Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet

Poetry

the neighbour’s cat (2016)

black and white cat
trap patient
set waiting on the child high wall
furred flat by sun.
a young boy’s scream
‘that cat scared me!’
registered, is unacknowledged.
an eyelid raises
fractionally
a claw sighting
then slowmo droops
slides to the lock position.

she’ll get him on his way back.

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ramadan (2016)

at ramadan
the coffee shops
cups abandoned
starving chairs
nurse these empty bears
smoking to themselves outside
to eat the time
till dusk
fretting worry beads
through fast fingers
as the sun proceeds to set
sweating a drop
down the sky’s dry face
pulling the blind
on their patient will


August 2010

I steal these faces from random strangers
rendered mute by heat and humidity.
Patient one-eyed predator, I pounce,
ferry expressions home in a black box,
stash them neatly labelled with the rest,
a hide where August nurtures a flint heart.
Glints of winter wriggle out through the cracks
to the sunshine, steal the shape of rain
through the window, bouncing mad on the slate.
The sun returns but the heart remains chill.
My thoughts skirt round it like a survey team.
Where is the source? It shows no signs of thaw
reaching out to grab September’s shirt tails.
The faces point. It’s lodged behind my ribs.


perseus’ camera (2008)

i shot her on the third floor landing,
‘look to the sky and see angels’ i said.
i can only work with sounds
i hear music in a fan motor.
my ears have knives
that carve sense out of white noise,
shape something
that could be jazz from the next flat
or a badly tuned radio station
playing big band music
into the voice of a ghost poet

she once said
‘clouds are a kind of white vision;
the rorschach test of the gods.’
some turn them into faces or giraffes.
i snap at eyelids raising like a curtain,
hoping i’ve trapped it
along with the reflection of the skies.

like perseus i cannot see it directly.
gorgons or angels
reflect from other people’s eyes.


dream monkey (2009)

i’ve painted a mandril behind your head
glaring out from your dream
watching your eyelids tremble

i’ve tasked him to guard your thoughts
when you’re not awake
his pupils bleed oiled orange

sits soft in a jungle, moonlit
half-dissolved in shadow
so not to frighten other dreamers

rough paw clutches silk pillow
long mask face tilts like a threat
balanced. it could fall either way

but behind that, miles beyond his warpaint
there’s a calm wilderness where nothing
uses words or mobiles


The Drowning Man (2008)

You remind me of that bible story about the drowning man
who expects God to save him.
He dies and asks why God didn’t save him
and God says ‘I sent you a motor boat and
a helicopter.’

You’re quite right
There were no helicopters in the bible…
Or motor boats.

It must have been made up later,
after helicopters were invented,
but that’s not the point.
The man did not see that God was
trying to save him.

Well, yes, the man was dead
when he found that out.

I don’t know how we know
what God said, but that’s not the point.

It’s a story.

I don’t see what’s funny about that!
You should be drowning, not laughing.


1 am (2016)

I think of you at 1am
when heat can’t get to sleep

will not rest till the rain’s come home.

You’re a call to the head.
I have no voicemail there.

On Radio Four a man is telling
a story about a spider in a tower
who only speaks the language of itself

can never learn another.

A man climbs the tower.
He knows only the language of shoes

or so I remembered,

as I fell asleep at this point

sweated hot rain

dreamt of someone else.


Preparing for the onset (2014)

I should make a list
of the people I despise
in case I forget;

start being pleasant.
It’s a side effect of this
I never thought of.

But if i forget
where the list is, or that there
was a list. What then?


the chief petty officer (2013)

your anger’s like the water in an argos kettle
battering its fists on a cheap lid.
your mouth can’t help it
lets go of anything
not loose lips so much as careless.
they just don’t care.

those socks do you no favours either.
your moaning; it’s professional.
i’d pay good money for someone like you
to moan on my behalf

with your round flat face
like a platter of fried grouch.

there must be good money in that.
you should look into it.


September 2009

Summer decays like a love unreturned.
Greens will fume to bruises, gaping scars
vexing warm with rage till they crumble, just
something we want to pass away, to die.

Half of September left now, the sun’s heart
still rages red, but waning. It lessens
like pain from a burn or a wound. He drags
his hot feet, gone all awkward to leave us.

I imagine me, holding my back to you.
We can’t set the leaves from their crimson turn
before they bleed into forgetfulness.
‘Oh well,’ they say, ‘That’s life,’ through parchment lips.

I count the leaves like sheep that will not jump,
or even try. Just wait there, shaded. Stained.