This is a collection of the work of a poet who committed suicide at twenty-eight, posthumously edited by his mentor Donald Justice. Loss marks these poems:
Still, in the soft metallic resonance of twilight,
The closest thing you have left to a soul
Is the smoke from your cigarette drifting out the window
Of a hotel room, number nine, and what little
You can remember of the little love you made.
And at night here there's nothing to do
But lie down beside your lost self
And the lost selves of others you have lost...
— As the dark ghosts of ships
Sound their goodbyes, never arriving
at the far shore.
Written in form (most notably the sonnet) and controlled free verse, the poems are relentlessly elegiac and devastating. But mere pathos doesn't shape this collection. Bolton's sense of place, that of the contemporary American South, particularly Bolton's native Kentucky, locates readers in a landscape of "blue winter dusk," "small-town basements and garages," and "endless Nashvilles, / A jambalaya of women, whiskey, and pills." Primarily lyric, his poems are also filled with the presence and voices of others: the boys of Dexter, Kentucky, a group of insurance men breakfasting at a diner, a retired pilot walking his dog Boofy, Hank Williams, JFK, a sixteenth-century Spanish chaplain, and a "Bored Cop Leaning against Abstract Sculpture on Plaza Below Skyscraper." There is much to rave about in these poems. A meager review doesn't do them justice.