Silver Branch series
“I am at heart a chaos poet. I seek the underlying pattern. Sometimes a word or a phrase, a couple of bars of music. Then writing frantically to capture the words.
Now the difficult part. I craft the poem, over and over until I can do no more.
As the process unfurls, I cut away many of the words and phrases that formed the poem. My work changes drastically, as if on its own journey. New stories wrap themselves around the existing structure.
Then everything clears and I see the sense of it.
The process remains within its own metaphysical boundaries."
Photo credit: Min Tabb
Dai Fry grew up in Swansea. He now lives in Dorset, staying as close to the sea as he can get. Primarily a poet, he works within a wide range of themes but always returns to the old familiar loves: sea, space-time, physics, ancient cultures and all the unanswered questions. He has recently started writing creative non-fiction pieces focusing on his childhood in Tycoch, Swansea, some of which is featured here.
His work has been published online and in print most recently in Black Bough Poetry, Failure Baler and Re-Side. Due to be published in Fevers of the Mind Poetry Digest and Poems from the Heron Clan. Currently, Dai is working with a Swansea based artist, Graham Parker. They hope to exhibit next year.
Souls roam through a spirit underland,
Neolithic warriors weave their dreams.
Deserted, lost to cities of the heart
as star-dead rivers flow, thick into the black.
Gods were worshipped here,
secret ways all absent from maps.
Stone gardens, forgotten laments.
Under rock and wood henge,
no horizon or silver moon shines.
Here trees whisper without voice,
Hyphae carry stories and sustenance.
Underland, geology folds deep.
Listen to a sough of wind,
a caress of dark imaginations.
Published in Black Bough poetry's 'Deep Time' volume 1
In the long earth, a spirit
breaks soil, casts a shadow
Under Majorelle skies. In these
windy daisy lands, I dance alone.
Sky larks sing to dry grass nests.
Their hymn, bright song, my muse.
Russet and green leaves applaud,
crown shakes in rapturous dance.
For the tree that moves,
remains a tree at heart.
Published in Black Bough poetry's 'Deep Time' volume 2
Deep Go Our Roots
An age progressed.
Not years of rock
but by a measure of forest,
beard of the earth.
This temperate land
rooted deep in seasons.
Summer burnt, wind-whipped,
showered by rain.
Under sun and sister stars,
far-sighted leaf crown.
In a forest tangle,
the green man holds court.
below this weathered sky.
Published in Black Bough poetry's 'Deep Time' volume 1.
Yule, mischievous winter sprite,
Enters the world
Through a child’s eyes.
Forest pine, coal smoke
And winter spice.
Sugar mice with their
Fairy kisses, lashes flutter as
Three ships sail closer,
Wearing their new coats of snow.
Published in Black Bough poetry's 'Christmas and Winter' edition 2020.
The Fry brothers
A TYCOCH CHRISTMAS DIARY
SUNDAY 22nd DECEMBER.
The house is different today, full of new smells, unusual and exotic. There are sprigs of freshly-cut, wild holly, their stems jammed behind familiar pictures. The holly is special as it has yellow berries and tinsel woven around the edges. Mum found it in a secret place. More holly is sellotaped to the doorframes and on the large pine table are coils of paper chains: yellow, red, green and blue. Under Mum's direction, we continue to lick and stick. Already prepared are paper lanterns and rows of pixies holding hands.
Mum is 'boiling' cider on the stove. There are cut oranges and sticks floating in the pan. It smells delicious. There is real Christmas magic in the kitchen today. A homemade yule log sits in its glory on the table. Decorated with holly and tinsel, pine cones are painted gold and silver (it had taken them weeks to dry) and a candle at each end. Making its annual appearance from an old brown box are faded tissue-wrapped angels that spin over candlelight and strike their gold brass bells.
This evening, it’s baked beans on toast and I get the crust. Butter melts as the toast soaks up the sauce. For pudding, we devour chilled stewed apple and sultanas with the thick, creamy part of the top of the milk.
MONDAY 23rd DECEMBER.
Dad and I drive to the forest near Penllergaer woods. We open the windows and tie the tree to the roof with ropes running through the car. On the drive home I hear the tree moving. Dad tensions the rope with one hand, steering with the other. I do the same in the back. I can feel it bucking like a wild bronco. Back at home, Mum is sitting at the table wrapping cigarettes, whiskey and boxes of chocolate. I casually smoke a chocolate cigarette leaning against the door frame, just like Cary Grant. Mum says his mum was Welsh. I know he's American.
There’s still shopping to be done in the corner shop on Tycoch Square as the shelves will be thinning fast. A little later in the village shop with Mum, we scramble past the once-packed shelves desperately searching for bread, eggs and cheese. They still have a big round of cheddar and Mum buys 8 ounces. She also gets the last white loaf. They put it under the counter for her because she’s their favourite customer. Three tins of Baxter’s soup and the eggs and she’s finished. The butcher has already delivered the chicken and the ham so we can go home now.
Mum gives me two gob stoppers in a white paper bag. Not for the car though, far too dangerous. There will be no more food in the shop for five days so Mum will probably have to bake a loaf after Christmas.
