Alex Harrington ’19

" "We are grateful to have the beautiful poetry of Julia Fritz-Endres ’19 for this semester’s final edition of Wordplay. Fritz-Endres is a senior pursuing a major in Environmental Studies (with a Climate Science & Policy emphasis) and a minor in Creative Writing. In her spare time, she enjoys writing poetry, short stories, and illegible journal entries. Some of her favorite authors are Haruki Murakami, June Jordan, Neil Gaiman, and Muriel Barbery.

Thank you, Julia, for sharing your work with us!

Excerpts from The Frogman

This is the story of one man. He was one of the millions affected by World War II. He fought for
the U.S. Navy Reserve from May 2, 1944 to Dec. 16, 1946, entering the Navy as an Apprentice
Seaman in the Amphibious Forces division and the Underwater Demolition Teams, which were
an elite special-purpose force that cleared reefs, rocks, and shoals for navy ships to pass through
foreign waters. He does not represent the countless others who have suffered in war. He is only
one man, who fought in one war.

In this moment, I am this man’s granddaughter. I am one author, telling a single story.



She dances
and her high-waist flower dress
spins like a pinwheel on a warm day
Navymen beat their boot heels
on black and white checkered tiles.

Tomorrow Morning
the shore will recede
the night will birth a rising sun
over the Edge of Earth
and this joyful music
borrowed from the Landmen
will float on the water
all the way home
to smooth,
outstretched hands.

Tomorrow Morning
the Landmen will count their winnings
the drum beats and siren songs
returned in full,
with interest.

Until Tomorrow Morning
he dances
and his calloused toes
rock like an ocean on a stormy night
he raises his arm as if to take rope
to pull himself free of those waters
instead, he takes her hand
he holds it still.

Her forget-me-not dress
was the color of daytime
or blue-finned dolphins
slicing through water
or soft blue eyes
in the photograph of Mother
tucked safely
in breast pocket.

I remember this moment
in black and white
years later, after his mind has slipped
under the car, that slipped
too far
down the hill.

I remember this moment
in dreams
while his letters lay crinkled in my lap
and I wake to blue sky
to light bending
through the window
in my bedroom.

I remember his tennis shoes
how he beat that blue rhythm
into the muted gray carpet
into the 10th floor
condominium apartment
where he lived
with my grandmother.

I remember how the dress fluttered
around that woman, in that letter
to home, and I wonder
what became of her
after he left that land
and I wonder
what became of us
after he left this land



In bare skin
the silence is colder.

The chain tether
the thunder
the metallic humming
all colder.

He can swim
if he sings
but no breathing
no sorrow
rolling thunder swallows
all of it
all but the soft singing
of ship-wrecked sailors
lonely creatures
in the deep.

In silence
Krakens will come
in silence
the notes
of his daughter’s recital
drift away on water
one by one
in silence
he slowly forgets
to swim up
to swim home.


Math Problems

When did you tell me that I should press the soil lightly around the stem, to plant marigolds
firmly in the ground? I think it was a decade back, when we knelt over the flower beds on the
porch. Those were the ones that toppled over in a storm. Do you remember? Their soft petals
fell, their bruised heads bobbed in agony.

That afternoon, as thunder shook the apartment and the porch rattled up and down, we sat at the
dining room table. You cleared a place for my books, stacking doilies in a corner to make room
for them.

I gave you my math homework. To me, all those fractions and variables were nonsensical
symbols. It all seemed so intangible, like every number was a tiny package I was told to unwrap
for some secret, beautiful prize. I would tear at each layer, getting closer and closer, then find
that there was nothing inside.

You were patient, holding your pencil an inch above the paper. You moved your lips to rehearse
an explanation I could understand. You clucked your tongue before finally opening your mouth
and slowly, very slowly, teaching me to think about numbers. You wouldn’t calculate, you
would calibrate. You lifted up each equation like an old friend, dusted the crumbs from her coat,
and introduced me to her.

After the wind died down, you went to the porch. You bent over the little heads of those flowers,
your lips pursed in concentration. With trembling hands, you pushed their stems back into the

You were the card shark of the navy, the engineer of ENIAC. I never asked about any of it. To
me, you were just the man who sat beside me and helped me with my homework.

Later on, I learned what drew you to all those complicated equations. I learned that numbers
were the sixteenth note fanfares of a trumpet bell calling all to attention. I learned that numbers
could be the difference between losing your life’s saving and paying for college. I learned that
numbers could be the difference between life and death and rockets to the moon.

To this day, I am still terrified of what that means. I’ve cried in front of three math teachers
because unsolved equations—pieces I can’t quite put together—stir up a unique kind of panic in
my body. You see, I tend to overcomplicate, to let my limbs grow heavy with the details. The
possibility of failure, the shame of not knowing. These can be crippling things.

When I was in middle school, I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t see the beauty of the quadratic
formula or Pascal’s Triangle. These were things you presented to me in a pool of golden light.
But perhaps I do know why you tried to teach me, why you loved numbers so much.

A few months before the accident, you gave me a little book called One, Two, Three, Infinity:
Facts and Speculations of Science. This past summer, when I moved into my new house, I
unpacked this book from a box of precious things. I read your handwriting on the inside of the
front cover, that looping script I could never quite decipher when I was younger. You wrote that
I should be curious. You wrote that I should be brave.

Well, I might never love numbers the way you did. But I will always think of you in a storm. I
will remember how you returned to the porch, how you pushed the stems back into the soil. I will
remember to lift up their little heads, to pause for a moment, admire their colors, and when I am
done, to return to the dining room table, sit down, and try again.