Marlys West takes a coolly amused look at what we create of ourselves: our habits of home and mind, the prosthetics and courtesies, the small timid gestures and screaming leaps that make up our lives and deaths. Influenced by such diverse things as summer holidays, the plight of Satan and the saints, and a love of American speech, these poems suggest a loose narrative within a stream of wry images and wayward mythologies. Father smokes, mother rolls her eyes, the devil goes for a swim -- all in a world of odd rituals, dangerous waters, lucky charms, and the spasmodic braveries of the everyday. From the desertion of the past comes recitation of longings gratified or unheard, an accompaniment to the martyrdom and beauty of each life. Tragedy never rises to the level of transcendence, but neither is it the only truth. Marlys West dismantles old answers -- religion, love, family, the comfort and security of objects -- and offers them again as skewed solutions, the wary possibilities of transformation, in a book that ends as we all do, with the ceremonies of dying and the frightened hope of another life.