Twenty-seven taut short stories that live up to the promise of this poet and essayist's first collection (A Transparent Tree, 1985). Kelly writes of small moments with large intent--most of these pieces are no more than a few pages, but their dramatic impact is great. In the title story, a village boy yearns to learn of the past from an elder--and then gradually understands the old man's silence to be the greatest teacher of all. Among the most surreal is ""The Hole"": a suburban housewife named Sonia simply disappears one day after burning one of her dresses while ironing. Despite a frantic search, no trace of her can be found, and then, one day, a letter arrives for her husband. Sonia explains that she is in the place ""where the dead go, when people die who haven't done anything special with their lives. . .You up there would call the place hell. But there's no suffering here, and people make love and have a good time."" And in ""Dog,"" Kelly tells a quite hilarious tale of karma, good and bad: back in the 19th century, a Reverend Issachar Weekes threw a shivering mutt out of his church one wretched winter Sunday. Sure enough, in his next life the good Reverend comes back as a dog himself--locked in a car on a suburban 20th-century street, staring up sweetly as passers-by make faces through the windows. Despite owing a debt to Borges (particularly the Borges of Dreamtigers), Kelly's fictions stand on their own as mystical glimpses of a rich inner world.