Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet



Ode to Philip Glass (2008)


At the Roger Waters concert 18/5/08

All these people
must have their own copy of
‘Dark Side of the Moon’
on CD like me.

My first was a cassette
when I was poor
in Seventy-four
as I imagine her’s was,
the one dancing minimally
eclipsed at the end of an empty aisle.

She’s had the same hair
since Seventy-nine.
It looks like mine
when I replaced it on vinyl.

On the wrong side of the tracks now
she wishes she could go back
there to have it done properly
and talk to the boys
in the common room
when everyone was on
the same side of the wall
and she looked
on the bright side
of the moon

brixton 2016

caribbean drums
hot outside iceland playing
‘waltzing matilda’

our soles slap the street
to crazy flip-flop rhythm
buses twerk exhausts

lorries shimmy in
petrol gridlock sympathy
with this metal rage

australia hears
sends a heart-thump response through
the vibrating world

which lifts us slightly
we float for one metal beat
then mash some pavement

11 January 2016

When the news came on
7 am
I was in bed
far above the world
dark as space
The TV blurred its satellite calls
up the stairs

I touched down to
that face on the screen


The day rolled on under the serious moon
I fed the cat and cleaned the litter tray
then hunted for the words

They all auditioned
Couldn’t make the grade
Are there words on Mars
I could borrow for the day?
The Martians wouldn’t say

So I’m afraid
there’s only this
poor transmission
counting down to the last line

A stylophone accompaniment might help

Heart FM (2013)

Rihanna is God’s way of telling you
to change the channel.
I have explained this
more times than Maroon 5 has been played
on this Fisher Price wavelength.
It’s not even your radio.
It’s Daisy’s.

There’s no explanation
for your choice of station
which offends me more
than bad grammar
on the office toilet door.
It’s just shit on a loop
returning to us via this
generation game style
conveyor belt of
midprice small disappointments.

Why don’t you invest
in some cheap headphones?

Integrity. Get that.

mp3 (2008)

out into the shrouded morning
streaked with branches naked
black and
dripping upwards to
exhaust their twigs on the dirty washing sky
i go
rucksack shouldered creeping like a guilty dwarf
toward the station

music bleeds into my head
has waited till i’ve reached the platform
cellos violins and keyboards painting
over the familiar view

the blistered paint
the dieseled gravel
weary towerblocks as if they’re new
the weeds that huddle tight
between the tracks
and seem to bend on cue before the
wind section
the percussive rattle of
the rails
the full brass train

crashing in
crashing in
crashing in

Bat Out Of Hell (2010)

Whispering Bob Harris is still around,
still whispering, but in a good way.
He had Meat Loaf on live in Nineteen Seventy-Eight
doing ‘Bat Out of Hell’
which they showed on tv tonight
and it drove me back on a harley to that time
I broke up with a man called Aiden
who cried out loud
so I got very drunk at home
put the album on full blast

sang along, then cried myself.

Mr Patel, who ran the newsagent next door
quizzed me diplomatically when I went in
for milk and cigarettes next morning.
‘There was a lot of terrible noise,’ he said.
‘Last night. Much terrible noise.’
‘I’m so sorry,’ I whispered, bob hoarse. ‘I know.
It’s the man upstairs. He drinks.
It’s such a shame.’

Excerpt from my Haiku Diary 13 Nov 2008

November 13 2008

I, leonard cohen,
a bunch of other people
and some good music

How Much Do I Hate Coldplay? #poetry

More than Katy Perry
But less than Les Dennis
Tim Vine and the tennis.
Less than the football
And The Phantom Menace,
A movie that sucked like a Dyson Elite.
More than Eastenders
But less than a tweet
about Bieber. He’s dreadful
and needs to be sent far away.
In space you can’t hear him.
I long for the day
We deal with the dross
of the Earth in this way.

How much do I hate them?
Far less than Kardashians,
Arse hang-out fashy-ans,
Heart FM, Gok;
He’s a pile of Wan sheet
With his smarmy, effete
And annoying demeanour.
I don’t want to look stupid
Just fitter and leaner.
How much? Less than arses;
Scary Spice, Katy Price
And the privileged classes

How much do I hate them?
This much (opens arms).
I’ll never succumb
To their dubious charms.

tom waits is missing (2011)

I was discussing Tom Waits earlier, having today listened to his ‘Real Gone’ album, an amazing bit of American Gothic Blues. I was thinking while listening to it that if David Lynch is stuck for someone to provide additional music for his new ‘Twin Peaks’ series (yes, it is coming back apparently) then Tom would be ideal. Indeed, Tom himself would make an ideal resident for this most surreal of American small towns.
Many years ago, I was having another discussion about music in general and was asked if I had any Tom Waits albums.
‘Yes,’ I replied, quite confidently. ‘I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s a CD with a black and yellow cover.’
Later, the thought of the CD returned to me. After a fruitless search through the shelves, and through my memories to try and recall what tracks might have been on it, I came to the conclusion that I had never had the CD in the first place. Why I imagined I had was a bit of a mystery, but the mind is an odd thing and we can convince ourselves of all sorts of nonsense, particularly in regard to the past.
I started writing a poem about this incident which went through an amazing process of rewrites and revisions over a ridiculous number of years (during which I acquired a ridiculous number of Tom Waits albums and became a committed fan).
Serendipitously, the poem ended up as an extended metaphor for something else completely. It was published by London Grip in 2011.

tom waits is missing

we can’t recite our canon of cds
unless we have just three
or too much time on our hands.

but we know them when we see them
like the faces of celebrity saints
from the hello bible.

i believed
that tom waits was present,
safe as gospel
between the book of verve
and the books of whitesnake
but he’s not.

the title hovers at the edge of recall
like a maddening psalm. it tests my faith.
i pray for tracks
into empty silence, void.

then i reach that point of
shuddering revelation

the liberating moment when
i’m suddenly aware
of the loss of
something that was never there.