Al Rempel

In Reverse
by Al Rempel

work backwards from a long smoke
from the grey-clouded swirl into the bowl
gathered up in flame first, then unlit
tobacco — this the air sucked clean down
the pipe, this the slow exhale in reverse
the lips pursed and the teeth clamped
cheeks slacken, the tongue curious and moist
and finally, the pipe laid in a box

don’t you wish you could pack up
the universe this way, tidy the galaxies
and stuff the dark matter into a pouch?
never worry about fires again? take the way
things are between you and I, can’t we
just unwind the strands of smoke
before it churns to haze? I bet

we’d all be jamming our boxes
and pouches full, filling the shelves
without bothering even to label things
and whistling some god-awful tune
while we wash our hands afterwards

Al Rempel is currently an alternate teacher in Prince George,
where he lives with his wife and daughter. His poems have been
anthologized in 4 Poets, Rocksalt, Half in the Sun, and The Forestry
Diversification Project, as well as in journals such as The Malahat
Review, GRAIN, and stonestone (on-line). He has a book of poetry
forthcoming with Caitlin Press (Spring 2010). 

1. Please describe your writing/ art

I write poems.

2. what is the writing/ artistic accomplishment you are most proud of to date?

Being published in 4 Poets, an anthology of four emerging BC poets by Mother Tongue Publishing

3.    what are a couple of your (specific) writing/ artistic goals you have yet to accomplish?

Writing the next poem will always be my goal – I’ve discovered that writing is what’s important to me — and getting poems published is the happy by-product.

 4.    what do you love most about northern BC and why?

That you can run a poetry reading in the middle of winter and 30 people will still come out to hear you

 5.    what are the biggest challenges about living in northern BC?


6.    how do other northern BC (or surrounding area) writers and/or artists inspire you?  

All writers and artists inspire me for the same reason – they’re writing, painting, sculpting, etc. They are engaging with their craft and the world around them and themselves – what more can we ask?

 7.     in 50 words or less, please describe your home (i.e. actual home, town or territory).

Right around Red Rock, when you’re travelling north on Highway 97, you catch a glimpse of Tabor Mountain topped by a few towers – this is the start of the place I call home, with it’s spindly trees and wide sky – it extends north to about Summit Lake, east to the mountains at Purden, and west to Bednesti Lake or perhaps closer.

 8.     what’s your favourite restaurant / cafe in the north? (where is it?) Why is it your favourite?

 Amigos on Quebec Street in PG – the best spicy Mexican food in town

 9.     what is your favourite wild creature (animal, bird or bug) that lives in north?  Why?

On my first visit to the north, I saw a magpie and was amazed at its colours; it belongs to the corvid family (crows and ravens) and so shares their intelligence, their uncanny ability to survive, and their trickster ways.   

 10.   Has living in northern BC informed, affected or influenced your writing or art?  If so, please let us know a bit about how.

Yes, but anywhere I chose to live would do that – place matters if you want to be ‘here’. Specifically, PG offers a unique mix of wilderness, suburbia, and inner-city, and all of it has seeped into my poems. And of course winter.

 11.   what is your favourite place in the north? (town, hangout or wild place)

  The path along the cut-banks of the Fraser.

 12.   Please share anything else you feel/ believe is important to share about northern BC in 200 words or less.

There once was a massive lake that was left by the last ice-age, and it extended as far south as the Devil’s Fence-posts near the Marguerite ferry on Highway 97S. It most likely drained north (there is very little land between us and the arctic watershed) until it let loose and carved out the Fraser Canyon to the south, leaving a lake-bottom of sand that became our cut-banks and Connaught and Carney hills. The old river-benches of the various waterways the Nechako and Fraser made since then are etched into the landscape all over town, if you take the time to notice them.

 13.  do you have a dream for or relating to the north and if so, what is it?

It would be wonderful to have a space for writers to meet and to read their work to the public.  It would be great to have a place for all artists – a version of Vancouver’s Granville Island, perhaps – a village of guilds that could connect with tourism and the university and the local market and the various parks and walkways scattered throughout PG.

Published in: on November 29, 2009 at 5:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

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