The special gift of young (25) Goldbarth is a confounding sleight of hand with metaphor and idea. Personal, traditional, artistic, erotic, religious and cosmic themes occupy shifting levels of these multilayered constructions. ""Conceptual and physical align,"" he writes, because ""who could say if it's blood or love/ that really shapes the erection?"" The title poem -- a celebration of Goldbarth's birthday -- recalls the ancient Babylonian who first mapped the constellation of Aquarius; it forms a cyclical myth of rebirth that united poet and astronomer. It is this faith in the inexhaustibility of universal congruences that is at the source of the remarkable freedom and playfulness of the poet's imagination. This collection, which he describes as ""a diary-of-sorts"" concerned with finding a bit of warmth in ""a metaphorical winter"" is set squarely in the Midwest -- a physical representation of an intolerable mediocrity that Goldbarth corresponds ironically to his ""hard times."" Even when his subject is dark -- the toll of the passage of time, infantilism in love, the death of a parent, the critical illness of an aunt -- the tone remains wry, witty, slightly detached from the concrete troubles of this cold world. It is a pleasure to share Goldbarth's delight in his own facility with the wealth of language, and this is a most promising debut.