These three poems by Andrea Lawler are proof that love can help you float, even when feeling as if you’re drowning in grief…
by: Andrea Lawler
Love on the Water, Love Underwater After Richard Siken we canoe out to where the lily pads are just beginning to bloom—their giant white lotuses rising up like a candle over the water—and suddenly, I imagine us as frogs, jumping from lily to lily, croaking I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU! diving underwater and hiding from birds just beneath the moss. Your beautiful frog legs tucking in and kicking out behind you. Your long, sticky tongue wrapped around mine, feeding me flies. How gorgeous you look underwater, even in amphibious green.
“Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,” —Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden North Dakota Winters God. I never once thanked him. Why was I not more grateful? Fearful of a loving father? Who else woke to start the fire in a damp basement? Who else made sure we dressed in time to catch the early school bus? Waking up to the percolator’s drip and voices of the morning news, my father roused us from our individual dreams. That small, flaxen farmhouse with only three bedrooms for five children. Slowly, the furnace roared to life, warmed the creaking wooden floorboards enough to put my bare feet down. His left hand, absent the index finger and thumb, barren as the cold North Dakota sting. Back then, it was all blue and black.
Alternate Universe in which My Father is Played by Paul Hogan and the leathery redneck comes wrestling a stuffed croc into the one bar on the one street in our dusty smalltown named Walkabout Creek—Walkabout—literally to walk-about. And everyone in these parts knows him as some sort of legend. After being bitten by an oversized croc that almost took his whole leg, he crawled hundreds and hundreds of miles to safety. Lived to tell the tale so many times the whole town can recite it word for word. And in the real world, my father played by my real father lost his left index finger and thumb in a freak construction accident in Ogallala, Nebraska, and had to have his big toe surgically removed so that it could replace his thumb. The doctor told him the hand cannot function without a thumb, like a daughter cannot function without her father, so he had to undergo physical therapy for hundreds and hundreds of days. And the whole town knows this story so well they still talk about it. And good ole Mick Dundee is known for carrying a large knife around, saying things like “G’Day, mate,” and “you can live on it, but it tastes like shit.” And you’re never sure which stories to believe, but they’re told so well that nobody cares, they just laugh. And what Mick Dundee and George D. really have in common is that they save the girl, over and over and over again. Neither are ever really sure what time it is and neither one care (lucky bastards). And they introduce themselves to strangers on the street with a polite handshake that leaves them feeling it long after they’re gone. The Crocodile Hunter is a tour guide for Never Never Safari—named for its tagline: “Never go out with us, if you do, you’ll never come back with us,” or is it because in the real world my father is never coming back.
Andrea Lawler is a 3x nominated Pushcart Prize poet & writer. She holds degree in English Language & Literature from the University of Mary, ND. Her poetry collection, Let Me Take You Out of This Town, debuted in February, 2023. She lives in North Dakota with her cats.