Resuce Mission by Kathleen Dale

Kathleen Dale
Author photograph: Kathleen Dale

In the rueful yet hopeful poems of Rescue Mission, Kathleen Dale mourns loss in its manifold forms but also finds possibilities of salvation, of learning new ways in which to rescue oneself, diving into deep waters and rising up from them, renewed. Even though our brief moments on earth may be easily-torn “webs spun through the slippery / spinneret of time,” there are, the poet suggests, those moments of unbridled joy in simply being that allow (no, compel) us, like the poet’s untrainable dog, to make straight for whatever is loved beyond reason. Early readers have resonated strongly to the perils and possibilities presented by the poems in Rescue Mission. Linda Aschbrenner, founder of Free Verse and Marsh River Editions, writes that “Kathleen Dale is not afraid of the dark. She faces and faces off with death in these radiant, haunting, deeply felt poems of remembrance…. Dale’s memorable words streak across life’s ravines. We need such authentic poems for our sustenance.” And this from Susan Firer, former Milwaukee poet laureate and winner of the Backwaters Prize: “Using idiom, stunning phrasing, fresh and engaging imagery, and a wide range of sonic pleasures,
Rescue Mission cover
Cover Image: "Orphée et Eurydice"
by Leslie Xuereb.
Dale’s meditative poems explore life’s losses, her own (friends, a sister, parents) and other peoples’ (a daughter, memory, language, a lover). These poems also look to the ‘something beyond loss’: relationships, words, and songs that help ‘to heal / to set things right / yet again.’ ”

A Pushcart nominee, Kathleen Dale is the author of prize-winning poems that have appeared in many national journals, as well as a previous chapbook, Ties that Bind. She has taught writing courses for non-regularly-admissible and non-traditional students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette University. In addition to teaching and writing poetry, she is a pianist who studies at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and has recorded two recitals of works by contemporary American women composers. Born in landlocked Kansas, she has lived for forty years on the shore of Lake Michigan and has learned in that time to swim, sail, and dive. She lives in Milwaukee with her husband, Steve Kapelke. They have three grown daughters. More about her work can be found online.

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ISBN 978-1-936482-10-8

Copyright © 2011 by Kathleen Dale

5.5" x 8.5" chapbook, 36 pages




Family Snapshot

You sit at the center:
the older sister,
the only one of us smiling,
the only one composed, gazing
direct into the eye of the camera
as if to affirm (though the rest of us
won’t know this for another month)
that your life stands complete.

The rest of us are caught
somewhere in the midst of our lives,
perched on the porch steps
(despite cracks in the cement).
We are blurred or blinking or glancing off
at the horizon or down at the dogs.
We have so many more things
to do. We can hardly wait to
shift, to be released from this enforced

Grouped in still life, no one looks
at anyone else. No one touches. Unposed,
we suffer the shot in the thick of our
own separate, suspended lives.

Though we didn’t see it then,
it’s clear as the sky before a quake:
you were to become the core of our epic,
your approaching death
(forever after) our epicenter.


The Apparent Immortality of Things

Sometimes I catch them at it
alone in the house

catch sound of their stillness
their capacity to wait

their pointing to something beyond
passage, something

beyond loss. There is
beauty in their

silence, the way they allow the
slipcover of light

to flicker, to play over
their surfaces but never

themselves alter, never
change. Of course,

they do. But I rarely
see it: the slow

settling of grime into
a surface, the bleaching and

thinning of fabric by sun.
To me

they just remain, never
moving, whether I’m

there or not, the same
when I return

from a day or a week or a month
away in the sweaty,

swirling world of eating
and breathing and pain.

Here they still are,
neither precisely

dead nor living,
stretching out,

present participles,
constant as mothers,

light and air and time
mapping such

tiny inroads my eyes
are too big, too

young, too tender
to see.


Being Carbon-Based Creatures

Molecules of our bodies only lightly
bind, allow for life by not releasing,
in their coupling, enough heat to burn
themselves to ashes, allow for death by easily
losing interest, and unlinking. What

allows us to live permits us to die, so
we never fasten solely to one never-
ending point of view. Days of a marriage,
moments of a day are sticky easily-
torn webs spun through the slippery

spinneret of time, awarenesses linking
then slip-sliding apart, seeming
to be waves. In this still-cold
dawn of a January thaw my new,
young, willful, so-far untrainable dog,

who doesn’t come when called, suddenly stops,
turns, streaks across the flowing creek’s
ravine, across the field temporarily
freed of snow, and for one ecstatic

moment, makes straight for me.


The Final Thing

At seventy, the final thing she wanted
to learn was to dive:

to tuck her chin to her chest, between
her outstretched arms and to fall

headfirst toward the bottom she had both
feared and yearned for since she had

first seen water—the still pool
untouched, unrippled, heavy with meaning

and promise: to feel its cool caress, hear
the bubbles of breath leave her body, see

the illusion of being enclosed utterly by blue;
to know that she could aim her body down,

then up, and it would joyously comply,
her remaining breath buoying her up, up,

up to break the surface of the old familiar
world as if rising from sleep; it was something

like flying, she thought, something like
taking off from one medium and trying on

another, shedding one set of rules for a second:
one which both frightened and enthralled,

a kind of life to which we are not naturally born,
but on the edge of which we are forever poised.

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