Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet


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

tube man VIII (2006)

she kissed him and she left him
and he sat back down.
i watched the reflection of her face
squeegee right to left
across the carriage window as
he waved, warily,
knowing he would be left alone
with strangers who
had seen him wave;
to suffer their silent
of his hand technique
and hesitation.

no i did not get your e-mail (2006)

no i did not get your e-mail
yes i know it’s in your sent box
as you told me when i saw you
and i said that i would check.

no i haven’t checked my voicemail
but i’m speaking to you now so
i will look into my e-mail
while i have you on the phone.

no i do not have your e-mail
yes i know it’s in your sent box
we’ve been through all this already!
i just did! i did! i checked

and i still don’t have your e-mail
and i know you don’t believe me.
you don’t say it, but i feel it
there’s no need to doublecheck

but i do. i check the junkmail
though i know that i don’t have to
but you make me doubt my senses
so i have to check what’s real

and i still don’t have your e-mail
though i stare i cannot see it
and i feel your disappointment
through the dead tone down the line.

online philosophy (2006)

i said to him that
god must have had a good day when he made him
which confused him
until i said to him that
when god’s in a bad mood he
makes ugly people

later, offline, i theorised that when god
makes ugly people he might
slyly squash the souls of a few
pretty ones
till they twist to bitter shapes
like squeezed lemons
then when he’s calmed down
he takes the souls of ugly people
and moulds them
into light and joyous souffles.

a balance is restored.

then i had to IM him to tell him that
if god never had bad moods
we’d all be the same
like daschunds or ford anglias.
god’s bad moods promote diversity.

then he messaged me and said that
god must have made me when he was drunk
and i saw him wink
from behind the icon;
felt the smile bounced into god’s beard

streamed back to me.

mutants (2006)

we’ve got mutants in our street
they seem nice enough.
they’ve had a house. our celine’s been
waiting with her legs
for two years with no joy,
and the mutants have had one.

no i don’t know where they’re from.
it might be buckley, i don’t know.
i’ll have to check the paper,
what it said, but they’ve got powers,
yes… yes…
mutants do. i know.

they seem nice enough but
i don’t want our kids
playing with their kids,
turning their heads…
that’s probably one of their powers;
head turning.

either of our heads might have
been turned already
during breaking bad or on the bus.
it doesn’t bear thinking about,

but they seem nice enough.