The most compelling aspect of Linda Pastan's fourth book of poems is the distinctive, laconic language with which her vision is put forth. These short, spare lines serve to outline a cycle of grief and loss in middle age without a trace of sentimentality, as in ""Terminal"": ""For every departure/ there is an arrival./ It is the law of the axe/ whose handle was a tree. . . ."" However, Pastan is heir to the preoccupation with marriage, family, and housewifery that haunted the work of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. Rather than looking obsessively into the source of her troubles, as did Plath, or evoking empathy, as in the best of Sexton, she often resorts to a no-holds-barred cynicism which is at once distracting and self-indulgent (""Ask Ralph Nader:/ the truth is/ life is a carcinogen. . ."" or ""My husband gives me an A/ for last night's supper/ an incomplete for ironing,/ a B plus in bed. . .""). This poet is at her best when she resists a literal discussion of her problems and finds the proper metaphor through which to distance herself and communicate. Although the book's vision is too often disrupted by Pastan's shifts in attitude, her use of language remains interesting enough to warrant attention.