Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet

sonnets

i heart you (2010)

the awful power of the internet
is that you can fall in love with people
you have never met, and they don’t just go,
they hang like half-developed polaroids
from freaky washing lines inside your head.

you can give them love, via a website.
three hearts a day. it’s rationed, like the war,
love is. there just may be black market hearts
available from some organ hacker
but I’ll stick with my meagre allowance.

I can spread my love around like butter
on different sorts of man-shaped bread slices
and people send love back, but then they go,
fade like pictures bleached away by sunlight.

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Heads (after George Meredith) (2010)

At last we parley: we so strangely dumb
so blind to one another’s presence here.
The intersecting axes of our lives
whisk us past like moons in tongueless orbit.

We have the other’s face held safe and burned
inside our heads. We know them like the ways
of walking home, the silent threads of known.
We can not let them go. They’ve made their home

within our window’s worldview. On a shelf
there is a line of heads that stretches off
into the past and darkness. You were there,
in line but in the shadow of a moon.

Now words have passed between us, you will shift
out from your dumb neighbours into the light.


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!’


My latest publication – Amaryllis

I’m very happy to report that one of my sonnets has been published today in the wonderful online mag Amaryllis.

Check it out HERE


The Datsun Bluebird (2007)

The emerald plumage clawed at my eye,
bright peacock green, the dent beside the door,
damaged migrant, back from its winter home
like cuckoos do, eyes peeled for likely nests.
Now my phone, buzzing like a robot crow
for attention. ‘I know. I’m on my way.’
although I am not moving, ‘Yes.. Chicken.’
It is! It is! It’s him behind the wheel!
‘OK. I have to go.’ Too late. The slam
is followed by ignition and… he’s flown…
leaving a churned wake of head silt settling
like a shroud of seed on a bluebird’s grave
as outraged pigeons scatter to the roofs.
‘No… Yes… I’m here… Just chicken then?… OK’


the magician’s table (2008)

filtered brita water, this is first, displacing
any air that’s in the chamber, measured
quite precisely by the levels printed clearly
on the window on the side of the machine.

my automated hands take down the airtight
white container and i count out three round
spoonfuls of the coffee, ground, like earth
into the filter. i’m not there, i’m in

the air, transported by the ritual i ride
along the syllables inside my head
while moving through the stations of the process
metered by my breath. i flick the switch

then fire is cabled to a hotplate and the
water sings of time and transmutation.


In bed (2004)

My lover snores beside me in our bed
while I, my back toward him, scribble notes
tuned only to the thoughts inside my head
(My muse is pleased by this and no doubt gloats)

as traffic grumbles past and now and then
a siren woohoos like a camp banshee
whom God has given wheels and speed, my pen
unflinching, scratches on to quatrain three

where great profound important things are said
about the issues that affect us all,
but think instead of pies, the cost of bread
and what that noise is coming from the hall.

The final lines are done, their meaning clear
and yet I feel I’m missing something here.


Cocoa Beach – Nov 2007

Today I took a walk up to the beach
all by myself, to face the Atlantic,
not like the surfers do, all challenging
in-your-wave-face canuteys

but like a supplicant, with reverence.
This if anything is our creator
breaking like a wet heart upon the sand
oblivious to its driftwood offspring.

The exciting thing is knowing all this,
not bothering to share it with the world.
Let them keep their dry bibles and baked words.
I will hold this secret for their children

and the vision of their joyful fathers
skimmed like flat stones over the thoughts of God.


December 2012

Cold, I am told, does not really exist.
It is the absence of heat that we feel.
Cold is the natural state of it all
and we can’t handle it without warm clothes.

There is maybe no such thing as evil
just the absence of goodness in the world.
It is the lack that bites in negative
aching the white to black and black to white.

Heat will seek out cold and try to fill it.
If one puts one’s finger on a cold pane
the heat will drain away into the night.
Later the window will be just as cold.
I think of this, holding you in the night;
the heat exchange, unseen, keeping us good.