Don Bogen

Photographer’s Song & Nothing Song
December 27, 2022 Bogen Don

Photographer’s Song


Standing in the shade,
looking at the light,
I know that I can make
something clear and smart.


I know that I can catch
something they can’t see
as they cross the bridge.
I scour them with my eye.


As they live their lives,
blind, mundane and rich,
I wait until it’s time
and make my little click.


Through the dimming light
I watch them from the shade,
still, in my perfect spot
as they walk away.


I use my longer lens
to bring them close to me.
Their thoughts are in my hands.
I check them on a screen.


If I make a print,
I know what it will show.
When daylight ends,
my camera feels cold.



Nothing Song

Nothing real until it’s written
started every day:
I’d fill up page after page
ransacking memory.


Nothing clear till it’s recalled
and marshaled into lines.
I furnished all those little rooms
with objects from my pen.


My house came back, my mother’s desk,
my dad’s ham radios.
Even the two-speed bike I’d sold
became accessible.


I set them out, I rearranged,
exploring each design:
the cleanest one, the one that made
most sense, the one that sang.


I listened, and I read aloud–
the past danced in my mouth.
Feelings drummed up for a song
assumed an air of truth.


Going through songs now, I start
to see what they concealed:
Nothing real until it’s written,
nothing written real.

Don Bogen is the author of five books of poetry, including Immediate Song (Milkweed Editions, 2019). His poems have appeared recently in Poetry Northwest, Agni, The Yale Review, and other journals. An emeritus professor at the University of Cincinnati, he splits his time between Cincinnati and Martinez, California. His website is