cover image The Red Line

The Red Line

Betsy Sholl, Author, Ronald Wallace, Photographer University of Pittsburgh Press $17.95 (80p) ISBN 978-0-8229-3722-7

Most of the poems in Sholl's ( Rooms Overheard ) new collection focus on moments of high tension enacted amid the squalor of laundromats, burned-down houses and decaying boardwalks, with their prostitutes, abused children, derelicts and pimps. At one point she remembers, ``My mother used to ask why I collected / such people . . . ,'' and the answer seems to be simply that she feels a bond of sympathy and understanding with the alienated and the down-and-out. The title poem, for instance, begins by linking the speaker's sexual desire to the ``neon craving of a train.'' The red line, which stands for both the train route and her passion, leads to the observed image of a drunk ``spitting onto the third rail . . . ,'' his saliva gleaming like the lurching movement of light on a train's window, which she compares in the final line to ``a scorched rosary of light.'' Some of the images, however, remain undeveloped and unclear. This work follows a tradition of sorts--that of observations and meditations presented in the form of a private journal. Too often, unfortunately, the observations seem pat, as in the sweeping pronouncement: ``What we love too easily betrays us.'' (Dec.)