Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet


Found speech

One of the benefits – or drawbacks – of being of a certain age and not looking too much like a serial killer is that strangers regularly strike up unsolicited conversations.
Granted they are not always rational conversations, but they nevertheless provide me with a fund of material. I love to write poems based on reported speech and have found lately that one sided conversations can be one of the best ways of presenting them. It prompts the reader to construct another voice, another character, to imagine the missing dialogue.
Two of these have translated into my series of fifty word poem portraits of coffee shop customers one of whom, in an Edgware Road coffee shop recently, told me of the time that he saw Telly Savalas (who was once Kojak on TV in a bygone age) walking down Edgware Road.
On these occasions I do my best to transcribe what was said as soon as possible in order to preserve the rhythm of speech and the syntax.
At other times, often on buses or trains, one hears half of a phone conversation, and this can lead into some interesting territory.
Watch. Listen. Engage if that’s an option. Be nosey.
My justification for this, if I need justification, is that otherwise these things are lost. If I don’t record them, in a year or month even, neither of us will recall what was said. I am saving contemporary life for posterity.

Here’s one, based on an overheard mobile phone conversation from a london bus and published last year in the online mag ‘Message in a Bottle’


so why were you giving me screwface i says?
and she says like, who?
and i says last night.
you was screwfacing me
in the club, yeah? remember,
‘bout quarter to three.
and she says no i weren’t
but she was man, i swear,
then she says she was
screwfacing charlie and claire
but she wasn’t, right, …yeah!
so i says no you weren’t,
you were screwfacing me!
pulling a screwface ‘bout quarter to three,
cos charlie was dancing with fuller, right?
and there’s no way that she was like
screwfacing claire
‘cos claire wasn’t there
so i says to her
how can you screwface thin air?

i know… i know



My Latest Publication – you have to eat (2016)

I had a poem published in Ink, Sweat and Tears this morning. IS&T is an online magazine which has been running for some years ago, most recently with Helen Ivory at the helm.

‘you have to eat’ is one of a series of poems I have written about my mother over a period of some years. I’m thinking I might see how they fit as a collection, although that wasn’t really the intention when I first started writing them. A few have been published in various places, so it might be worth looking into.

Please visit IS&T and have a wander round. Some more of my stuff is in the archives but there’s an awful lot of quality poetry in there too.

Latimer Road (2016)

All these people clumping from the station
In a line like synchopated elk
Clutching things
grumping to their workstalls
where they treadle
at the fingerpedal
with each other.

They bounce a sound that rattles down the archways
the heartbeat of the pavement in the
a splashing drum
it calls the fish into the net
thrumming out the beckon
on the streetskin

come! come! come!

Mother (2016)

her mouth shredding truth into a mic
so bizzy men can build a synthesis of what she means
which is more than we ever could.
They’ve got smart tech
to knead her verbal dough
until it rises into stuff of sense.

They should do those in Argos.

The clicking mouse will nibble
at her logic

slake their appetites for fact.

Reams of words spread over their sheets
like blood at a crime scene waiting
for a trend analyst
to plot trajectories
from a sine word parabola

so bizzy men can tick their boxes
clean and faultless
as a bright machine.

They’ll let her out
She’ll scream

Then shout

An Epic Welsh Poem – The Fast Cat Baristas of Nant-Y-Ffrith

The Fast Cat Baristas from Nant Y Ffrith

The Fast Cat Baristas from Nant Y Ffrith,
Crad From The Prefabs and Simple Keith.
They said they’d been homeless and slept in a cave
between the Nags Head and Elihu Yale’s grave.

They said they’d lived rough, made some drums out of soap
that they’d pinched from the gentlemen’s toilet in Hope,
and had fashioned a mandolin out of a riddle
with the ponch from a dolly tub nailed down the middle.

Jools Holland saw them on Youtube one day
While taking green tea with Jamiroquai’s Jay.
He was touched by their tale of cold nights and starvation,
and how they’d wound up in a Welsh reservation.

They were slaves to the English and forced to make jam
for Jeremy Clarkson and live in a pram
until they were rescued by Bono and Sting
who lured Clarkson away with a pie on a string.

Jools Holland welled up at their plight and their woe
and gave them a slot on his Hootenanny show.
They did ‘Smoke on The Water’, ‘Mull of Kintyre’,
and a Slade song tapped out with a chip pan and fryer.

