cover image My Wicked, Wicked Ways

My Wicked, Wicked Ways

Sandra Cisneros. Knopf Publishing Group, $25.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41821-4

This collection reveals the same affinity for distilled phrasing and surprise, both in language and dramatic development, found in Cisneros's volumes of short stories, Woman Hollering Creek and The House on Mango Street . For a glimpse of it, see the poem ``Josie Bliss'': ``a tropical dream / of Wednesdays / a bitter sorrow / like the salt / between the breasts.'' Of the book's four parts, the first two immerse the reader in the Chicana homefront, including the poet's own place in it, presumably the San Antonio familiar from her prose work. The remaining two parts leave the barrio behind, as the author's world becomes more cosmopolitan and still more personal. Here Cisneros reflects on herself and her men, on how she treats them and they her. Although some poems in the last sections are excellent--``No Mercy,'' with its air of a prosecutor's brief, is splendid--as a love poet, Cisneros attitudinizes too much and uses her tight style more to ration her candor than to impel images. Even so, a disconcerting degree of sentimentality somehow gets through (``I forget the reasons, but I loved you once, / remember?''), along with some enervated deadpan humor: ``I've learned two things. / To let go / clean as kite string. / And to never wash a man's clothes. / These are my rules.'' (Dec.)