By Don Bogen Don Bogen
A charm,
               a dream of protection.
Gurgles hold the night light’s glow.
A stream of clouds
                                misting the branching tubes.
Water, in fog, a tub, plug to
wire in the wall saying
Okay, it’s okay all night.
   *    *    *
School, a door closing
he opens:
                haze of playground French,
the five names for different kinds of marbles,
games, bullies he wandered among
while I was staring at the sea.
Shut off,
not my past,
                     nothing I could do—
I keep making up
all the world he lived.
His new name, intricate drawings of aliens,
long tunnel of lunch
(Mais il ne mange rien monsieur)—
school hours shadows
                                  that smother my days.
   *    *    *
Burnt-out hills:
char and velvety ash
                                  along the dropped limbs,
magpies, new gullies.
A dry time clears the ground.
He was standing where the road split,
arms spread, a small x
straddling the crack.
That bird call a slash, then,
on the edge of things.
He was standing,
                             behind him
the green blue of ocean, the white blue of sky.
   *    *    *
The house of childhood sold,
or razed—
not lost but
                   softened, distended:
diaphanous linked chambers springing from
a lightshaft or a varnish smell,
the way a floorboard aches,
a scrap of wallpaper
                                  tunnels the heart.
    *    *    * 
A film of
tiny collisions, tracks of light
in the bubble chamber—you’d scan
for hours (smell of formica, rock headsets,
eyes going furry near four AM).
This celluloid memory now
your memory, coursing
chemical fissures in the brain.
Matter split like time,
                                     thinner and thinner parings—
Anything that happens is too fast to see
   *    *    *
There the sky kept reeling as she ran—
wisps, then puffy clumps,
then rain—
                   the park spread low
beneath the blanketing.
Who could have worn
that purple coat
cartwheeling in the grass?
It grows
                as I look at it,
puts on pillowy layers.
Now the coat wears memory,
warms a ghost.
   *    *    *
Wind off the world’s top,
whipped clouds over hedgerows:
Girton, that one year
twenty years away.
He learned to walk, she started school,
read, slowly,
                      the first book Red.
Moss edging the garden wall,
little flags on the clothesline.

Don Bogen, "Vaporizer" from An Algebra. Copyright © 2009 by Don Bogen.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.

Source: An Algebra (The University of Chicago Press, 2009)

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Poet Don Bogen

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Living, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Youth, Activities, School & Learning, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Series/Sequence

 Don  Bogen


A writer and critic, Don Bogen earned his PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of the poetry collections After the Splendid Display (1986), The Known World (1997), Luster (2003), and An Algebra (2009).

Bogen’s poetry engages the private, public, and historical realms, often in formally innovative ways. Commenting on An Algebra, poet Ron Slate found Bogen to be “cutting narrative loose . . .

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Poems by Don Bogen

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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