In rhymed verse (assorted meters) and illustrated with 77 black-and-white Joe Servello dream-paintings: an enigmatic non-story, occasionally flaring with the dark, ironic magic of such vintage Kotzwinkle as Fata Morgana. In Singapore, a British Plague Inspector shares tea with a mysterious woman, who then fades from sight before his eyes--""as rainbows do/beautiful colors dissolving into air,/a strange buzzing in her hair,/as if it were filled with bees."" Meanwhile, in Paris, an insomniac named Gustave Claudin seeks sleep and memories of women: ""Now he takes a gold watch from his vest/--it mocks his endless search--/the last time he slept was in Budapest/for a moment, in the back of a church."" So, with those fragile narrative notions as the only frame here, Kotzwinkle plays variations on the theme of the Mystery Woman--as ""The High Priestess of Ur"" floats through history, visiting assorted men and (it seems) at last bringing sleep to Gustave Claudin. And, as themes and motifs snake in and around, there are glimpses of this Female incarnate with the ghost of a Caruso-like tenor, the inventor of the guillotine, and--most deadpan-amusingly--a sailor. ("" 'My needs,' she answered, 'are filled by the fog, at dawn,/near seaports, and in men's minds.'/'Yes, well,' he said, 'I've known all kinds,'"") Not a novel, then, or even a short story--but a half-beguiling, half-pretentious curiosity that should attract, as much for the creepy illustrations as the often-snazzy verse, a small but intense following.