The Univ. of Cincinnati professor and author of The Glass Hammer (1994) seems less concerned with southern roots in his fifth collection, a serious and engaging volume that continues the writer's explorations in muscular religion. In strong measures with rhythmic line breaks, Hudgins ponders the miraculous world of nature in all its beauty and violence. Grackles in a chinaberry tree conform to the tree's shape; in ""Poem,"" daffodils spike the soil, then later emerge in ""The Daffodils Erupt in Clumps""; an ""Elegy for the Bees"" justifies the insects' necessary plunder of flowers; and ""Hail"" witnesses the flora and fauna ""hammered dead"" in a hailstorm. Hudgins' narratives often consider the ""sacred or blasphemous"" in odd moments: ""In the Red Seats,"" a drunk is steadied at a ball game; in ""One Threw a Dirt Clod and It Ran,"" a boyish romp leads to an animal's death; ""We Were Simply Talking"" records the poet's near-death experience in a car accident; and in ""Rain,"" a macabre news story asserts the persistence of mythic truth in ""blood sacrifice and fate."" Religious imagery permeates Hudgins' garden idylls, which also resonate with historical precedent--a tree stump serves as nature's altar and abattoir in ""Stump."" The author's subtle forms include poems that nicely reproduce their subjects: ""Catching Breath"" and ""Wind"" find their patterns in natural movement. Two narratives about (mis) handling the ashes of the dead capture Hudgins at his best: profane in the face of solemnity. A solid collection.