U.S. BIRTH GRAPH, 1946-1964
behind a decommissioned half-track
on the kitchen table, the radio blaring
in the middle of a raspberry u-pick
while waiting at a railway crossing
twenty minutes into a five mile hike
at the wedding of his younger brother
at the completion of her baccalaureate
beside the window, with no one watching
under the influence of Burson-Marsteller
with his mother coming up the front steps
with her father in the back pruning a fig
between a bowl of chips and a box of novels
eight days before the next menstrual cycle
immediately following the six o’clock news
against all odds – and a latticework fence
with her on her knees and him on assignment
below a yellowing photo of Joseph Kennedy
towards the advancement of colored people
behind the times and besides the changes
The above poem began as a horizontal bar graph of live births recorded in the United States between 1946-1964, what is known as the Baby Boom.
For my part I have taken these numbers and, using a 1:100,000 ratio, replaced them with characters and the spaces in-between words. For example, if there were 4.3 million live births in 1957, then I have given myself 43 spaces to come up with a line (“with his mother coming up the front steps").
As for the content of the poem, you might have guessed that each line is an instance where conception could have taken place, and that the sequence could be described as a narrative.
A problem I had in composing this poem concerned the representation of fractions, as eight of the years/lines are in the tens of thousands. Because I am not interested in creating 1/10th of a letter (see Donato Mancini for that) I applied the fraction to the spacing of the fractioned line, something that will require a designer. As for the dash, while it requires two hyphens to make, it appears here as a single uninterrupted mark.