Been There, Done That: Dachsel Hits Close to Home

The titles of the poems in Marita Dachsel’s All Things Said & Done seem familiar and docile: "Fish Stories," "Quietly," and "Book Club." Though the poems may feel familiar, they are anything but well behaved.  Dachsel forces her readers to witness scenes that should probably remain private: a young girl secretly devouring a dirty novel, a couple lost and anxious while driving, parents and children who are both disconnected and guilty. Dachsel’s first collection unflinchingly displays scenes that are as uncomfortable and bittersweet as they are recognizable. 

In "Fish Stories," Dachsel confesses, "The gills were still moving when my father inserted his knife/…when he scooped out the organs he saw the heart still/ pumping. He said nothing…and then/ placed it in my open palm." This scene (and Dachsel’s cool tone describing it) is undeniably unsettling and compelling. Another standout is "Quietly," in which Dachsel remembers a vibrant girl who, like so many in her town, had “crazy eyes…exhausted from small-town breeding.” The poem ends with a shock: "None could/ guess that she, electric…would end it quietly with only the kick…of a stool." 

Though the subject matter is deliberately unsettling, All Things Said & Done isn't depressing. Dachsel's poems have a detached sense of humor and wisdom. This is especially true of the third section of the book, which focuses on the strangeness and weariness of travel. In "The Antelope House Overlook," a couple discusses ancient pottery that "in the hands of science…emitt[ed] sounds captured/ for over a thousand years:/ muffled voices, wailing baby, a barking dog."  As both tourist and local, Dachsel unearths memories and private moments, and splays them out for public viewing.