cover image Siste Viator

Siste Viator

Sarah Manguso, . . Four Way, $14.95 (63pp) ISBN 978-1-884800-69-6

The title's Latin translates as "traveler, halt," a traditional opening for inscriptions on gravestones; Manguso's enticing sophomore effort has both the gravity of epitaphs and enough oddity to halt readers in their tracks. Clearer and grimmer than her debut, The Captain Lands in Paradise , this book often uses aphoristic sentences in place of lines: "A good horse runs even at the shadow of the whip"; "The second-hardest thing I have to do is not be longing's slave." Dating and flirtation, astronomical discoveries, the omnipresence of death, unanswerable queries ("Which stories of farms are the ones that can save me?")—all move within the speaker's mind in a manner that the poems are designed to arrest. "A coin you dropped when you took your pants off is still on the floor," she declares in "Address to an Absent Lover." "Please come back and pick it up." That lover might be the reader or simply a romantic partner, or God: the essence and power of Manguso's method lie in our not knowing which is which. (Mar.)