So Crad From The Prefabs and Simple Keith,
The Fast Cat Baristas from Nant-Y-Ffrith
were thrust into stardom. There wasn’t a week
they weren’t taking green tea with the drummer from Chic.

It didn’t last long though. A man from The Leader
had a chat in The Turf with young Keith’s Auntie Freda.
‘They weren’t homeless at all,’ she said, ‘lived with their mams’
I know ’cause they nicked number twenty-two’s pram

to rattle in time with that Boney M song
they did with Jake Bugg and the bassist from Gong.’
And it didn’t take long for Bono and Sting
to disprove the thing about pie on a string.

They’d been saving rare limpets in Clacton-On-Sea
while taking green tea with Sinead and Jay-Z
and couldn’t have rescued young Keith and young Crad.
Clarkson just tweeted ‘The Welsh are all mad.’

So Crad From The Prefabs and Simple Keith
Went back to their mams in Nant-Y-Ffrith.
Jools Holland blocked them on Facebook and Twitter
while the drummer from Chic just broke down and got bitter,

wailed on Loose Women of lies and deceit
till they cut to an item on Problems with Feet.
Janet Street Porter gave him some water
And he helped to make quiche with Rick Astley’s daughter.

The Fast Cat Baristas aren’t seen any more
except sometimes on ‘RudeTube’ or BBC Four.
But nobody watches those anyway so
they’ve just ceased to exist, like they lived in Caego.

Keith will not speak to ‘that cow’ Aunty Freda
Not after she married the Man from the Leader.
He works for The Sun now. They live in Gobowen
and have lots of Brexit friends coming and going.

Crad’s not too fussed though. He told me last week
he was ‘sick up to here with that drummer from Chic’,
and apart from all that he was never too keen
on tea with no milk and no sugar… and green.

The Beast of Brymbo – a Welsh Epic

The Beast of Brymbo


There’s a one-eyed Dolly Fatleg to the North of Acton Gate
There’s a tavern called the Oak Tree in the town
There’s a Froncysyllte vicar who’s addicted to his liquor
And will baptise Pit Bull Pups for half-a-crown.

There’s a woman with a mangle up behind the Parish Church
Doing things you wouldn’t mention to your Mam
Things concerned with Caego rites and the price of Tesco tights
And the carnal possibilities of Spam.

Oh distinctly I remember that old limp disgusting member
Of The William Aston Women’s Mental Trust.
Her name was Nochty Lil, The Legion Stripper, born in Rhyl,
(She swallowed fire whilst ferrets rummaged in her bust)

She was out one Sunday night, in a crimplene catsuit tight
She’d stuck a rhododendron in her hair
And sparingly she dabbed a little chipfat on her neck
To emphasise a sense of savoir faire

She thought she’d go to Brymbo on the number 15 bus
and have a pint of snakebite in the Tai
Four fish fingers on a skewer, drizzled lightly with Kalua,
Three scotch eggs, some pickled scratchings and a pie.

She was striding through the prefabs when she thought she heard a sound
and was seized by mortal spasms of unease
They started in her elbows, sashayed quickly to her chin
Then absailed down to rumba in her knees.

In the dark she’d heard a moaning from behind the Brymbo Legion;
An eerie wet and nasty type of drone.
A sort of greasy dribble with a cackle in the middle
All encompassed in a terrifying groan.

“Come out!” said Nochty Lil, “If you want yourself a thrill,
“I’m promised in The Oak Tree later on,
I get free pints of Stella if I roll around his cellar,
So what d’ya say?”, but answer came there none

‘Come out!’ again she cried, and with horror then she spied
a shape emerging from behind a Nissan Astra
And growing in her head next to her mounting sense of dread
Was the presaging of imminent disastra.

‘Oh Crikey, by the Crin,’ she wailed. The thing stood by the bin, impaled
her with its eyes of nochty cythraul burning flame.
It was like a fresian heifer standing up, and no she’d never
seen the like of it, not even in Llay Main.

‘You’re that blinking Beast of Brymbo!’ she exclaimed with trembled tones.
‘Him what frightened those two women on the Rock!’
‘Nowt gets past you love, does it?’ said the Beast, pulled out a fag.
‘Now, arve you got a lighter on ya, cock?’

With a shakey hand she fumbled out a zippa from her bag,
got it clicking and ignited his cheroot
which was clamped between his terrifying Beast of Brymbo teeth,
while Nochty Lil was spotted to the root.

