Al Rempel

A Fossicker's Notebook*


these clouds do not conform
to any known structure

columns of cement
prop up the library

serious horse-tails
an accumulation of eskers

striations in the atmosphere
match ripples in the sand

the automatic sliding doors
open with an angelic chorus

delirious forces
a crew of buskers

gargoyles of sand and clay
perch on the cut-banks

taps turn on by themselves
the urinals watch with an evil eye

circus bears and horses
columns of mill-cloud

piles of white appliances
mushrooming at the dump

photocopy the red tubes
onto every new initiative

those clouds look like river-stones
those river-stones look like clouds

cellular towers of spruce
on every high point

an alluvial deposit
of wrecked cars below


buses supplant
the natural order of things

taxi-cabs lined up at the airport
first thing in the morning

invader species: suits and ties
straight from Victoria

running on one spot
is good for the treadmill

she dreamt she was caught
naked without her purse

step one: remove nozzle
step five: pay cashier

we ran out over two hours ago, sir
do you want to take a rain-check?

a little nest-egg for just-in-case
rests in the bottom of the mattress

busted in twice, the second time
to grab all their new stuff

stock-piles of dead trees
loggers banking on the future

the clatter of the train
bangs into everything

they all sat together in the bar
spinning their wheels

there's more money in busts
then there is in booms

what shape do you see?
I see a gravy-train

a jack-rabbit jumping in and out
between cars in the traffic

the clang of work-keys
on morning beer bottles

stock replies: at the end of the day
it's all about the bottom line

don't be ridiculous, of course
you have to pay the piper

the white-coated lab-rat confirms
mazes aren't that much fun

shh, I hear them coming:
duck into my cubicle


dandelion-smear under my chin
means I like clutter

natural alternatives
grow behind tin-foiled windows

welcome to the club:
here's your wet t-shirt

hello? can you hear me now?
we were doing it all night

they've dug out the whole hill
you can see way too much

an engraved Zippo lighter
ends up in a buddy's pocket

spare change? sir?
nope, it's all accounted for

three towers like markers:
this is what I call home

the last guy that said that in this bar
was beaten to a pulp

the slide of mercury
down a thin tube of stupidity

the whitest of white cars
side-swiped at the intersection

a clear-cut cemetery
mucks up the corner

mosquito watermarks
i.d.'s my windshield

two drunk teenagers
washed out of an accident scene

straddling the line
between two express check-outs

could you call back at five?
that's when I'm having supper

and he lost it; plowed right in -
talk about a drive-through

next time, Miss Frost-Bite
don't wear open-toed shoes

put his skidoo right through the ice
blood and gas spills everywhere

he sets his iPod on shuffle
searches for his sound-track


what did Fraser know
filling his canoe with journals?

city-hall has moved into a new bordello
read all about it in the Fort George Tribune

those trees are too goddam spindly
run 'em down

lines of miscommunication
tangled up with the static

shuffle the whores
further up the street

flat-beds of giant I-beams
dangerously close to crossing the river

an old man slumped down
in front of the war on TV

before twinning any bridge
be sure to search for Native artifacts

houses carefully moved
higher up the flood-plain

six feet of sandy-loam
right behind our house

a spray of gang-related tags
painted on every bus-stop


seasons of red pines
peppers the ridge

the thirty-foot RV at the mall
is drowning in raffle tickets

caution: chipper-truck on full-bore
please vacate the stationery aisle

a row of new houses
sit uncomfortably on a clear-cut

okay, let's change tactics:
let's slash and burn

four by four by eight
makes one cord

house-plans imported in
heat leaks out

minus thirty-odd for a week
then boom -- skating rink

nobody wants to see that much
flesh spilling over leather

a parade of breasts
on the hottest day of the year

a fine example of mass wastage:
that damn new road to the university

another train wreck?
could've lost the entire bank

and now presto! like magic
the forest disappears

a thin and lonely poplar
copies Emily's painting

ten big-box stores
scramble for a parking spot

juvenile birches stagger
through downtown renewal

you can drive your 4x4
straight into sockeye spawning beds

the smell of hotdogs so strong
turpentine spilling into the Fraser

if this means warmer winters
I'm all for it


the sky knuckling up
the land knuckled under

a crow postures on a steeple
a veiled threat?

flat roof-topped flood-plains
sand sifting into the eaves

incessant drumming -
turn off your thought-police

a man in the theatre
chokes on his own phone

this murderous weather
piling up day after day


the man with the yellow gloves
pulling out the day

wizen stumps
tree-trunks that defy gravity

train-cars sloshing back and forth
below in the yard

the daylight all strung-out
like the soup-bus line

she's planted herself
face-down in the daisies

a mouthful of sun
over an unconscious day

a constant low brewing
over the new casino

a steady current of container trucks
pushing, pushing, pushing

clumps of news-sheets
unread in the land-fill

a yellow canoe holding on tight
to the roof-rack's every word

a car-full of tourists
trapped in the crescents

things got sorted out
in the wash of gravel

a swarm of teenagers
high on the hill

see what I mean?
now try it with the other eye

one large fisted agate
raised into the crisp twilight

*Fossicking is the art and craft of ranging over the land, collecting minerals, gems, and semi-precious stones from the surface.