Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet

Posts tagged “sonnets

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.

February 2011

I hold you out at my arm and thumb length
the way a long-sighted man might inspect
a business card or a passport photograph
but not because I wish to check these things.
You are a replacement angel I think
sent by social services in grey times.

Somehow you alter my chosen depth of field
and step closer, pushing my elbow down.
Sometimes the moon moves closer to the earth.
There is disruption, oceans rock like old
people in chairs. Waves beat like flat wet hearts
and all our atoms yearn, lean, just slightly.

Don’t come closer, angel. The tide is high.
Stay there. Shed tears of light, my satellite.

My Father’s Ghost (2006)

Seagulls carry the souls of dead sailors
glad overflying the forgiving sands
crossing flightpaths in a random parade
that makes some sense on a basic sea level.

So I welcome their cries. They are unchanged
from a back-in-the-day less conscious life
honking lazily like melted bugles.
He could be there, a free wheeling pilot
skimming the same sea hunting for his friends,

or else he’s with the coal-dyed cormorants
dreaming of mining for fish as they hunch,
wrinkled men gripping slopping pints of brine
clamped on to the crags fearing life might sink
again, like the level in an old glass.

Small Worries (2005)

It’s them, the small worries that clutch tightest;
swish swift like mother’s old wasping machines.
The sound of their wingrustle draws panic;
no words exist to shape out the thorax.
I must find new terms of reference to
just describe. So I cannot, I’m sorry, share this.

I can say sorry. That’s the easy part
but this is just throwing sibilance at the noise.
By now they will have lain eggs in my skin.
I’ll carry those cares like a burdenchild.
For you I want it to be otherwise.
I feel I’ll pregnate you with buzzing woes,
skin eggs, the misery hum of despair.
I know the stings. I would not wish to share.

Sonnets? They’re a bugger.

I struggle with sonnets. I’ve been writing them for years and have had a good few published. I won a cup in 1978 at college – The Bruce Brown Trophy for Poetry – with a sonnet in fact. However, I still feel that the majority are lacking that essential sonnety sonnetness.
They tend not to rhyme although I dare say they might have done at some point. The Bruce Brown one did certainly. I find rhyming sonnets a little clunky, mine anyway. Others have produced fine rhyming flowing pieces of magic but mine don’t seem to evoke a sense of spontaneity.
Anyhoo, I continue, my usual practice having been since about 2006 to write at least one a month, one of them always being named after the month itself and attempting some kind of mood and overview of the current situation.
Consequently I have a hundred and something sonnets only a few of which have been published and fired at the unsuspecting public.
What I feel is that in the main they work better as a group of poems than as stand alone pieces. Does this imply that the sonnets are somewhat weak?
They’re a set of things I keep revising. They often go back into my revision process and there are at least two in my Revision file at the moment. The ones I have abandoned or may have been published end up in this blog, as it gets to the point where I have become so familiar with them that I can’t judge them objectively, coupled with the fact they have usually been rejected a number of times by editors whose judgment I have learned to trust.
I have just been working on one in fact, and finding this one quite exciting after a few changes. I’m toying with the question of whether it needs an overall metaphor and/or more ambiguity. Could I add an extra layer of meaning to it?
If I had to find a metaphor for my relationship with sonnets, I’d choose watercolour painting. I love the medium but I have never mastered the art of it to the point where I am often satisfied with the results. It’s a difficult skill to achieve. You can edit the sonnet, but like a watercolour there is the danger of overworking it to the point where the freshness and vitality of the first draft is lost, and one is left with something dull.
However, I persevere, as I can not stop.
You can view a selection here, or just click the sonnet tag at the foot of the post. Please feel free to leave comments as feedback is good and it’s always helpful to know why someone liked or hated certain pieces.

Lesser Masters (2012)

We wait to see who will make the first move
offering dual sacrifice and threat.
It is a game some say but this is just
a convenient tag to honey life.
This is the bedrock of the human soul,
the war we carry with us from the egg,
embedded in a checkerboard of genes.

I am sometimes white, you often black,
our thoughts in negative across the board
in some antagonistic harmony.
Pawns lumber shivering to work, heads bowed.
Ranks expand to Linked-in, Facebook. Your move.
Knights and bishops gallivanting out now.
You do not see me slip behind the rook.

Fox (2007)

As I savoured the day’s last cigarette
a fox appeared, brazen, from Nando’s yard,
too cocky for one so ill-proportioned,
tongue proffered with a wet invitation
as he turned to gaze at me, appraising
my place in the general pecking order.

He swaggered from the car park then, slunk off
into the darkness like a one-night stand
who’d not even stayed for the entire night
but left while the streetlights were still burning.

I’d seen those eyes before, on a cool prowl
for something uncomplicated, easy,
sweeping languidly around a packed bar,
sometimes from the mirror, bounced back to me.