The Shipfitter's Wife

by Dorianne Laux

I loved him most

when he came home from work,

his fingers still curled from fitting pipe,

his denim shirt ringed with sweat

and smelling of salt, the drying weeds

of the ocean. I’d go to where he sat

on the edge of the bed, his forehead

anointed with grease, his cracked hands

jammed between his thighs, and unlace

the steel-toed boots, stroke his ankles

and calves, the pads and bones of his feet.

Then I’d open his clothes and take

the whole day inside me — the ship’s

gray sides, the miles of copper pipe,

the voice of the foreman clanging

off the hull’s silver ribs. Spark of lead

kissing metal. The clamp, the winch,

the white fire of the torch, the whistle,

and the long drive home.

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  • Danielle Hayden

I recently watched a documentary about the font Helvetica. I had no idea that it was ubiquitous. Everything from our income tax forms to the shows The Office and Jackass to Urban Outfitters to all the logos you see in this post (and more) use it. It was cool to learn about the history of it and other things about typography on a more general level, like its grunge subculture and how some people see font choice as a form of personal expression, much like one's clothing choice would be. A lot of big names in the typography world were interviewed, and the opinions about Helvetica ranged from praise and borderline obsession to abject hatred of the font. It can get pretty serious.

As I've mentioned on this blog before, I've become more interested in learning about typography over the past year. I do not intend to create fonts/typefaces myself, but I've learned some interesting things and the field is a lot more complex than you might think. I've loved words my whole life but only in recent history did I give a considerable amount of time to things like ascenders and descenders; joints and vertices and the like. The spacing between each letter; the arc of stem; the peculiar and particular shape of There's even a term called a 'crotch' that I just learned today when I googled typographic terms and smirked at with a rather juvenile sense of humor.

This documentary was obviously about one specific font, but it reminded me that there are so many things that we use all the time that most of us don't give a second thought about. When it comes to fonts, I maybe we might weigh serif vs. sans serif, or perhaps decide between Arial or Times New Roman for an essay (and in my case also wonder why the fuck Microsoft Word decided to start using Calibri as the default for documents). But we probably don't think of the very nuanced design process that went into each stroke, each curve of the letters we are typing. This is the case for many subjects; every subject, in fact. There is a whole universe of information. And sometimes the more I learn, the more ignorant I feel.

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