cover image BROTHER FIRE


W. S. Di Piero, Author . Knopf $24 (72p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4203-

Fresh wedding cakes in bakery windows, panties on clothes lines, Howdy Doody on television all appear within sleek, minimally punctuated, fast-moving lines in Di Piero's eighth collection. But for all of their grounding in the real, these works push away from it with the force of their own craft; the poems are pitched toward the transformation of the external and ephemeral to the internal and fixed: "I want to keep/ the shadow late sunlight/ franks on the table, this gray/ unstable print of me,/ memento, darkening/ with time, gauntly complete." The knowledge that heightened perception and articulation can never be enough dominates the book: "I/ felt delivered, unfinished,/ to bright solid scenes/ melting through me as I/ streamed helpless into them." Nearly 40 poems in three unnamed sections register everything from "The Fifties" and "Girl Found in the Woods" to "Ortlieb's Uptown Taproom" and "Suzanne on the Sofa." The book begins with an invocation of a fraternity of elements (from which the title is drawn), and ends in "dreadful freshness and want,/ ...a stilted fountain of prayer/ rising in our throat." What's in between seeks a faith in description, even as it remains inadequate to the world's "more vexing messages." The poet's persistence from within that knowledge becomes the book's center, fuguing around the world as he knows it, "vagrant still doubtful." (Nov. )