovered where widows. & orphans
and out of sorts came from the day my father
unnoticed and unexpectedly set 30
on the bottom of his compositor’s page
and left me mystified about the origins
of that end, how to measure a line gauge
and how since he was first to go whom 1 knew.
he slowly and without a word
turned from himself into everyone
as we turn into that last zero
before finally passing on to the stoneman.