Whadja do for summer vacation?

It’s 90 degrees. The sun’s like a big delicious mango in the middle of a bright blue sky. But it’s “fall.” Back to school. UWL’s The Catalyst is gearing up for another year of boostin’–we’ll publish issue 13 this winter, full of plush student writing and art, and we’ll put together some exciting programming events for everyone to get together and celebrate life. Kind of like this poem, part of our current issue. It’s “Three Waters,” by Jennifer Glasgow. Warning. The following text contains overtly Canadian scenes, crustaceans, awkward family encounters, and uplifting realizations to make you feel alive.

Three Waters

Jennifer Glasgow


One summer, my family went on vacation

before my brother left for college.

We travelled to Canada to see the falls,

whose roaring waters mesmerized me

and made me feel so insignificant and small.

And it was so hot that day.

We baked inside our plastic ponchos

when we rode on the Maid of the Mist,

like potatoes in a roasting bag.

Then we went to Maine.

Where we ate lobsters, watched whales,

and my father flirted with hypothermia

in the coast’s aquamarine undulations.

Not a shimmering pool of gemstones

could be more beautiful than that ocean.

And our last stop was Redbank, New Jersey,

to go swimming at the shore with my peculiar family,

whose oddness compared to the ocean that day.

Those slate gray, choppy waves paled in comparison

to the others many miles away in Maine.

There were disturbed winds floating through the air,

and the undertow tossed me as a giant would flick a fly away.

I remember thinking in that moment,

tossed and turned and disoriented,

how amazingly formidable the power of the ocean was.

It is so indifferent.

So unaware of its potential to harm

And I was so small, so easily spun like a leaf in a hurricane.

It was indescribable.

As if even my words are too small.

And when I surfaced from that water,

my lungs searing,

gasping, stunned,

I heard the voices.

“Where is Evan?”

When my dad brought my brother back,

he collapsed in the sand,

arms spread wide, heaving.

His body was decorated with large red streaks,

burns from the rope that saved his life.

Which he clung to as the mighty ocean,

in increments too quick for him to breathe,

forcefully washed over him,

unconcerned about the jetty of rocks

a few feet away.

And in a week or so after we returned home,

my aunt sent my mother an email.

A news article reporting the death

of a young man

who died swimming in that same water.

And I wondered if he too was taking a vacation before college

to commemorate the beginning

of the rest of his life.


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