In her debut collection, Kris Bigalk compares gene replication to "a Bach fugue, a Hanon exercise / precision tempered with passion." Bigalk's poems are the fugue's opposite: full of a passion for experience -- both joyful and tragic -- but their passion is tempered with the precision of well-chosen comparisons.

Music is "tremors on a silken web"; "Memory is an / orbiting planet that will never reach me"; "nerves like wrinkled laundry." Bigalk, who designed and directs the creative writing program at Normandale Community College, has a consistent style, but the book is never monotonous. Throughout her collection she shifts in perspective and tone. She includes third-person philosophical musings, witty poems on battling flower-eating squirrels, and first-person lyrics on loving and losing.

Poems like "Dr. Barbie's Abortion Clinic" and "Trailer Park Cinderella" are darkly clever twists on fairy tales, but there is also something more serious at work. They gesture toward the emotional damage caused by unrealistic images of femininity.

Many of the poems are saturated with a sense of mourning -- source not always identified. She writes, "I found my small wish dashed to pieces / like a favorite tea cup." However, the speaker is never downtrodden. Instead she greets heartbreak with defiance, even bravado.

In "Love Circus," the speaker celebrates love's end. She writes: "Falling is how we get down, and it's so / breathtaking, watching the ground / come up to meet you like a good, hard kiss."

Elizabeth Hoover is a poet in Pittsburgh.