Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet


The Last Two Nine Five (2006)

As I begin this
the last Two Nine Five slips by like an opportunity,
marking its passing with a diesel sigh.
My guilty windows shudder a reply,
a morse goodbye which the bus ferries
off as an extra passenger
all the way to the terminus.

I recall my last trip to the stop
before the river, clutching clanking beers.
Your windows on the left like mine
their triffid-rattled welcomes to a strange wind,
the motor rolling away like the end
of a seventies single
into the general hiss of the world.

If you ever read this
the engine’s farewell may not ring a bell.
A thousand journeys have rattled your windows
with cargoes of stories since then.
I am melted into the white noise
of the end of the cassette tape
that braked the wheels to a stop.


susceptible (2013)

I get really fuzzy ITV and a bit of BBC1.
one in each eye
usually independently
but sometimes both at once.

I’m susceptible the doctors say
following intensive probes and
initial disbelief.
I’m receptive
to broadcast modern culture.

If it gets serious, they say,
I could start getting channel 5.
That’s the worst case scenario.


Christmas is coming, very very very fastly.
But panic not, readers! There’s still time to order that extra-special gift for a loved one, and what says ‘I love you more than kittens at xmas’ better than a book packed with poems about nuns. Buy one now.

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December 2012

Cold, I am told, does not really exist.
It is the absence of heat that we feel.
Cold is the natural state of it all
and we can’t handle it without warm clothes.

There is maybe no such thing as evil
just the absence of goodness in the world.
It is the lack that bites in negative
aching the white to black and black to white.

Heat will seek out cold and try to fill it.
If one puts one’s finger on a cold pane
the heat will drain away into the night.
Later the window will be just as cold.
I think of this, holding you in the night;
the heat exchange, unseen, keeping us good.

February 2011

I hold you out at my arm and thumb length
the way a long-sighted man might inspect
a business card or a passport photograph
but not because I wish to check these things.
You are a replacement angel I think
sent by social services in grey times.

Somehow you alter my chosen depth of field
and step closer, pushing my elbow down.
Sometimes the moon moves closer to the earth.
There is disruption, oceans rock like old
people in chairs. Waves beat like flat wet hearts
and all our atoms yearn, lean, just slightly.

Don’t come closer, angel. The tide is high.
Stay there. Shed tears of light, my satellite.

My Father’s Ghost (2006)

Seagulls carry the souls of dead sailors
glad overflying the forgiving sands
crossing flightpaths in a random parade
that makes some sense on a basic sea level.

So I welcome their cries. They are unchanged
from a back-in-the-day less conscious life
honking lazily like melted bugles.
He could be there, a free wheeling pilot
skimming the same sea hunting for his friends,

or else he’s with the coal-dyed cormorants
dreaming of mining for fish as they hunch,
wrinkled men gripping slopping pints of brine
clamped on to the crags fearing life might sink
again, like the level in an old glass.

Small Worries (2005)

It’s them, the small worries that clutch tightest;
swish swift like mother’s old wasping machines.
The sound of their wingrustle draws panic;
no words exist to shape out the thorax.
I must find new terms of reference to
just describe. So I cannot, I’m sorry, share this.

I can say sorry. That’s the easy part
but this is just throwing sibilance at the noise.
By now they will have lain eggs in my skin.
I’ll carry those cares like a burdenchild.
For you I want it to be otherwise.
I feel I’ll pregnate you with buzzing woes,
skin eggs, the misery hum of despair.
I know the stings. I would not wish to share.

i hate you more than (ii) – (2004)

i hate you more than
naff net curtains, suits from burtons,
uncertain taxi drivers, bald
connivers of bad prose
and small ugly children
lined up in
local beauty shows…

and i really hate those.

i hate you more than
cadgers at the fag break, christmas cake
baked for decades till
its crust can
theoretically resist the thrust
of a builder’s hardest

and more than rhyl.

i hate you more than
germaine greergorian chanting,
films with hugh grant in,
holy nutters ranting about
god’s plan
outside the burger van
on goldhawk road.
more than jehovah’s witnesses,
jordans, abby titmusses,
and itv at christmasses…

but not much more.

i hate you more than tracy barlow,
plays by marlowe, royalty from
monte carlo, oven chips and
turkey ham, any form of home-made jam
but never spam. i like me spam,
a spamaholic me,
i am. just ask me mam.

but anyway

i hate you more
than channel four’s new breakfast show,
more than the corrs, revolving doors
and people with only one
name and bogs on three floors,
more than people who say
‘you know what i mean?’
more than the tescos self-service machine
or those special needs twats with
the britney gene;
the pope, tracy emmin, small dogs and
the queen….

ok… maybe the queen has the edge.

scissored legs (2004)

with scissored legs she slashed toward the dim
one hour wick. eyes peeled to bleed;
saw cartwheels turn in shirts of gloss,
fast fashions rise and fall like panting chests.

greenhouse flotsam blessed her feet.

he watched her navigate the wounded fragments
slicing thighs that scythed the wily lawn
through the dank oiliness of artichokes
having cut
through riser strokes of flitting,
she stops with scalpel foot
to mark her sharp retreat.

the air she trills with razor notes,
to this herbaceous border bound
and there lays bladed glassy
eggs of grass
and makes no further sound