Poetic short stories, steeped in magical realism, set in northern Mexico: a second collection (after The Iguana Killer, 1994 -- not reviewed) from the Arizona-based RÂ¡os, also author of four volumes of poetry. Of the 13 tales here, ""Waltz of the Fat Man"" most nearly approaches a conventional narrative. Noâ€š is a gentle, immensely fat man miscast in life as the village butcher. He leads a lonely, largely imaginary life, waltzing in the forest with an amusing, fairylike ""thin girl."" When soldiers witness Noâ€š dancing, and ridicule him to all the village, he runs off to join the circus. In the long ""The Great Gardens of Lamberto Diaz,"" RÂ¡os describes a fantastic garden ""at the corners"" of the flat land surrounding the butcher's village. The garden is the sum of the villagers' imaginations: riotous, jumbled, schizophrenic. Lzaro Luna -- RÂ¡os's recurrent character, who gives this collection the feel of a loosely structured novel -- rises from the story's seeming formlessness to the garden's highest escarpment, where he urinates. A woman far below sees the curve of urine shining in the sun, and it is as though Luna is one large penis, blossoming from the earth. And yet such a comic, mythic expression is rather too much like that extraordinary flow of blood across the town of Macondo, in the early scenes of One Hundred Years of Solitude, or, for that matter, like Leopold Bloom's stream of urine in the garden of Ulysses. Worse, habitually and affectedly, RÂ¡os indulges his knack for saying nothing in a profound manner: ""It [the garden] was what it was, and that was the thing...He couldn't say what...."" Even so, the spells that RÂ¡os conjures -- sweet, ominous, and lost in time -- often transport you. Slight, oblique stories that show great promise.