The short-lines of Bums's short little poems nicely capture the southern, country moods of his plaintive voices--not unlike the hard-drinking, love-losing moans of popular country music. As ""Apology"" makes clear: this Southwest Missouri State prof, with his near-divorces and other personal excesses, is no one to turn to for advice. A self-described ""gonzo, good-for-nothing, good-old-boy,"" Bums, who's published three previous books of poems, tries to stir his ""dormant heart"" by bursting a grape in his mouth while watching porn on cable TV. In eminently likable tones, Bums continually undercuts all gestures toward sentimentality. ""On Tenderness, and Timing"" contemplates the sorrow implicit in Missouri's new license plates, which is alleviated by the beauty of butterflies, themselves soon dead in car grills and windshield wipers. Bums discerns the aches and wounds in everyday life that lurk beneath the pleasant surfaces: a lovely plum tree dies from a storm, itself a trope of nature's ferocity. Bums assumes a number of voices that resonate through time: a duck hunter who finds a lovelorn Robert Frost lost in the swamp; a northern general from the Civil War massaging old wounds; a fellow who robs Indian graves spooked by the family bones he finds; and a Snopes who visits Faulkner's house and fears the ghost he sees. Bums's masculine verse, with its shotgun ecstasy and ""the smell of dead snake/and defoliant,"" endears itself with its easygoing rhythms and sneaky-pete rhymes.