Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet


Yaroo! Beast! (2016)

Back to Greyfriars I go
welcoming me with plummy words
vowelling in an English limbo

Pupils get hampers
postal orders
Nothing changes
year to year

The boys do Latin prep
a regular prayer
apart from Bunter

Fat face of anarchy

He does not change either
changes nothing but
his yellow jacket
that once smelt of paper and jam
not this kindling coat
that smells of nothing

I say you fellows
outside though
on this side of the wall
Bunters have taken over
fat owls are let loose into the world

Fat faces of anarchy


Hymn No 243 (2016)

Oh Lord above and all around
And inside all our vests
Permeating cavities and
Underneath our breasts

Please take us home when we are dead
And rotting in our coffins
Oh help us not believe the lies
Of evil science boffins

Oh Lord above us in our shoes
And nestling in our pants
Please help us stay in blissful states
Of mindless ignor-antze

Caffe Nero (2016)

I’ve saved my points for a caffeine pension
a free cappuccino.

They remain so far unredeemed
on the coffee grounds that at some
dark roast node of crisis
emotional or otherwise I
may be in sore need
of comfort at a cashless time

or when the Brexiteers
wheel out the excuses trolley
in the sorry season.
‘Sprinkle of chocolate tears, sir?
Dash of lime?’
‘No thanks.’

I’ll save them for the last one
before the coffee is deported
in favour of
some old bean
from a greenhouse in Cheam.

At The Funeral (2016)

Relatives made by Waterford Crystal
see-through, brittle,
briefly consider
deploying belittling
heart seeking missiles

‘appropriate shoes’

targeted at certain folk

but they dread
the shattering blast of the harshspat recoil

and so remain in foxhole silence
until later,

where fresh fuel’s decanted
into rambling tanks.

It’s relatively calm

on the surface.

In the kitchen an egg-timer cousin
sheds her sand quietly
counting down, hissing
grain by camelstraw grain
to the moment
when someone
will mention
the shoes.

The Repast (2013)

I’m trying to recall the crime I served
two decades past at some last supper do;
one rabbit short of any sort of pie
in learning interaction. It’s a skill
I never mastered like paella
or how to bake a loyal friendship cake.

He’d always found a way to gnaw right through
since round about nineteen seventy-two

but if I could remember the event
how would it help? How would it drag him back
to suffer my cold sorries on a plate?
He’d likely shrug, then turn back to the dark
not having eaten anything at all
while I’m still searching for the recipe.

Ordinary Extra (2012)

You are uncredited but present like a clock
or a spouse
your lips contort and pout
the atmosphere in rhythmic shapes
no air comes out
somewhere, again and always;

preserved, barely noticed
like a detail in a wall long known forever
by ignoring eyes most
people do not know they possess.

But if you were missing
we would feel the loss
like the absence of a fridge motor
or the traffic scoring
the night’s supporting feature.

The Missing Moths (2010)

The moths have not come back to me.
I waited pent through June until
the days crisped, brittled, broke apart.
My eyes were patient window locked.

I used to hear the hard thrumming
winged excitement on the glass
or glimpse shadows welcome fleeting
like ghosts from a temp agency.

The light sneers out, corpse calm steady,
gripping the slow beams in waiting
for the tremor soft in the night,
the flutter of the evening’s heart.

hunger (2010)

you come to my head like a hunger
at irrational times of the morning
something that is not a stomach rumbles
into a purr and starts a motor

starts a motor like a drive
and it runs on your voice
dripping into the tank word by word
in a full throaty chuckle

through the hours till lunchtime
minutes flash by like hedgerows
and frightened pensioners
I’m riding pillion on my own thoughts

and thoughts are not enough
I coast through lunch and stop
to park you in some mental garage
walk back to the other side of my head.

Shirt (2017)

Sun comes goes like men
A cold haunting is on me
hanging like a shirt

that’s not been ironed
My justification is
I match the creases

I seldom really
acknowledge the dry clinging
but I know it’s there

It can be seen most
when I am sitting down or
caught in front of glass

I avoid looking
That shock recognition jolts me
like a steam flush burn

All these books (2014)

As if life’s patchwork dentistry
was sorted alphabetically
Aldiss to Zelazny
It’s not how life conducts itself
or books are read
It’s a need to park them thus
tightpacked dentured order

‘Martin Magnus Planet Rover’
William Temple
He’s been slotted
up toward the molars
with Tiptree
Tubb and Tenn and Tolkien

He used to be able
to tell Edgar Rice Burroughs
to keep the noise down

but the years have
yellowed them apart
like paper teeth