Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet

how your heart works/how your heart goes wrong (2007)

it was a cross section in restful pastels
with arteries sprouting wide-throated
as if they were the spouting mouthspokes
of a wet self-playing bagpipe
with a constant beat,
a disney organ which, if animated,
would bounce and oompap,
invisible notes squeezing up the pipes
like tennis balls in a snake’s belly
to escape

but where are the three-fingered hands
that clutch at strings
or carry the torch
or hold a love so tight and long
it petrifies into a stone fiction,
it makes the heart go wrong


Published in The Rialto, June 2007, this was the point where I felt I was actually getting somewhere. It is based around a poster I saw in my Doctor’s surgery which was titled ‘How Your Heart Works / How Your Heart Goes Wrong’ and featured an illustration of a multicoloured organ far too cheerful to be the muscular beast that had been pumping blood around my body for the best part of fifty years. The title stuck in my head and began – as these things tend to do – to suggest other meanings.

This was not my first publication in print, but certainly the first in a respected literary magazine, and because of this, it holds a special place in my wet self-playing bagpipe. 


2 responses

  1. This is stunning. This is how I would like to write.

    August 14, 2015 at 8:12 pm

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