Though this is her fourth volume of poems, Piercy doesn't come to poetry easily; she makes you feel the effort: ""I lack a light touch./ I step on my own words, . . . "" Even at her best she is without spontaneity or humor. Calling this book ""the closest I've come to autobiography,"" she makes you feel that soul-baring honesty is arduous, joyless work. At her worst she is di-dactic, ham-strong by her causes, especially her feminist politics. She can never let you (or herself) forget that our rivers are polluted, that ""On Vietnam at the winter solstice/ more bombs rain/than ever fell on people,"" that ""The rapist is your boyfriend's brother."" Like many before her, she looks to the good earth--the wet Cape Cod marshes--for healing or at least respite from her embattled mind. Laboring with great deliberation in the compost among weeds and flowers she knows that ""Herbs give sparingly/ They will not sustain you. . ."" and in any case the developers have come to the beach and the sands are whispering ""money, money, money."" In fact she is more sure-footed in the city with her women's group and her ""Projects, battles, schemes, manifestoes,"" pounding out her righteous anger on behalf of the token woman in the office, or the attendant in the ladies' room minding the pay toilets, ""getting thirty cents an hour to make sure/ no woman sneaks her full bladder under a door."" Explicit as gardening instructions, Piercy is a forceful, insistent poet. Only rarely is she a powerful one.