A collage of images and ideas--which both reconstruct and deconstruct as feminist writer Robinson's protagonist searches for identity and meaning through words. In an episodic narrative and brief prose poems, a young lesbian--alienated from family, friends, and from Sorrel, her great love--admits that ``I write with the words that are already printed, there are plenty of words in the world. I paste the pictures with the words for which they are longing.'' The collages, which she creates from clippings, illustrate not only the senselessness of life but that of the lives of people she has known. The arrest of a woman who attacked a man with a cordless drill becomes the story of Mary, a waitress, who has been writing her memoirs by ``tossing scraps of paper into a box.'' An item about a woman who performed a Caesarean on herself becomes the story of Nan, a childhood friend who is now mad; and ``Teenage girls are erasing themselves'' leads into an exploration of snakes that, unlike young women, can shed their skins to reveal another underneath. Equine images and allusions abound, and the narrator ruefully admits: ``I used to think I was napoleon's mare, the heart of the whole insane operation. know now I am napoleon.'' But words cannot be ridden either. They exist independently to wound or succor--``they have always been with us, the final words to be us, what fails to protect us. what rehearses us.'' The intentions are clear, the images vivid, but the cumulative effect is that of a dense piece of pretentious writing accessible to only the most persistent.