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The Final Thing

2nd Place Winner • 2011 Poetry Contest

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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Kathleen A. Dale was born in Kansas, though she has lived on the shore of Lake Michigan for many years. She and her husband have three grown daughters and two grandsons.

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