Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet


Tube Man with Magazine (2014)

He’s reading Private Eye, he’s laughing.
Everyone can see him laughing.
Laughing when you’re on your own
it shouldn’t be aloud.

I cannot laugh if I’m alone
but this man, grin like a shameless grill, can
staring at his magazine
as if it’s grinning back.

I’d say that he was forty-two
as forty doesn’t scan so well
but should know better even so
and laughing shows his wrinkles up.

He could be thirty three.


All these books (2014)

As if life’s patchwork dentistry
was sorted alphabetically
Aldiss to Zelazny
It’s not how life conducts itself
or books are read
It’s a need to park them thus
tightpacked dentured order

‘Martin Magnus Planet Rover’
William Temple
He’s been slotted
up toward the molars
with Tiptree
Tubb and Tenn and Tolkien

He used to be able
to tell Edgar Rice Burroughs
to keep the noise down

but the years have
yellowed them apart
like paper teeth

The Welsh Grump (2014)

I was grumpy today

grumped by some tickler squatting in my throat
lobbing coughs into the street
that he thought I had no use for.

I wasn’t finished with them.

If I was a scouser I’d be bitter.
Gay scousers do bitter better
than any other city in the UK
studies have shown.

But I’m Welsh.
The grump is subtle
like Anthony Hopkins doing vexed
with the slight teeth grit

the half-lowered eyelid.

that’s life (2014)

the dog
dead for canine generations
said ‘sausages’
became an insect in our amber heads

despite its mayfly youtube
barking shakespeare sonnets
woodturning corkscrew handles
across the twitterverse

people of a certain age
we dinosaurs
still hold a torch
for the cambrian lady
who always wore the same hat

esther rantzen’s teeth
acres of enamel
parcelled into ancient fields

and I like to theorise that
jake thackray
has survived as a species

still gurns his
crow-magnon lips around
such brilliant wordings
that his tongue
lights up the audience

extinct cardigans
all happy as a field of teeth

The Barrowman (2014)

He turns up outside her house, at her work,
She sees him when she’s picking up the kids.
Why should John Barrowman be everywhere?

I saw him on the side of a bus
and grinning from the inside of an
omnipresent ubiquibus omnibus.

The Barrowman turns up in Tesco
when she’s buying turnips
serenading from the widemouth,

warbles while he collects her recycling.

He has a faceful of teeth
stolen from unsuspecting pianos
around the world.

He deodorates her armpits
brushes her teeth.

She looks into the mirror
blinded by the white everywhere
of her grin,
begins to sing.

moonbeam (2014)

wrapped up like a furry danish pastry
then she snores
a harmonium sigh through a bellows

then out with the clawed pistons
and a yawn, back arched
in a pelted sine wave

the tiny tongue curves
in harmony as my love rises
like a stop motion loaf

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?

Learning (2014)

I learnt to write to you in happier days
I forgot to write to you in later days
I learnt to forget you in more recent times
I learnt to remember you in the dark
I learnt to love you in earlier days
I meant to tell you some time one day
I meant to write to you to tell you
I learnt to hold you as a memory
I forgot to hold you some time later
I meant to remember to remember
I meant to write this down at the time
I meant to stop forgetting before it was too late

Rising Fog (2014)

Must go in, the fog is rising.
Things are becoming indistinct
blending into each other

like love and indifference.

Found Woman (2014)

She’s the kind of woman that will bring you down, man. Bring you down…
What perfume is she wearing? It’s called Febreze.
She can’t stand ginger people.
She doesn’t mind Leslie, but she’s an exception.
She knows what she is.
She’s an alpha female and she likes it.
She sellotaped her face to a dog.
It’s quite cool using her car… because she’s got one of those disabled stickers
She’s a size 12, but she can be a size 8 any time she likes.
She calls her dad Wallet and her mum Laundry.
She was also on the 43 bus when that thing happened
and she’s teaching me
how to use ugly men for money and shoes.

This was published in Magma 57 a couple of years ago. It’s called ‘Found Woman’ because each line is taken from verbatim speech reportedly overheard on the London Underground. For a while these small out-takes from random conversations were published on a website called ‘The Man Who Fell Asleep’ (as I recall. I may be wrong)
Going through the archives I selected excerpts that either began with the word ‘She’ or contained ‘she’ within the reported speech.
The result has become an amalgam of around a dozen talked-about women, a Bride of Frankenstein character with whom, despite her flaws, I really would like to go out on the town.