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An Algebra

The University of Chicago Press, 2009

An Algebra is an interwoven collection of eight sequences and sixteen individual poems, where images and phrases recur in new contexts, connecting and suspending thoughts, emotions, and insights. By turns, the poems leap from the public realm of urban decay and outsourcing to the intimacies of family life, from a street mime to a haunting dream, from elegy to lyric evocation. It is a work of changing equivalents, a search for balance in a world of transformation and loss.

The subtle operation of these skillfully interset lyrics makes for a consummate reunion of broken parts, an algebra.
--C.D. Wright

Bogen reinvigorates the art by defining its limits, then pushing bravely past.
--D.A. Powell

The movement from poem to poem is headlong but strangely not rushed. The lines are short, the diction a model of clarity, and the rhythms impeccable. It's one of the most compelling books I've read in years.
--James McMichael

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Poems from An Algebra


Wanted solitude, feared it
Wanted to run, always somewhere new
Blank streets of the poor blocks, front yards with chain-link fence
Hospital buildings sealed, monumental
Wanted no faces in the windows, no visitors coming with roses

At places to turn back kept going
Wanted the loop larger, taking more in
Small abandoned factories that made boxes, candy, soap
Soot-fuzzed louvers, glass underfoot
Wanted the lungs to tighten--three, then two steps to a breath

Wanted solitude, kept turning off the big streets
Found loose dogs growling in driveways, car parts on porches
Sidewalks swallowed in weeds
Gravel--wanted the slide of gravel at sudden dead ends
Having to turn back uphill

Wanted to slow but would not stop
Wanted to come back some different way
Yellow lamp glow of other lives
Old parking lots, the closed-off stories of cars
Dreamed up over and over

Wanted nothing known, all to be imagined
Glint of winter sunlight off windows
Late streets empty, echoes muffled on brick
Feared solitude but wanted the loop larger
Wanted everything breath could hold


They are swimming in the book
Two stick pens on the yellow pad where I left them
The random now suddenly purpose, configuration
An almost-V catching a moment's light
Glint as of crystal off the faceted surfaces
Inside, veins with drying traces
Streaks in a wineglass, residue of streams
Under the long-visored caps a black reservoir, a blue
Go with me little pools