cover image Torn


C. Dale Young. Four Way (UPNE, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-9355

Most of the poems in Young's articulate and honest third collection say something to, and about, the facts of his life: his Catholic and Latino heritage, his years spent in Boston, his residence in San Francisco, his training as a physician, and his self-discovery as a gay man. "Dear God, what was it you placed in the heart," he asks, "not of necessity, but because it is the center/ of all moral forces and impulses?" Such slightly elevated language and the sound effects that go with it (occasional rhyme, the specter of pentameter) serves Young well, though his earnestness can topple over into predictability: "We choose not to believe./ We continue living. We refuse to grieve." When he writes about his medical education, however, in the last part of the book, Young (The Second Person) acquires a harsh light that belongs to him alone: we see the "lime-like pale green" of "a room in which to dissect cadavers," we hear of the thoughtless doctor who "announced to everyone that you were the best/ minority student she had ever had," and we learn how Young defines "%C2%A0%E2%80%98the healing arts,'/ that strange desire to fix the human machine." (Apr.)