Poet Gallagher doesn't yet seem firmly fixed on what she'd like a short story to do; so far, as evidenced here, she's settling for odd but inert and not terribly dimensioned portraiture mostly, only very rarely allowing in any conflict or eccentric license. In ""Recourse,"" a tawdry marriage's dissolution is described, but Gallagher--as she does elsewhere--gives it distance by using a less-than-fully involved narrator, as though this sense of looking through a half-smudged window gives the story more mystery. In the title story--family oddities preserved as talismanic characteristics--an overwhelming sense of metaphor beats heavily down (not so uncommon a fault in the prose of poets). In ""The Wimp,"" a woman finds her own unflattering analysis of her husband's personality deeply threatening, needing to be strenuously denied. Yet in these and others you feel precious little authorial emotional involvement with the subject matter. That's distinctly not the case with the best two pieces here: ""Beneficaries""--a childless wife's hurt when her husband names his children from a former marriage as the beneficaries of an insurance policy--and ""Girls""--an old woman and her daughter paying a visit to a long. ago friend of the old woman's--and the visitant has no idea who's come; she's pleasant, even friendly, but she just can't place this importunate, needy visiting stranger. This story especially serves as a possible direction-arrow for Gallagher's work in the future; there's a sweet, warm, improbably stubborn humor here that's done very nicely. Drama (or comedy) is what the other stories lack--but in these two they're allowed to wriggle at will.