Drawing from her work as a neonatal nurse and from some more common experiences (e.g., nervous breakdowns, incest and poverty), Waring exhibits the street-smart ear and unflinching eye that made her first collection, Refuge, one of PW's Best Books of 1990. The images and headlong rhythms of these new poems exert a wide-ranging, often irresistible pull. Waring's power can be enigmatic, as in ""Sure I Do,"" which reads in its entirety: ""I've already drowned--so green-song of eyes,/ how could the flames in your river make me/ turn."" She also exhibits a forceful directness, as in ""It Was My First Nursing Job"": ""And I was stupid in it. I thought a doctor would not be unkind."" Rather than focus exclusively on the grisly war stories of her nursing experience, Waring synthesizes specific encounters with bits of history, personal and professional. There are poems written from the points of view of a Polish nurse in 1945 and a Mississippi prison nurse in 1972. ""Before Penicillin"" approaches the evolution of modern medicine with the same ease that marks a poem about her attachment to a cousin with whom she shares a manic-depressive legacy. Her work, whatever the topic, is buoyed by honesty, humor and a continuing resistance to defeat: ""like you're all of eleven,/ your old man's teaching you to box step, and before he leans in/ and porks his tongue into your mouth--// before that--/ there's a moment/ you are actually happy."" (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 06/30/1997 Release date: 07/01/1997 Genre: Fiction
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