Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet


station to station (2006)

you talk like a train,
railed in from another day’s platform,
choochooing your words to a slow boil
and rattling the hood of your head. then
there’s no braking your steam driven
tongue. once you are in flight
you strew bright jewels on the line that
melt like wax in the heat of your passing
over the tracks, over the tracks, over the tracks.

we think it’s because you rattle about
at home like a lone hornby rail inside a suitcase
in the lost and found
of a quiet cold neighbourhood siding.
your thoughts set like beeswax candles of trapped chatter
stacked neatly,
ready to light the carriage;
waiting for the whistle or a
knock at the door, knock at the door, knock at the door.


Fin (2006)

We had no garden
or words for this small scale event

We could only hold hands
touch the
glass wall of the world
guilty jailers made awkward
by the lack of conventions for
such a ceremony

We cried separately
in different rooms
in order
not to have to discuss it

Barry slipped out in the dark
with a trowel
glinting like a glimpse
of coy in a black pond
to a quiet verge

He may have said some words
as I did once I heard the door close
gently like a mouth

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.

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.

Fossils (2006)

On the other side of that window there
secrets incubate like wall based time-capsules.
Traces were abandoned, mostly unremembered
by me and the other person of interest.

My fingerprints may cling, patient wrinkled fossils
waiting to wake, testify to white-clad strangers
of an ancient private moment, already lost.
The future may uncover more of me than I.

I envy them this clean forensic memory.
Mine has been dusted but no evidence, nothing
admissible anyway, remains to present.
My thoughts I should have bagged and labelled at the time.

Had it been murder, then the scene would be preserved,
but love is left unrecorded, even by me.

Tube Man IX (2006)

He had his trainers’ tongues
poked out, but not at me;
a gesture clean
and dry, pristine
licked flat
against his jeans
turned up, neat pressed
like origami legboats.

I sense it is to do with taste.
That’s what tongues do.
They also flap to scrape a meaning
out of sound, most of the time.

But your feet speak a foreign language
from a city
of young people with fluent toes.

in the passport photo museum (2006)

i met him in the passport photo museum
in the anonymous wing. it was a tuesday.
the walls are black. the tiny photo frames are white.
we examined each other like fresh exhibits.
we were fluent face-readers, so we said nothing,
had already twitch-exchanged that information;
acknowledged a mutual gift from a deaf god.

sometimes the vagaries of fate assume a shape;
inspiral sets of circumstances curve in tight
to a moment, a flashbulb point where lives collide
and heads are frozen while the threads change direction.
we did not speak. thoughts were broadcast to emulsion.

exposing hope to us like an eastmanly host
were ranks of turning points. our nameless witnesses.

monday (2006)

is the struggle to awaken

and appreciate

the metaphor of watching

that poor beetle in the bathtub.

i shoved the tissue under him and

took him to the window.

he thinks i’m god. i’ve taken him

from purgatory to


he’ll tell the other beetles

of my godcup lake of godcoffee

my godly smoke, my godly frown,

my godly morning news

and my noisy godly craps.


i try to climb the god enamel.

god keeps turning on the taps.

marbles (2006)

it can be quite disheartening
losing one’s marbles in a match
one never entered in the first place,
only to come second place.

maybe amazon can mail me some new marbles.
then i’ll get a handle on it
like they promise in the e-mails,
the ones from no one i know.

seconds, minutes, days are manhandled
into the past. the marbles arrive. fed-ex.
i watch for the rematch on the horizon,
a minute speck. my marbles clink in the dark.

remote (2006)

if the mobile were his hand she would
have guided its stroke
like a flesh gillette down her cheek’s garden path
to the throat

but he is distant
like the sound of bells

her earloom spins the whispers
knits them into lips
that can say other things
but with his voice
while he is remote

controlling her expression she
swivels on her seat but nooses her
hair around her finger on
what she thinks is a free hand