Saturday, April 7, 2012

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.

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