Gilchrist's fifth collection (Light Can Be Both Wave and Particle, 1989, etc.) is the familiar mix of dizzy lyricism, gossipy southernisms, and erotic longing that we've come to expect from her--though fans will be pleased with the continuing chronicle of the life of alter ego Rhoda Manning. ``An orgasm is an orgasm and it's a hell of a lot better than Xanax,'' Rhoda says in ``A Statue of Aphrodite,'' the book's opener about her visit with Dr. Brevard, an obstetrician who falls in love with his patient after reading one of her magazine articles; the search for orgasmic love is still Gilchrist's overriding theme, but her 50-ish heroine, introduced in In the Land of Dreamy Dreams (1981), is now more cautious and less frenetic. There is also an elegiac quality to the collection: ``Paris'' is a slice-of-life about Rhoda overseas, her knockabout credo undercut by the death of a young man in an explosion set by the Italian Mafia; ``Joyce'' is a tribute to a one-legged university teacher (Rhoda is one of his students), a teacher of Joyce too good for the mundane world who smokes himself to death; and ``Among the Mourners'' is about a poet suicide. On a lighter note, Gilchrist has a lot of fun at the expense of the health-care industry and its byzantine insurance scams as Rhoda writes letters to Blue Cross (``The Uninsured''); of the New Orleans poetry and jazz subculture (``The Raintree Street Bar and Washateria, A Fable''); and of her old standby Miss Crystal from Victory Over Japan (1984), now afflicted with allergies (``Too Much Rain, or, The Assault of the Mold Spores''). Some of these stories are as good as poetry slams, others spend too much time in the fields of dipsy-doodle ditziness. But even so, it's one of Gilchrist's best as her characters, deep into middle age, begin to take account of lasting things.