top of page
  • ZiN Daily

Andrea Lawler: How Life Works

Image: Unsplash, downloaded ( 12.06.2022.

The Addict Finds out Her Father has Cancer via Phone Call

I was wearing my father’s sweater the day

he told me he had cancer–a midnight blue

crewneck with a graphic of a mallard duck flying

away on its front. How I longed to be

that green-headed duck. How I can still hear

the words tissue, cells, aggressive, echoing through

the phone. I googled the life expectancy of someone

with stage-four cancer. Repeated Sar-com-a

like it could somehow change the diagnosis.

For days there was a lump in my throat after finding

out he had also found one in his upper thigh.

I don’t remember what I was doing before

that phone call. I don’t remember how I answered

or how I said goodbye–if I even did at all. What

I do remember is this: the sound of my mother’s voice,

sad and uncertain. How I could imagine my father

receiving the news, alone, in the doctor’s office.

How scared he must have felt. How, by the end

of that phone call, I had relapsed–pills in one

hand–phone, still in the other.

A Conversation with my Therapist,

Whose Office is on the 9 th Floor

Once, when I was a child, my family dog

picked up a kitten in its mouth, punctured

a hole in its neck and it choked on its own blood.

I think I cried for weeks. I think I tried to pry

the dog’s jaws open. I think I came running

into the kitchen, limp corpse in both hands,

to find my mother, doing the dishes,

telling me that this is how life works:

We are kittens in our own dog’s mouth.

I answer questions about my early childhood,

my teenage years, my relationship with my parents,

the success of my siblings. The way in which I think

or don’t think about my own body. Patterns

of eating, sleeping, how much sex I have had

and with whom. Drugs I have taken willingly.

Outside her office window, a tree branch sways

violently in the wind. A robin’s egg has fallen

from its nest, life spilling out onto the street.

The Sky is Crying, The Sky is Crying

(and so am I)

The sky purpled into a bruised

cheek, clouds swollen like a crying

eye–leaking over the windows. My mother’s

work shirts flapping on the clothesline

as the wind begins to holler. Trees shiver

like my body the first time I got into trouble–

my father’s belt a thunderbolt touching

skin–my soft earth welting. How beautiful

spring looks after rain. How nature, too,

sings after pain.

In the Winter, You Made Me Tea Through the Coffeemaker

There were, of course, the doctor

appointments you accompanied

me with, after repeatedly finding

blood in my urine–fearing it

was a symptom of something worse

lying underneath. That is life, after

all. Fear of something worse. In the winter

you made me tea through the coffee-

maker, and I made you homemade

soup and around we went like that

in the snowy evenings until spring.

The birds migrated home, ice broke

in the rivers, letting water through.

How nice it was to go for walks again,

not having to wear several layers.

You even said to me: How nice

it is to go for walks again, not

having to wear several layers.

And we held hands–the dog

pulling on its leash–while

passing the neighborhood kids

riding their bikes. Remember

how we held hands? Passing

the kids? With their bikes?

Remember how we, too, used

to be kids? Playing tag in our back-

yards? Swimming in the pool

with our clothes on when we forgot

to bring suits? Remember how at night

you would read aloud to me and, once,

stopped to ask me if I knew the true

meaning of agony? Agony is this:

I have loved you as best as I could.

Listen, I Need to Tell You Something.

Inside my dream, a dream.

A cat sunning itself in the bay window.

A small party. Silk, satin, some other materials.

There are strangers who have loved me.

There are lovers who have left me.

I have written tirelessly about both.

Fast traffic. Wet snow. The sound

of acrylic nails tapping on a wooden

bar-top counter. The smell of citrus on your mouth

sipping an Old-Fashioned. Once,

we went to a movie and forgot to watch.

Once, we went to the store and came home

with sour milk. I sometimes wonder

why our childhood bedrooms seem

so much smaller as adults. Perfume.

Hand soap. A song, playing from a spinning

record. Gravel sounding under stumbling

feet. A car door slamming shut. Listen–

I need to tell you something.

About the Author: Andrea Lawler is a poet, essayist, and short story writer. She holds a degree in English Language & Literature.


Recent Posts

See All


ZiN Daily is published by ZVONA i NARI, Cultural Production Cooperative

Vrčevan 32, 52204 Ližnjan, Istria, Croatia

OIB 73342230946

ISSN 2459-9379


Copyright © 2017-2021, ZVONA i NARI, Cultural Production Cooperative

The rights to all content presented at belong to its respective authors.

Any further reproduction or dissemination of this content is prohibited without a written consent from its authors. 
All Rights Reserved.

The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


are supported by:

bottom of page