Dave Smith has elsewhere paid homage to the ""pure clear word"" of James Wright; but the word Smith speaks in his own poems, like that of Poe, is most often troubled and oblique. Smith's labored indirection seems designed to restrain his urge to hyperbole, to keep himself from too easily resolving the pain or perplexity he writes of. At times Smith returns to the sprawling, muscular style that marked his early work, but the characteristic poems of this collection are those in which a remembered experience slowly filters through a shifting train of images. From these murky, agitated backgrounds flare passages of sudden, striking immediacy: ""I enter her song and squint, and she,/like a ballerina, is scalding the air/ I can scarcely breathe. In her mirror/she twirls into herself as in prayer."" Smith aims in this way not to purify feeling but to render its ambiguities and confusions. At the very sources of emotion he finds conflicting impulses inextricably mixed: ""now I lie, note after note,/in the ditches of skin, building back what was/ beautiful and malign as the slant of her whispering."" This tenacious grasping at opposites gives these poems a peculiar and unsettling force--and signals a new maturity and control.