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Book Report: Another word on former presidents; waxing poetic on the death of a fly

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Three American presidents lead off this week's roster of books: Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. You could fill libraries with what has already been written by these guys, but leave it to the scholars -- they can always find a niche that's unfilled.

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Such is the case of Jeffrey Frank's "Ike and Dick" (Simon & Schuster, $30).

You have to wonder how these two incredibly diverse personalities got along when they held sway. Subtitled "Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage," this new book gives lots of answers. We learn of Nixon's skill as a political tactician and that Eisenhower was a cool, even vain, cucumber. Frank surmises they got along, despite flurries of misunderstanding (the Checkers speech) because they were both adverse to confrontation.

***

Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman tackle a very tough subject in "FDR and the Jews" (Harvard University Press, $29.95). In recent years, critics have been hard on the popular president for his presumed ignoring of the plight of European Jewry during World War II. Breitman and Lichtman admit that on the face of it FDR's critics have a point, but ameliorate the situation by pointing out that FDR was ever the politician and in many cases was forced to make pragmatic choices.

***

North Star Press of St. Cloud has snared a New Jerseyite poet, Marion Goldstein, and has just published her second book, "Architecture of the Unpronounced," ($12.95). For downright grabbing you at the throat immediacy Goldstein is a winner. Here's a sample:

***The Fly

After tunneling in my hair

Buzzing buzzing

he lighted, a black blob

on the white cabinet.

I had a dish towel in my hand

and the thought of his demise

erupted naturally as water

from a spring.

It wouldn't take much effort

to slap him senseless with one swing.

I had stalked before

when murderous intention crossed my mind

before a plan or weapon was devised

had watched a gossamer thing

lift its papery wings and fling

itself to the ceiling

but this one seemed to linger, preoccupied

on the deathbed of the door.

One swat--he fell onto the countertop

near a bowl of marinating mushrooms

tried to lift himself and fell again--

back shuddering, hocks clawing

he flopped.

I couldn't bear to watch

the opulence of death

and yet cessation of that buzzing buzzing

was restorative and I could think again.

I swiped him off the counter

and ground his heart and blood and lungs

in the sink eradicator

and it was then

I knew

the God who made me

made him

and I wondered about creatures both winged and flawed

who sense impending doom from afar

aglow with a future yet to flower

knowing more than could be known

they soar.

Dave Wood is a past vice president of the National Book Critics Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Phone him at (715) 426-9554.

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