cover image  In the Middle Distance

In the Middle Distance

Linda Gregg, . . Graywolf, $14 (66pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-439-8

The poems of Gregg's eighth collection "go back into memory... not/ because I like it, but because/ that's where the hard things are." Over the course of 59 blunt, terse lyrics, Gregg's speaker traverses Greece, New York and Texas, ruminating over abandonment ("Women have houses now, and children./ I live alone in a kind of luxury"), family ("mother mother mother/ money money money") and the persistence of a departed lover: "You are not even dead yet." Along the way, she repeatedly and pointedly recasts personae from Greek myth as figures from her life—and finds them inadequate: "I don't need Orpheus/ to sing. I walk down the esplanade at night./ I pass one loud bar after another." Gregg's midlife reflections have an edge and voice missing from the many books with similar themes. She draws a compelling irony out of "the pleasure in seeing/ memory through the failure/ of it," particularly in recalling her former partner, "filling me with memories of what/ he used to be. What the French call 'monsters.' " This is a powerful account of facing later life on one's own, while trying to believe that "monuments to eternity can be found, picked up, sat upon while the/ day dies." (Mar. )