November 1998

Don Bogen

Don Bogen Don Bogen's The Known World, appeared from Wesleyan in 1997.  Recently, he has been published in Slate, Salmagundi and DoubleTake, with other poems forthcoming in Poetry and The Yale Review.  He teaches at the University of Cincinnati.
Blowtorch     Read Along with the Author

Flame in a can
can unsettle.
It lights with a pop,
rifles the air
with its colors.
A frayed and
withering exhalation
to melt apart
and meld. To scarify,
form a harsh repellent
surface: ridges, pocks, tiny
moonscapes, gullies
for solder. To seal
the conduit—gas line,
water line—
one smooth
jointed tube directing
the flow. You can
hold this conduit
in your hand, feel
its pressured hiss.
If a tool
is a limb extended,
this one sets fire
at your fingertips.
Its promise
is destruction
focussed. It mars
to build or mend.
Fit into your plans
it waits on the workbench
like a humming
kettle. Tipped over
it will sing.
From the mouth,
tongues flared and
brilliant as the insides
of lilies. Behind them
a wafer
of invisible gas.



Stucco     Read Along with the Author

Morning sky, the San Gabriels amazingly visible:
eggplant and faded butter tones lumping on the horizon,
the pale khaki dot of a yucca, and higher,
a green line of scraggly firs.

Palms parade down the foothills.
Then the short, tough grasses—hybrid, exotic,
defining empty lawns.

Wide streets sleeping in.
Walkways curve among the rosebushes.

These bungalows bleaching for seventy years:
round arches, porches designed for awnings no longer there.
In the foot-thick stucco walls
a blunt hint of adobe anchors the revival.

Always this nod to a mythic past.
Thin dreams of realtors
inscribed in the layered crust.

Light streams and wavers,
all the smooth cream-colored surfaces mottled and pitted.

A certain broad dryness is spreading in the sun,
capacious, democratic and matte.

Facades set flat against the street like a spread fan.
The plaster relief of a generic escutcheon
too small, too high on the wall.



Only Music    Read Along with the Author

I am become like a man standing alone,
one free among the dead.

Gesualdo on CD:
every surprising half-dissonance clear
in mathematical air.

A slim black computer is singing to me,
a laser is reading notes.

This impossible voice
reduced to perfection and reproduced,
a woman taking an angel's part written for a boy.

And the instruments
silent: no viol or harpsichord,
not even Gesualdo's supple lute which is now dust.

Doublet and hose disembodied.

The lady at last only a wraith of beauty,
flagrante delecto caught
in a liner note.

A hollowness cutting off time in the living room.

Passion breathes in odd corners:
five voices in a braid,
the sweet one singing off-key.

This pleasure in the ache of loss.
The small parts that don't fit shine.

Digital—it's there or it's not.

I have retreated to the castle which carries my name.
Only music will console me.



Don Bogen: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue FiveThe Cortland Review