She had the cultivated dignity of those / who withhold their lives,” Spencer Reece writes of an aging, androgynous baroness encountered in the first of several long poems in his second poetry collection, The Road to Emmaus. It’s a characteristically perceptive description that could be applied to many of the book’s poems as well, but as with the lonely baroness, the poems’ restrained, carefully crafted surfaces only highlight the depth of emotion beneath. Stitching together narratives from religion, history, and myth, The Road to Emmaus is a sort of hero’s journey, following Reece from his emotional wanderings as a gay man seeking love and acceptance to his eventual spiritual homecoming in the form of a mid-life call to the Episcopalian priesthood. Yet at its core, this book is about the continuous struggle between two contradictory impulses: the impulse to withhold and protect oneself...

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