Thursday, September 26, 2013

Averaging . . . geometry of the center

Perhaps partly due to his experience as an Air Force pilot during World War II,  Harold Nemerov (1920 - 1991) uses geometry with deft precision as he describes phenomena around him.  Here is a poem inspired by a 1986 news item.

Found Poem     by Howard Nemerov 

           after information received in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4 v 86

The population center of the USA
Has shifted to Potosi, in Missouri.

The calculation employed by authorities
In arriving at this dislocation assumes

That the country is a geometric plane,
Perfectly flat, and that every citizen,

Including those in Alaska and Hawaii
And the District of Columbia, weighs the same;

So that, given these simple presuppositions,
The entire bulk and spread of all the people

Should theoretically balance on the point
Of a needle under Potosi in Missouri

Where no one is residing nowadays
But the watchman over an abandoned mine

Whence the company got the lead out and left.
"It gets pretty lonely here," he says, "at night."

From War Stories by Howard Nemerov (University of Chicago Press, 1987).  See more at Other Nemerov poems in this blog include 24 March 2010, 16 August 2010, 26 August 2010, 23 June 2011, and 30 September 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment