Charlie Smith, Author . Norton $21.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-393-05815-4

Having run through the exigencies and vicissitudes of Heroin , Smith in this sixth collection turns his bittersweet voice toward love, depicted here as similar to but less dependable than a drug fix, or a meal: "We are tired of arguing about who is most hurt. Better toddle off for a little Chinese." Early in the volume, Smith calls love "dark innuendo"; romance here is painful, beautiful and bodes doom. The poems suggest, murmur and sigh, but they do not wail: "wind/ conveying some new way of life—or nothing important—/ across town, it touches you." The poet of these nearly 50 short lyric narratives is preoccupied by his sense that life is meaningless and love is constructed, to the point where lost loves loom large as the title's mock catch-all. The problem is, since sweet resignation and detachment mark the book most deeply, it is unclear when Smith is being facetious: "among the bean fields of California/ I thought of women and/ preserved this huge interior life for them." As it's presented in this collection, the interior life is intentionally not huge—and not about to win over a potential mate. Despite some inchoate stirrings toward furtherance ("Hard to forget what once we had/ but I'd rather,// rather move on"), the book's pervasive, skillfully slack hopelessness finally collapses into a "nervous, complex/ distancing." (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/02/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-393-32735-9
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