By Allen Reel. 105 pp. Self-published, 2018. Order at or 541-350-7335

A Benedictine Oblate of Mount Angel Abbey and an attorney who lives in Beaverton, Reel has written his best collection of poems to date.

It shows him as an insightful observer of human struggle. One of his best is “Poet for a Day,” a small sense-dense block of type in which he muses that a poet may need to “start pulling up alongside depression / digging holes and smelling the blood / tasting and touching the city’s bones.”

In “Rumbling in the Rockies,” he offers a sad vision of a potbellied small-town former athlete who now pumps gas and drinks to excess.

Meanwhile, many poems offer hope even while retaining grit. They include groaning angels, trumpet blares rising heavenward and sacred trees.

“This Close to Happy” reveals a recurring theme: holiness comes via trial. Here’s how Reel memorably puts it: “heaven is rife i hear / with one-eyed one-armed saints.” The message comes through again in a poem in which Reel laments but marvels: “The Lord often appears in irritating disguise.”

In another piece, he speaks of Jesus as an extraterrestrial — maybe not great theology, but expressive of the Lord’s fearful head-turning nature.

Reel is best when dealing in senses and images. He is weakest when going too prosy, when he can sound preachy and shallow.

Don’t worry, Reel can take it. In the poem “Martians Talking” he writes: “The only thing worse / than a critique / is no bloody critique at all / for silence kills.”