Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet


serial killers (2008)

we like watching things about serial killers,
the fictional kind, not the ones on the news.
they’re always dead clever and manage to cope with life
better than people who don’t kill at all.
some are artistic, they paint and write operas.
they cook gourmet food, and not only the cannibals,
never have council tax problems or find
that their broadband rate’s just not what it should be.
we wonder if murder just makes you efficient
and able to deal with the death of the hours
spent in working and queuing and waiting for gasmen.
i don’t get so much from this killing of time.


The Fossil Record (2008)

Cleaning the bathroom
I find dinosaurs that have gathered near the sink
with a collection of pebbles and driftwood,
glance at that painting
of a man I do not know
like a coloured bribe. Guilt-edged.

Earlier, there was smoked salmon
laid lovingly on a crumpet and
consumed in silence
although true silence
is seldom ever achieved.
There’s the inner voice
that whispers just below the surface
as I scrub the brontosaurus,
like pipes or fossils

a sound, waiting to be found,
ball ends of sentences snapping into sockets.

I rinse my hands
watching my words disappear behind the whorl
telling their own short stories
as they rumble away.

Another crumpet, I think.

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

bag for life (2008)

is it worth me buying a bag for life?
i’m wondering, having wandered
into my gloomy place.
i got some free ones anyway
before they started charging
so i wandered out again and wondered
whose life they were basing it on.
someone terminal, i’m thinking
who’s got just enough time for a cruise
round the med and
most of the next x-factor.
i’m also wondering, while wandering
back to my gloomy place again
how many people have died since
they bought a bag for life, and whether
whoever inherited it actually uses it
what with the associations and all.

i’m wondering why that thought makes me smile
as i wander out again.

custard creams (2008)

i was standing there in sainsburys
custard creams clutched to my bosom
waiting patient at the checkout
when you came to stand behind me
and i turned and caught your eye and
‘i would like to see you naked!’
said my brain without me thinking.

thankfully my tongue was sleeping
and therefore missed the headsaid words.
‘next please!’ we shuffled forward like
a worm in waves of clothes and shoes.
then you came to stand beside me
at the next adjacent checkout.
‘i would like to see you naked!’
said my head again more loudly.
i didn’t think you heard my head
but turned in any case and smiled.

i thought of you that evening as
he sat and ate his custard creams.

I will make you happy (2008)

I will fry you hope for breakfast
the smell of which will
rouse you from your slumber of a hundred years.
This will last you through to lunch.
I’ve packed you joy wrapped in Warburtons.
You must eat the filling
but may throw the bread to the ducks
who don’t need joy or hope.
They have tourists and office workers.
Then, in the evening, before you begin to flag
I shall transport us to another universe where
monkeys rule the earth and carve
intricate lovespoons from
the wood of jilted trees;
homes long abandoned
by the planet’s fickle bees.
You may take one and scoop ice-cream
from a conch that the monkeys scrubbed clean
because they owe me from an incident
long ago that
you don’t need to worry yourself about
and which was resolved
to everyone’s satisfaction.

Silent Movie (2008)

On the fingertips of a spiral arm,
one of four hundred billion gleaming points
orbiting a centre we’ll never reach
whose glory broadcast for our reception
before the dinosaurs passed. At its fast
heart beats an unseen singularity.

There space and time have collapsed, conceived a
nothingness, deleting solar systems
as a candle deals with dust, oblivious,
mindless as the place where prayers go to die.

Please don’t ask why. Why should there be a why?
Just worship what there is. The stars are just
recordings from the sky in silent screen.
They could dead by now, and we so small.

Southall Park (2008)

‘Why is it,’ he asked, ‘when I ask British
people ‘How are you?’ they say ‘Not too bad’?’
So I told him it’s part of our culture
as if to express any joy would be
just showing off and letting the side down.
He is Indian and held my hand a
bit longer than British guidelines recommend.
It is too close, too pleasant a gesture
and could be construed as intimacy
but I did not let go, as I should have.
And so I rambled on about our ways
but could not say why I am struck like this
so grateful for a touch, this honest warmth.
‘I’m not, then, not too bad,’ I said. ‘I’m great!’

outside (2008)

i came out for cigarettes to sky
and realised if i
painted the separate blues between the branches
i could snare the tree in its own net,
and as i noticed this, as
i stood smoking on the brink of the kerb
the world’s curved blade span beneath me
cutting into the night

exposing a shared cold
stitched through the hunched shoulders of
men grimaced against the wind,
and it warmed me, this brethren
blown in over the fields
of bricks and knives to slice us
like subway wraps
and push us together.

strangers (2008)

he’s a stranger but no stranger
than the man who calls me ‘dad’
or the screaming brixton woman
– like a munch without a frame
barbara steele without the fame –
or the man who lugs the crucifix
through shepherds bush on saturdays
like someone’s going to nail him to it right there
on the green.

he’s a stranger but no stranger
than the man who said that aliens
had told him he was jesus.
they were coming back to get him.
if they did he didn’t say.

he’s a stranger but no stranger
than the woman at the station
who has told me seven times that she’s been
mugged and can’t get home.
‘you keep on coming back though.’
and she stares across my shoulder
pleases wheezing like the slow death
of a bellows
so i give her what i can.
she goes into a pause/rewind,
restarts where she began.

he’s a stranger but no stranger
than the man i see each morning
who says nothing but just watches.
frowns and bares his teeth.
he can’t be arsed to shave most days
his skull is mapped with whites and greys
an ice age coming to his head
he stares and stares and nothing’s said
not even ‘bugger’ on a whim.

what would a stranger want with him?