Deep Salt Water: Month Five

Posted by 
Cara Lang

Room is pleased to bring you the fifth installment in the captivating and thought-provoking Deep Salt Water, an interdisciplinary collaboration between author Marianne Apostolides, collage artist Catherine Mellinger, photographer Melanie Gordon, and composer Paul Swoger-Ruston, based on the forthcoming book by Apostolides of the same title.

Deep Salt Water is an intimate memoir about abortion, expressed through the language and imagery of the ocean. In Month 4, the reader was taken inside the abortion clinic. The intensity Apostolides felt as she wrote that piece—the long-buried sensations she needed to call up in the body through the act of writing—are embodied in the ferocious tone of last two sections. She then shifts away from the personal towards the notion of awareness—awake-ness—in the face of our decisions.

Here, Month Five, takes us deeper into the relationship of him and her, against the backdrop of glacial Alaska where the impending effects of global warming stare our narrator down. It’s a moving treatment on the nature of memory and presence and how some things can disappear without our involvement, and yet we are always a part of it, feeling the gone-ness, perhaps, only when everything is too far gone.

To hear this month’s text read aloud by Apostolides, embedded in a larger sonic landscape by Swoger-Ruston, scroll to the bottom of the page. 

Deep Salt Water: Month Five

If he was there, I don’t recall. The railing was there. My hipbones were there. They were pressed against the bar of metal. Torso forward: I looked down. Our ship was slicing through the sea—this pristine coolness, wilderness off the coast of Alaska. Alcohol was served down below.

A pod of dolphins skimmed along, beside the ship: a constant rotation, propulsion in dynamic waves. “They’re playing with us!” I heard him exclaim. But their motion seemed driven, devoid of joy. My voice was defensive: “That’s my opinion, okay?”

They say the glacier groans as it calves; they say the resulting icebergs shudder. I don’t remember what I said to set him off. The ship cut its engines and silence ensued. I hadn’t realized how angry, that engine, had clogged my ears. Adrift within the alien landscape: blocks of ice were gliding, aimless, colourless in the scattered light. The sun was weak on the upper deck. Immense emptiness: people were elbowing for a view.

The melting of glaciers is causing the level of oceans to rise.

Islands are vanishing.


‘Dis-appearance’—as a concept—is elusive.


We’ll often concoct an array of stories.

But ‘gone-ness’ is hard for the mind to conceive.

I longed for the dolphins, for movement to give me a focal point. Instead, I faced the frozen edifice. The crevasse was yawning down the sheer; the ice glared blue from dense compression. Watching, waiting, for pieces to fall. “Isn’t this great?” I didn’t respond. A seabird’s cry was ricocheting off the chill. Evaporation swathed my skin: a fine mist, I breathed it in, and started to shiver. Tremendous quaking: “I’m not cold,” I said, when he tried to touch me.

What I recall is the slow-motion nature. The chunk of ice pulled away from the glacier. Excruciating, anticipation—the bead of tension—rising in the lapse of time. We know what will happen: this glacial yield. Yet we’ll stare, transfixed, as it does.

I think you spoke when the ice came down—

But the brute force drowned you, out.

Click here to listen to Swoger-Ruston’s soundscape, featuring Apostolides’ reading of Deep Salt Water: Month Five.

Click here to read Deep Salt Water: Month Four.


Deep Salt Water by Marianne Apostolides will be published by BookThug in April 2017, but you can pre-order your copy, which will be shipped to you before the book is launched.

This month’s images are from Dolphins, a mixed-media collage by Catherine Mellinger, macro-photographed by Melanie Gordon. 

We’d like to acknowledge the financial support of the Ontario Arts Council, which funded Marianne Apostolides in the writing of her text, and the Waterloo Regional Arts Fund, which funded Catherine Mellinger in the creation of her collages.


Marianne Apostolides is the author of five books, three of which have been translated. She’s also a recipient of the Chalmers Arts Fellowship. Deep Salt Water is forthcoming from BookThug in spring 2017.

Catherine Mellinger is an analog collage artist and mixed media artist whose works find inspiration in ideas originated by the Dadaist and early Surrealists, breaking the barriers of an image in order to re-infuse it with lyricism. Using vintage paper ephemera and personal photographs mixed with pencil, pen, and watercolour, her collages explore and reflect on memory as a sensory experience. Originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and having studied in Toronto, Catherine now lives Waterloo, Ontario.

Melanie Gordon is a conceptual and documentary photographer based in Toronto. For the past 20 years, she's been inquiring into the nature of time, the meaning of home, and the shifts in her own identity as a woman, mother, and artist. Melanie's photographs have been described as intimate and magical tellers of stories. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and published in magazines and books in Canada and internationally.

Paul Swoger-Ruston engages in a philosophy and science of music that considers style a compounding of evolutionary, environmental, and cultural patterns of observation, evaluation, and imitation that obscure the dynamic, emergent properties of interactive gesture (body), acoustical space (environment), and neural entrainment (ear/mind).

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