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Vancouver, Press Gang Publishers, 1991. 151pp, paper, $10.95
ISBN 0-88974-029-1. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by donalee Moulton.

Volume 19 Number 5
1991 October

Reading Chrystos' poetry is like taking a cold shower after a long, lazy day on a hot sand beach.

Anticipation struggles with reluctance. Cold showers are both eye-opening and refreshing — you feel better after you've had one — but they can still shock, startle and even hurt. So can Chrystos' words.

Indeed, at times, Chrystos' pain is palpable. She deals directly and forth-rightly with her native heritage and the while ways that would see that heritage negated, just as she deals honestly and candidly with being a victim of incest and the bigotry she suffers because she is lesbian.

... I've been an expert at sex
since he taught me how
Whatever it is that women who
weren't abused give
I don't have it
I was torched out long ago I respond
as a knee jerks
to rubber hammer blows I even
enjoy myself but it doesn't mean I'm giving you
I don't have a self I can

But Chrystos does not only put her pain into words. She offers readers visions that are both beautiful and compelling. She offers the gift of laughter:

What should I do
about those ones who try to crawl
down my throat
bulging eyes are going to Under­stand
me or Else....

Dear Puzzled, Best thing to do is tell
them you've heard
there's a great Indian wise woman
named Whale Rabbit
over anyplace around 3,001 miles
& you're real sure
she's waiting patiently for them to
show up

Included with her collection of poetry are several prose pieces that, like the poems, are angry, evocative and amaz­ingly gentle. It is perhaps this mixture of sensitivity and reality that makes Chrystos' work so memorable. What is perhaps most remarkable about Chrystos' work is that she lets us in at all. This is her life and it is laid bare.

Which is why, when it comes down to the poetry and prose of Chrystos, anticipation always overcomes reluc­tance.

donalee Moulton, Halifax, N.S.
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