If a Storm

Anna Ross. Anhinga (SPD, dist.), $18 (82p) ISBN 978-1-934695-33-3

Stripped-down, serious, and tightly focused on durable emotions—grief at a miscarriage, affection for a partner, love for a growing child—Ross’s debut nonetheless looks all over the map: the literal map, that is, of the places she’s been, from which her poetry draws crisp scenes of the built environment (Brno, Krakow, São Paolo) and, more effectively, scenes from the natural world. Though residing in Massachusetts, Ross seems most comfortable amid the Montana wilderness and other places with great open skies and sublime waters, as when “a flock of sandhills feeding in the river meadow... clatter long, pointed bills to call their young.” Ross exudes a confidence that even mortal fears can be mastered and shared, which her compact visual effects do much to support, as when she explains, “Learning to cross a log/ over a fast stream/ is a way to know grief.” The wild world and its less serious analogues (as in a poem about Godzilla) counterpoint her own reserve, her tenderness, especially late in the book, once her child arrives. Ross also does well (in tones a bit like Linda Pastan’s) with far quieter sites, even rooms with cut flowers: “gladiolas I’d chosen” reveal “a quiet marshalling/ of color up the stalk—//pink, orange, yellow—awake/ in this late summer/ of electric light.” (Nov.)