Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet


weathering (2016)

these headstones
gaussian blurred
by time’s brassrubbing
into something it can recognise
without those edges
those words slicing sharpness that
it can never
curve the smooth rumba past

the dead are slowly worn
to forgetfulness
ground ground
as memories are sanded down
rounded into
dream bokeh
mossy grain


kfc (2016)

he tripped in kfc
milkshake lava slowmo foaming
over tiles
then staff erupting
efficient termites
sprouting buckets, mops, signs and smiles
tackling this vast disaster
fretting milkshake from the grouting
‘do I get another milkshake?’

I’m still waiting there to order
while they’re making molehills
into milkshake mordor mountains.

the neighbour’s cat (2016)

black and white cat
trap patient
set waiting on the child high wall
furred flat by sun.
a young boy’s scream
‘that cat scared me!’
registered, is unacknowledged.
an eyelid raises
a claw sighting
then slowmo droops
slides to the lock position.

she’ll get him on his way back.

ramadan (2016)

at ramadan
the coffee shops
cups abandoned
starving chairs
nurse these empty bears
smoking to themselves outside
to eat the time
till dusk
fretting worry beads
through fast fingers
as the sun proceeds to set
sweating a drop
down the sky’s dry face
pulling the blind
on their patient will

1 am (2016)

I think of you at 1am
when heat can’t get to sleep

will not rest till the rain’s come home.

You’re a call to the head.
I have no voicemail there.

On Radio Four a man is telling
a story about a spider in a tower
who only speaks the language of itself

can never learn another.

A man climbs the tower.
He knows only the language of shoes

or so I remembered,

as I fell asleep at this point

sweated hot rain

dreamt of someone else.

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.