cover image Body Traffic

Body Traffic

Stephen Dobyns. Viking Books, $18.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-670-83088-6

With one eye on ``the single door through which we all must exit,'' poet and novelist Dobyns ( Cemetery Nights ) addresses the body and its parts in discursive, sometimes exhortatory tones, as in ``Eyelids,'' which ends, ``This is the world to love. There is no other.'' In these not especially sensuous poems, direct, forceful images are striking: ``her belly a velvet lake beneath / one's hands'' in ``The Body's Joy''; when the subject of ``Desire'' is stirred, ``fat possibility swaggers into the world like a big spender entering a bar.'' Dobyns's imposing strengths are revealed in the longer poems where, mining single moments--the fleeting sight of another driver in ``Traffic''; a view of senile nuns in a rest home in ``Careers''; a daily ritual with his toddler daughter in ``Shaving''--he deftly manages complex intellectual progressions with no loss of either immediacy or persuasiveness. A series of sonnets on Cezanne is interspersed, but Dobyns is best at explicating his vision of our bumper-to-bumper move toward death, in which we are at once frustrated and saved by the company of others. (Oct.)