Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet

2009

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

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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.


the golden age (2009)

half my life is lived in space
between the stars, between the painted covers
of a thousand books
by writers mostly dead.
i never feared, but boldly tread
the paths that sorns and triffids trod.

the golden age of science fiction
is they say when you’re fourteen
if so, i’m still there behind that door
in seventy-four;
my mother’s platitudes about ‘fresh air’
falling on creatures with no ears
who followed me around for years.

the other half is lived down here
between the stars of the apprentice
and my patient human lover,
walking round this planet laughing
at stupidity and strife.
i’m an astronaut with a bag for half a life


Landscape Photography (2009)

I need the venture to photograph myself
face the lens boldly
an old mountain
trying to forget what I can see
the crevices
the overhangs of jaw

I’ll direct light on the north face
to catch an aspect, leave the rest concealed
unrecall it further distanced
into continents of white
rising from an inkdeep sea

I have to learn geography and me
cross the pass of exams
face my face
I could have foreign parts
I need to know
the lay of the land
‘so’ I tell myself ‘face it
it’s come to this’

to forgetting who I am
look at this face as a new place
a random set of shapes
that upsets me for no reason
like a map of home


The Fly (2009)

we were led to believe he was running
when he was found.
the impacted body of a large fly
was discovered on his left spectacle.
impacted, yes.
one of them at least had been travelling at speed
both heading toward death
at more or less the same instant.

why were they both in such a hurry?

we were led to believe the deaths were simultaneous
or why would he continue running
with a large dead fly obscuring his sight?
why would a fly divebomb into a dead man’s glasses
at high speed?

‘we can but speculate,’ said the coroner,
with no hint of irony,
‘as to what happened immediately after the collision occurred.
the fact of the collision itself is irrefutable.’

afterwards they brought me the glasses and the fly
in a sealed bag
as if this could serve
as some mute conjoined witness
to lead us to believe an absurdist truth
and bring us closure.


Four Days of Christmas (2009)

‘Westfield Christ—‘ I read
through a window at Wood Lane,
like it was a sign.

Mormons at the door
spoiling everyone’s Christmas
with religious talk.

Snow is making threats
of invasion. Advance troops
are already here.

Bags of alcohol.
I used all my nectar points.
‘Westfield Christ!’ I said.


Food Chain (2009)

That expression
vulnerable to predators
hovered far too long beside her monitor;
a hummingbird
ears a mere blur
about to turn or dip for nectar

exposed and trapped

as the world stopped to hear her heartbeat.

Panicked into its thrum
she fled into her mask
zipped away to a hubbub hide
a smalltalk undergrowth
away from the desks.

The others, worrying at the bones
of a Masterchef discussion
cackled, hooted, snapped and
scrabbled for some level in the order

had missed the moment.

I have my kill concealed
among the roots
swivel chairs, wheels, power cables
to savour later when they’ve all
gone home to roost.


may 2009

dusk has been dragged back to the watershed
surprising us all, as it does each year.
dusk; a word most suited to its meaning,
hushing the day as light begins to fade.

the low sun bowls light as a passing gift,
paints everyone stretched across the city
all the same colour now. all just shadow,
lightless, godless and free to wander off.

my shadow fingers stretch out, reach the post.
someone wants to buy my work. i blush, bloom
against a blue background. i become dusk.
my words have shadows stretched across the world.

but night is coming, washing all away.
night will hide my blush, my words, my small shame.


why no one has sex in january (2009)

sun, you are distant
as a man thinking of rough
sex while drinking tea

and even if i
were sat at the same table
the distance is there

only to be crossed
in a mythical rocket
and i don’t have one

i could think about
rough sex while drinking tea but
it would be my tea

the distance remains
a tenuous warmth of steam
hanging between us


Give us a Sign (2009)

Still no sign of God.
I’ve called and left messages
and had no reply.

I even prayed for
a valid e-mail address
that I could write to.

He should move with the times
in a mysterious way
but mostly forward,

set up call centres,
Mumbai and New Delhi.
We could ring and

complain to ofGod
if we can’t get a response.
Then they can fine him.