TUESDAY 24th DECEMBER.
By the fire, a carrot, mince pie and a large schooner of sherry. Outside night's dark cloak draws in. Santa’s letters have been sent and now we are full of stew and fizzy lemonade, the excitement unbearable. A bar of chocolate is shared and stockings tied to the bed posts. It’s raining outside but still we pray for snow.
Tonight, as a very special treat, I’m allowed to stay up and watch Christmas Carols from Cambridge on the BBC. I’m so excited that I don't think I’ll ever sleep. But then Dad comes in with a bottle of 'Oblivon' and a spoon.
WEDNESDAY 25th DECEMBER.
I didn’t hear Santa last night. In fact, I didn't even dream. Now I can feel the stocking lumpy, full and exciting, draped like a dog across my legs. I struggle through a haze of sleep and pull out the contents but they keep catching in the cotton mesh of my stocking. A comic, a puzzle and some chocolate coins in another golden net. A pink sugar mouse with a string tail. I try to bite it. Too hard. I open a screw top tube of bubbles and watch them float as I blow. In a blue box with gold writing, a real thrill as I have my very own Timex watch. At the bottom, as usual, a fat tangerine squats like a toad.
I missed my breakfast. Presents are opened. I get a Spirograph and a battered old box of shiny Meccano, complete with tiny brass nuts, bolts and washers. No time to play now but later I will build a tower.
Dad drives the Zephyr Zodiac up the hill to the Red Hospital. It’s a fantastic car, half blue, half white, with a gear changer on the steering wheel. It also has a secret screw cap under the number plate where you put the petrol in. Today’s visit is a special treat. As I am now 10 years old, I get to go with my dad on his Christmas ward round. Simon and Nick are still too young, but I am really quite grown up.
As we drive through the gates, my eyes are drawn down the hill and over the town. You can see Swansea Bay with its belching chimneys at one end and Mumbles Head at the other. Swansea is the biggest bay I have ever seen, like Botany Bay where Captain Cook first made landfall in Australia.
We drive on past the hospital church, dark, red and gloomy, towards the huge, square, red brick water tower. Dad parks with a flourish in his parking space and we go in. Down endless brightly-tiled corridors through the giant black rubber doors with little plastic windows and on to the first ward. Dad tells me that the rubber doors are designed to push beds through.
Each ward has its own Christmas tree, thousands of Christmas cards, giant paper bells and tinsel. They each have a full-sized billiard table where the nurses can play if they’ve worked hard enough. We visit about eight wards. In each one dad drinks a large sherry and I have a glass of pop. The drive home is very very frightening indeed and I feel sick.
I was sick on the lino and mum was cross. It wasn't my fault. Even the Queen failed to cheer her up. Roast chicken for lunch, a very special treat. Stuffing, roast potatoes, sausages, sprouts, too much to mention. Crackers and Christmas hats. I get a pencil sharpener and a joke. There’s a bottle of Mateus Rosé for Mum and Dad. Then the candle on the Yule log sets the tinsel on fire. Mum puts it out with a glass of water. She's looking a bit more cheerful now.
Dad puts the cat out for the night. It spits and hisses at him. The rain is really heavy now. Tiddles rakes his angry claws down the window glass, so the curtains are drawn. We can still hear him. Dad is planning to build him a tunnel into the boiler room, Pussy's ancestral home.
We take to the sofa as it’s time for the TV. We sit in a mess of brown wrapping paper, string, bits of tinsel and crinkly sweet wrappers and demolish Welsh cakes, chocolate selection boxes and a shared tin of Quality Street. We down two whole bottles of pop while watching "Billy Smart’s Circus". I decide I am going to be a trapeze artist when I grow up and then it’s "Abbot & Costello meet Captain Kidd" and finally "Christmas Night with the Stars". It’s introduced by Eamonn Andrews who’s really funny. I don’t like the Black and White Minstrels, but Nina and Frederick are particularly good.
I start to feel sick again and am quite pleased to go to bed. I forget to brush my teeth, but nobody notices.
SNOW FALLS ON TYCOCH 1963
I wake from sleep, roused instantly by morning’s gentle light. Its dusty rays push through the curtains, worn and grubby at their edges. Listen close and you may hear, faint as mouse whispers, breathing from the bottom bunk and single bed.
Gripping the bed-post, I kick out from the loosened sheets and swing, acrobatic as a circus boy, to the saw-dusted ground. I take a bow to the exhausted toys and discarded clothes. While close to the bed, curled up tight, my tangled bedspread sleeps soundly on.
My bedroom remains as quiet as broken drums, on this, a stranger of a new day.
Slowly I wend my way. Passing the night light, dead in its saucer of water, then on to the window, I pull open the cold curtains and wipe a broad arc on the glass with my pyjama sleeve. Outside nothing moves, no cars or people. Neither gardens nor roofs are in sight. Just snow, thick and white, about half a ruler deep. A magic kingdom unspoiled and pure as things always are in the beginning. Ecstasy surges through me, a rush like the smoke and coal spit of the Swansea to London Express. I shake my brothers, still in their dreams, loose from their beds. I am speaking in tongues.
My excitement renders me temporarily incoherent.