An elegant, forthright exploration of the effects of evil on a fragile life--the author's. Moss (English/Univ. of Michigan), a MacArthur-winning poet, was barely five when she first met her demon: a girl in a sky-blue dress named Lytta Dorsey. After the Dorsey family moved into the apartment just below her parents' own in Cleveland, Lytta offered to babysit the young Thylias, initiating a reign of terror that lasted for years. Emotionally disturbed and evidently a blossoming sadist, the older girl dominated the younger, abusing her charge with increasing fervor until her attacks culminated in a rape of the little girl. Moss told no one at the time, distancing herself not only from her loving, unsuspecting parents but also from herself and her body. The effects of her silence were long-term and profound: Lytta's cruelty was later mimicked by a succession of men while Moss was still in her early teens. Now, aided by the strength of perspective and the power of language, she revisits her past in order to examine her own silence and the formative effect of her trauma on her identity as a writer. Although her story is undeniably grim, it concerns victimization less than the dangerous interplay between life and death, creativity and destruction. Moss even suggests that she wouldn't be who she is were it not for her intimate knowledge of evil, oppression, and pain. ""I am not saying accept torment and tyranny--no,"" she writes, ""stop such forces if at all possible, but if those forces persist, as I believe they will, splendor, however muted its form, can help console, can help one plot and execute escape."" Her escape--aided by a gentle, prescient man who fell in love with her when she was 16 and later married her--is remarkable. A stylish, well-wrought memoir that forgoes self-pity for redemption.