A new-found compassion and grit distinguish Maxine Kumin's latest book of poems from its predecessors. Although familiar Kumin images of country home and hearth pervade the text, they are not present for their own sake. These props of animal, landscape, and event are used to construct a particularly convincing picture of a cycle of life, without the least sentimentality or Dylan Thomasesque ""rage against the dying of the light."" Indeed, Kumin accepts that the past lives on within the present ("". . . when I'm alone. . . features/ come up to link my lost people/ with the patient domestic beasts of my life. . ."") and, in a poem about her daughter, that the end of life exists in its beginning (""Death/ blew up my dress that day/ while she was still in the egg unconsidered. . .""). These are moot philosophical issues to be sure, but they are stated here in straightforward language and honest imagery that is Kumin's own. One section dedicated to the disappearance of American rural life, as personified by farmer ""Henry Manley,"" is original and affecting; and it is surrounded by some of the most charming and believable poetry being written today.