Sonata for Ocean Organ in C Minor

by Sarah Ens

An exposition
          you’d read descent
          was the closest thing to
          grace, and you’d try
          anything once, twice, it’s not
          like you said you were looking
          to get reborn, just suggested
          this was for your health
          when asked, which you were,
          many times.

A development
          grip flippers to your feet
          in a crowd of concert-divers,
          most middle-aged, paired, leaning
          hands onto shoulders, bulging sticky
          wet suits. one woman wears
          a leather jacket. you watch
          her fold its arms flat, slide
          keys to its pocket. you pat
          yourself down,
          consider what you too
          should leave on shore.
                    floating from the harbour you
          feel shivered, scuba-ed. barges
          bellow, too far to see. you feed
          a gull one of your fries and it’s
          ungrateful while four men sing
          shanties from the railing. catch
          the bassist’s eye as he
          wipes sea spray from his chin.
          you know already, it’ll be
          an unsteady somersault
          below the waves.
                    maybe you’d hoped for the feeling of
          your pastor’s palm
          on the crown of your head,
          water lukewarmed from a shallow
          clay bowl rivering your neck
          but instead, slipped
          open-mouthed into Atlantic,
          your chest does not believe
          its oxygen. the organist is small,
          you think, smaller than she
          should be. her fingers,
          waiting, curl like melting ice.
                    she bends on her bench. begins
          and you miss the silence of hall,
          raised baton, even
          that one stray cough’s
          ricochet, didn’t expect
          terror churning breath
          through pipes, bloomed
          then swallowed, kelp
          reaching tender for silver
          spires, toying in the blue.
          there is no disappearing, only
          opening clean, enormous,
          the water too
          full, fish low, startled, specks of
          silt, and limbs
          treading, an angel choir
          left in the flood.
                    kick soft.

A recapitulation
          it’s impossible
          to dive into a cold body
          without breaching

          it’s impossible
          to hear much of
          anything above
          the moan of metal

          except, sometimes,
          the blue of skin
          by god.


Composers' Note:

For "Sonata for Ocean Organ in C Minor" by Sarah Ens we tried to remain true to the struggle it embodies between the sacred and the profane. We followed the sequence of events quite closely, starting above water with the sounds of creaking boats, tightening ropes, men singing sea shanties, and finally diving down into the bay to take in the music, trying to come to terms with the opposition between the divine and the earthly in the depths.

(Listen to the composition by Adrian Foster and Joel Peters, inspired by Sarah's Poem)


Sarah Ens is a writer and editor living in Winnipeg. A graduate from UBC's Creative Writing BFA program, her work can be found in several literary magazines including Prairie Fire, Poetry Is Dead, and Arc Poetry Magazine. Her cat writes sad haiku poems prolifically on Instagram at @balto_thesleddog.