"I only wanted to say that god and art/ are dumpsters, they keep expanding to take this garbage in." The poet of the many short, elegantly worked poems of this fifth collection slips behind screens of language, dazzling the reader but leaving the speaker deadpan, "like the stout man walking to work/ who sees a peony in his neighbor's yard and thinks ah,/ there is a subject of white interpolation." Human scaled events prove not momentous enough for grace ("My sock drawer is perfect./ Why is it not eternal then?"), yet they turn out to be all we have: "the milkyway,/ that nebulous breast...you cannot reach/ even if you stand on a chair, reach with both hands, and cry" ("The Realm"). The titles of these 70-plus page-length-or-less poems begin at "Perfect Reader" and finish with "Welcome Stranger"--a friendly effect. Within the poems, Ruefle concocts circular patterns of sound that seduce the reader away from the hunt for logical development: "We know the whole planet is united/ in this, connected by a system of rivers/ that crisscross and shine like scissors." Poems on facing pages are paired by subject (food, for example), by frame of reference (Asia; calligraphy in another case), by poetic mode or strategy (repeated questions, revisited images, parallel fables). And certain images and topics (solitude within society, sacraments emerging from the everyday) recur throughout. In this setting, the poet need only rise from bed in the morning to embark on a journey rich with meaning: "The circle of flame over the stove/ is blue and I walk towards it,/ picking a thread from my mouth." Readers will find ample verbal threads here for their own happy picking. (Feb.)
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