In the Company of Good and Evil in the Land of Narrative Drift

The noise of the trees is
butter today, I am
at my dream


desk, crude oil
from the office
ceiling. The Chairman:


“we have too much of everything except profit”


slash the coffee and doughnut

a banging on the office

wall beside—


“The billionth barrel of oil from our Cold Lake flowed today!”


Fist bumps all around, a celebration
of greenhouse gas and bonuses. Better
and better at doing it                 massive steam injected
bitumen producing sites we’ve appropriatedly sanctified:


Maskwa Cree for “Bear”
Mahihkan Cree for “Wolf”
Mahkeses Cree for “Fox”

Nabiye, our new expansion project (yay!), is Dene for “Otter”


Our sacred right of dominion— our sacred rite of extraction


They drill horizontally then hydraulically fracture the Eagle Ford shale in Texas and extract the naphtha from the natural gas, dump it into caverns, then pump it up 2,000 miles of pipelines, mix it with bitumen in Alberta…


“This is how we do it.”


. . .and then send it back to Texas where they process it into all manner of products for combustion to CO2, like petroleum coke sent to Turkey and Japan as a worse-than-coal substitute


“It feels so good.”


The Chairman, his favourite: Kearl Lake (the project not the former body of water):


“Why is Fisheries having an environmental review, we’ve already de-watered the lake?”


“National GHG from this project is only going up by 0.5%.”
(1 out of every 200 tonnes emitted for the entire nation, percentages sounds so much better)


“Why are they so worried when we’re not?”
Let’s celebrate!


There are cheerleaders,
there are zip lines in the canopy of the trees!


Ross Belot is a former fossil fuel industry manager now eco-poet and filmmaker from Hamilton, Ontario.

Questions and Answers

1. Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?

In a creative writing class in 2003 at McMaster I picked up Patrick Lane’s collection The Bare Plum of Winter Rain and was so astounded by it I had to find my way to writing poetry.

2. As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?

Fiercely revise your poem; look for that glowing bit that’s the core of the poem that wants to be and don’t ever kill it, instead build off it.

3. What poetic techniques did you use in this poem? How much attention do you pay to form and metre?

I worry about a poem becoming a rant when discussing environmental issues explicitly. To try and avoid that, I use various types of material such as factual prose and spoken phrases. The non traditional form also allows for the incorporation of those materials in a holistic way. I pay a lot of attention to form and I feel rhythm develops naturally in my work.

4. How did your writing process unfold around this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it?

The poem actually started off as prose narrative blocks. It became less cohesive in many edits as material was removed and it became more compressed. More white space found its way in to ensure the remainder was less dense and the phrases then were able to stand on their own as well as still provide the narrative arc. I also tried different fonts for various sections; even though that disappeared in the final version, it helped me move towards the final structure.

This poem “In the Company of Good and Evil in the Land of Narrative Drift” originally appeared in Poetics and Extraction Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 251 (2022): 119-120.

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