‘Oh Mr Beast,’ she cried, ‘Please treat me gentle, I’m a wench
who’s used to quiet ways and calm decorum.
I’ve not had much experience in nochty Beastly ways
except that once with Beryl in the storeroom.’

‘I’m a very simple woman.’ ‘I can see that,’ said The Beast.
‘You’re proper soft. I don’t intend to bite ya,
or use me wiles to charm you with a chicken in a basket
or snog you or in any way excite ya.

‘Those two women on the Rock said they’d had a nasty shock
but their heads were blagged with snakebite from The Tai.
I never said a bloody word. Their accusations are absurd.
I was waiting for a mate to come from Llay.’

‘From Llay?’, ‘Aye, Llay!’ the Beast replied. ‘He’s married to me sister.
You might have seen her. Tall girl. Wears a brace.
They’ve got a little cave in a bush in Cefn y Bedd.
They’re happy but they’re very stretched for space.’

‘Our Bronwen’s got a caravan in Llay,’ said Nochty Lil.
‘Your Bronwen?’ ‘Aye! Quite hefty. Smokes a pipe.
Got no upper teeth from a fight in Nant Y Ffrith.
Gammy leg, the left one. Loves her tripe.’

‘Aye… Well.. Is that the time?’ he asked, not looking at his watch,
‘I’d best be off. It’s nearly half past nine.
I’ve got to do some haunting on the Wonderbank at ten
and I think I’ve left some washing on the line.’

With that he stubbed his woodbine out and said ‘I’d better go.’
Then he gave a wave and stomped off through the privet,
Leaving Nochty Lil in limbo with her shaking legs akimbo
like a mallard perching on an icey trivet.

She stood there for a while with an enigmatic smile
her hand clutched to her crimplene breast and then
rummaged briefly in her bag, did her lippy, lit a fag
and said ‘I’d best get to the Wonderbank for ten.’

abandoned ship (2016)

left out of her depth
her clement element to rust
she cries for help
with words they no
longer manufacture

two nights running
this far whining
metal scriking

like a gunship in perilous
impossible waters
I can not get the parts
to answer her

A Wrexham Poem (2016)

Let us vote for Cerridwen from the Pentre
She’s the one that Wrexham needs to lead.
She’s ok on gay marriage
And she don’t like Nigel Farridge
She’s got the spunk that Wrexham people need.

Let us vote for Cerridwen from the Pentre.
She’ll make them build a hundred thousand homes.
Old people’s flats with warders
and some nice herbaceous borders.
Every garden will be given council gnomes.

So let us vote for Cerridwen from the Pentre.
She’s the best thing since sliced Hodge, I swear to Ianto.
She’ll reverse the referendum,
take the Wrexham laws and bend ’em,
Bring us fish and chips, a pie shop and a panto.

Come on! Vote for Cerridwen from the Pentre
She’ll march us all to Freedom on a donkey.
We’re going to war with Crewe
and the rest of Shropshire too
Chester will be renamed Upper Ponciau.

So please come vote for Cerridwen from the Pentre
She’s promised to bring in a massive range
of measures banning hunting,
Spice Girls, Pokemon and punting.
She’s Labour so she’s bound to make a change.

People Who Look Like You (2016)

One on the Piccadilly line
stroking his i-phone like a pet.
Cool on speed dial.

One outside the San Marino
too tight pants
shoes with dagger toes
(yeah, that’s what I thought)
arguing in Italian
above the coffee’s rage of froth.

there’s the one in Waitrose
who smiled at me
while sorting olives.

I smiled back.

He went away to stack
some crayfish tails
in tidy piles
with rhythmic calm.

I was left
with thoughts of you
the real one.
They are good thoughts
to be left with
in a Waitrose aisle

looking vacant
holding brittle hopecakes
generously beaming out
an international smile.

drift (2016)

the snow keeps falling
and it slows the world
weighing down the minute hands
of town hall clocks,
pulling at the wheels of juggernauts

smothers the dark quickness of our steps with light.
the clatter of haste is
blanket-muffled to a crawl

where sound is steered into a
marshmallow baffle stifled
as if the day grabbed
us by our collars
held its great white finger to its lips.

now between our frankenstein steps
we can let our thoughts drift
and settle over shapes
we didn’t know were there.