Thick With Conviction - A Poetry Journal
thick with conviction a poetry journal

Tim Poland

Driving on the Left

Save for driving on the left side of this fence-
squeezed Wicklow road we might forget about
each other here just as easily as we do at home,
passengers in the other’s car, luggage in the other’s
boot. Stowaways. But inside a European Opel
fitted for the left side of this Irish road you turn a
different side of your face to my traveling eyes.
A shift in angle wakes us to the same place, the
same moment. We point at the clutch of gorze
blossoms covering the fence, exploding yellow
from spiked green along this stone-wrapped road.

At a tight bend the old stone fence presses closer,
nicks the side of the car, and by reflex you
lurch toward me, brush against my left shoulder,
scatter ash from your cigarette on my thigh.
Be careful, you say, and I vow to remain alert
as I search the roadside for a lay-about or a few
meters of hard shoulder where we could stop
this little car, jam ourselves in the tiny rear seat
and tear through each other’s clothing like
teenagers in the back seat of an American Buick
on a secluded road behind a cornfield in Ohio.

Everyone Smokes in Paris

and then there’s this picture of you in Paris
and it’s nothing at all like Cartier-Bresson’s
photograph of Sartre on the Pont Alexandre
the dim silhouette of Les Invalides in the background
his right hand lost in his overcoat pocket
his lips pursed tightly around the stem of the pipe
smoking on a damp Paris day
grim and contemplative, his lazy eye gazing off
down the Seine , away from the man he’s standing with

you’re not on a bridge
you’re on the roof of the Pompidou Centre
leaning on the railing, Montmartre rising behind you
you don’t wear an overcoat and your right
hand holds loosely to the strap of your handbag
you don’t smoke a pipe but a cigarette is notched
in the fingers of your left hand because you love being
in Paris where everyone smokes, even pregnant women smoke
not a damp day, a grimy summer sun drips through the Paris haze
you don’t have a lazy eye
you wear those sunglasses and both eyes
are looking right at the camera

and you’re laughing and there is nothing in the
flesh curving around your open mouth to indicate
resistance or pain, complaint or regret,
you’re laughing at something I said, a strand of words
we’ve both long since forgotten,
and if I could recall what I said
on that rooftop that day in Paris
I could say it again and coax that same
laugh out onto your face

I could just say it, repeat those words, and that laugh would return, right?
and if I said something that would tease laughter anywhere,
then it’s simple—say it again—anywhere

and if I said something that would tease laughter only in Paris ,
then it’s simple—go back to Paris and say it again

It’s simple, right?


a tangle of wild blackberry brambles grows three or
four steps from the back porch—a dozen steps and three
or four breaths farther on is a stream you can cross with
one long stride, unless there’s been rain upstream

one black spruce towers over the west end of this log
house in the clearing—surrounded and secluded by
white pines, red oak, and hickory, tucked into the slope
on the edge of the sheltering, inviolable forest

the dogs run free in the clearing—the folks with the giant
confederate flag strung between two trees are more than
a mile down the road and gunfire from the firing range is
audible only if the wind is strong from the west

the moon lurks behind the ridge, stars romp uncensored and
giddy in the deep-black, unpeopled sky as we walk naked from
the porch, breathe forest through our night skin—we pick
blackberries and wonder if the bear will return tomorrow

if one or two things had gone differently,
this is how it might have been

Tim Poland lives and works in the New River Valley near the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern Virginia where he is a professor of English at Radford University. He is the author of Escapee (America House, 2001), a collection of short fiction. His work has been published in various literary magazines, such as The Beloit Fiction Journal, Timber Creek Review, Literal Latté, The Furnace Review, Rattle, Main Street Rag, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Appalachian Journal, Appalachian Heritage, and others. He is the recipient of a Plattner/Appalachian Heritage Award, and his work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

 Current Issue:
January 2008


L. Ward Abel
Gary Beck
Melinda Blount
Chris Crittenden
Caitlin Crowley
Taylor Graham
Paul Hostovsky
Michael Keshigian
Corey Mesler
Tim Poland