Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet


In a bad place (2015)

Have you called him?
He is in a bad place right now.
I know how bad the place is.
I have no need to call.
I’m in the next room
with the big light on

the big door locked.

Where is this place
so bad yet with a phone? I can’t
call, no. I am
busy bleeding, well lit.
I’ve been juggling
with worry razors.

They’ve cut the line.


November 2009

This was published in 2011 in issue 8 of the much missed magazine ‘Anon’. I like writing sonnets. I have no idea whether I write them properly or not. I tend to head for fourteen lines and stop when I get there. They seem to get published though so I must be doing something right.

my new hat (2011)

i’ve bought a new hat
wide and black as the night
with a coat to help anchor
the brim to the head.

i can see it from here
broad and felt as an ironed crow
bred to perch on my brow
and croak omens to kings.

it’s not what i’m used to
this hat thing. this hat thing
is loaded with time.
it’s an antique device

that will sepia my head
to the past, not let go.

The Repast (2013)

I’m trying to recall the crime I served
two decades past at some last supper do;
one rabbit short of any sort of pie
in learning interaction. It’s a skill
I never mastered like paella
or how to bake a loyal friendship cake.

He’d always found a way to gnaw right through
since round about nineteen seventy-two

but if I could remember the event
how would it help? How would it drag him back
to suffer my cold sorries on a plate?
He’d likely shrug, then turn back to the dark
not having eaten anything at all
while I’m still searching for the recipe.

Real Gone (2011)

I never saw the need for plastic flowers
but there is one. People somewhere find a
use for solid roses and carnations.
There’s a drive I think within us to replace
what’s real with fabricated copies. Look
at fruit. Why would you need a plastic apple
ever? ‘It’s neither use nor ornament.’
as my Grandma said about my brother’s
fake fur moonboots. Philip K Dick knew that
our world is layered with the less than real
as if a facia had been laid down
over the world replacing all of us.
‘You want to read real booksh,’ said my Grandma
as the steradent frothed around her teeth.

Crewe to Wrexham (2011)

Beyond the border stand the fortresses
grown from each mountain perch with granite seed.
The weather’s worn them to extensions, rough
Constable sketches of their firstborn youth.
Today they clampsleep, molared to the mount,
sugarsoaped of neighbours’ blood and warpaint.
Below, trees yearn to draw some truth or leaves;
pencil fingers scrabbling at the grey.
Now ranges rise embossed to see who’s here,
mist-toned into a page of Dulux shades.
This sunset over fatherland rouses
as we rattle on deeper into dusk,
farther than the Romans ever came
to hills of ‘Bongo Jazz’ and ‘Desert Peach’.

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.

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!’