Seven short stories by Hagy (Madonna On Her Back, 1986)--each one choked with serf-consciously poetic rural dialect and the darkly pregnant images that writing workshops spawn. In the title story, a lonely young farmer impregnates a beautiful but cruel local seductress. He hatches a dark plot to abduct the baby boy, only to crucify himself in a bizarre scene that involves a bird and a water-wheel. In "Ballad and Sadness," a young American woman latches on to a lean and cheerful Scottish lad: "There is a power that falls like angels in the world, and this man bore it well, as naturally as the heat of his body." No amount of body heat can save the woman, however, as she roams the Scottish moors trying to forget her farm back home--and the image of her beloved brother molesting a neighbor's child in the shed. "The Field of Lost Shoes" and "A Seeming Mermaid" each deal with the pain-clogged poignancy of lost love ("Even her vanishing back was exquisite. Like a dolphin. Or the glimpse of a doe"). In "The Grief is Always Fresh," a lonely artist identifies with a murder victim in a moody landscape of fields and trees. "Native Rest," about the losses of a crippled German Baptist woman, takes place under similar brooding skies. Finally, in "A Kettle of Hawks," a darkly handsome farmer attempts to bury his homosexual longing for a fatherless young boy under his passion for falconry ("But a hawk, a contained bird of prey, could never fail him"). Hagy has lyrical gifts, but this pretentious, overcooked collection is a disappointment--an attempt, it seems, to substitute overwrought images for real meaning.