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Silver Branch series:

George Sandifer-Smith        

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George Sandifer-Smith is a Welsh poet, originally from Pembrokeshire. He has published two books of poetry, Empty Trains (Broken Sleep Books, 2022) and Nights Travel at the Right Speed (Infinity Books UK, 2022). He is currently the Reviews Editor at Poetry Wales Magazine, a position he has held since 2022. He has previously edited the poetry anthology The Wait in aid of Cancer Research, and also was guest poetry editor for the inaugural issue of Abergavenny Small Press Journal. His poetry has appeared in Poetry Wales, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Stockholm Review, New Welsh Review, Atrium, and numerous anthologies including Poems from Pembrokeshire (Seren Books, 2019), Hit Points - an Anthology of Video Game Poetry (Broken Sleep Books, 2021), and Anne-thology: Poems Re-Presenting Anne Shakespeare (Broken Sleep Books, 2023).


In 2019, he was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing by Aberystwyth University. As well as writing poetry, he has also published fiction with Gwyllion Magazine and Inventive Podcast (Overtone Productions, 2021). His first children’s book, Cholloo’s Birthday, a collaboration with artist Julia Ashby Smyth, was published by Lily in 2014. He lives with his wife, and their rescue cat Deli.


Meteorites & Cosmic Rays


I remember London in ruins, twice.


First: the warehouse on the water, the corpse

falling from crates in his ill-fitting helmet.

In blue and silver, emerging from the Thames

the invader, the Sunday occupier, a Sugar Puff

poster near an underground bolt-hole.


Second: without colour. Glacial, this time

the corpse had a face, a steel brace around

the cranium. No glamour in the flickering white

monster as river filth seeps off the armour.

You wonder how many bodies sleep below.



When you deserve quiet, unbutton

your shirt. Stretchmarks silver in moonripple;

incantations for what you’ve forgotten.


That night the piano followed us to the shore,

socks to pebbles. Sea turtles migrating

in a ghost story, obsessive to each chord.


Late September, 2010. Our extremities marble

while the casino sings on the fair breeze,

suds of ocean in my beer glass. Vibrations in my pocket


as the storm tears the bandstand apart. Normally

subtropical we tend to compensate,

discard like shoes. Fill with sand.

Thursday Aber Prom


Paper bag rustlesong in wind

seabird-spattered song

Your hand white

as a fish finger’s innards

Brie and caramelised onion held

in heavy bread, crisp to bite

Those gulls scream, to dare each other

Across the blue crane – repair

the bandstand wall, yawning,

lazy from its kicking.


(first published in ‘Gold-lit hour’, Black Bough, 2019)

Arcade Fever

Short lives lived under laser etch.

Tasters. Feel the biting point beneath the square.

Cars sharpen in white daylight, rain

like the heavens lacquers an eye

imagined in glass. Smooth black edges shudder

in your hands. This may be a Christmas listing, once

the best time in this slice has been cracked.

Or maybe you move along the screen. Lace up

boots without the threat of dogmess or asthma

attacks. Or you might enjoy the heavy metal rain

drop of magazines emptying. This evening you might

choose so carefully which world to commit to.

Sea of the Still

The glass is dark. Mars is an island

drifting pink, wisps cold in the still.

Closer, a beer bottle cracking, harmony

with the music of the spheres. Light haunts

the house from dead time. Night is recording.


(first published in Dark Confessions, Black Bough, 2021)

The Invention of Iron


Angels gather in the molecules.

You’re living with them for reasons burning

into the sun, wrong. Learn to pull a letter

suffering at the hands of the Island Himself,

matching her brother, his fate as with Tubal-cain.


The gift of weapons. Spicing his forefather’s blood-

lust, setting the course to split the atom only

to disappear in a puff of scripture, a lick of the apocryphal

flame, a collapsed mineshaft. I have followed you


down into the water, swam between Nassau and Mexico

just to find your page multiplying like cells.

Cold-forged sheets of iron become the erosion

of the city whose song remembers the nail-ridden corpse.


Switching is easy for the bedroom scholar. That daughter

ghost calling back to a country bolt-hole. Equators boil.

Heavy weather slams you raving across the deck –

continental crust splits volcanic. Black sand beckons.

Letter from the Storm

Slates fly past the window. No warnings but we know to stay indoors while roots are pulled from the soil. It is 2014 and I am pretending I am old, like you do when you are in your early twenties. I cannot tear myself away from social media where the beach is travelling quickly, the cars along the front are thoroughly salted and pelted with rocks. I write that this town is haunted with a litany of clubs, spaces, a twenty-four-hour Spar where the best cheese and onion baguettes – that will one day horrify my wife – are sold. But I am the only ghost here, watching the glass rattle from the top floor.

A Simple Function

for Andy McBean

hanging out by the bathroom in a book

barn, you cycled in made of paper and Blair

years. You followed the Tour de France

with your trickling diary.

I thought this doctorate would kill me.

I thought the mould in this house,

damp mining insects, the creases

in my black shirt would break us.

Porcelain measurements counted hours,

snake on a Nokia brick. Four, four, two.

A reminder of what I wanted – holidays, lunches,

nights travelling at a golden speed to climb

back into bed with her.

We are the architects of the party and we have a chimpanzee

Monitors mix waist-to-fuzzing waist.

Pull up a Back Slack or a Von Braun

and prepare for the race

when the bell rings. Red-capped,

barely-faced delivery man makes his

offering. One guest storms up a tantrum. Queues


to the toilet grow, soak the carpet. Of course

we’ve cheated from on high. Riches don’t

come from playing fair. Send one confirmed

bachelor of an avatar – we had to separate

them, they kept kissing when left alone, bowling

shirt to knitted pullover, to honking sax pressed

together – to knock up


the treehouse. Let it loose

on the guests, when you’ve painted

every portrait, played out each career, exhausted

every party. Then, have some fun scratching

that death wish itch.


The sun becomes stars on pins in your straw

hat. Tea in spite of the heat. A headache of pages 

shrinking, expanding sentences. Wood pigeon


song is flat but it is home. Tower leans over garden,

silent bells. A car park that’s emptied its worshippers.

I’ve borrowed the hat. The tea burns my tongue but I


refuse shade. Summer is a burning gift. We mount a murder

mystery with cap guns, stretch the days on DV tape.

Stackpole Frost


In summer, I’d thrown a peach stone

to the playing fields, screwing up

my eyes for twists of overnight forests.


After my birthday I’d watch glades crisp,

morning skins of water stiffening.

My parents’ car passing a whitening


Maidenwells that would turn to prayer,

for Stackpole Cheriton to be cut off, blizzarded.

Pipes would freeze – mice would sleep.


I would build snowmen, drink hot chocolate.

Deep winter turned to drizzle as we passed

the sign for the village, the first ringing bell.

‘It can be hard to pinpoint an aim or goal as a poet – for me, it’s something on constantly shifting sands. When I started writing in verse, it was in the spirit of punk; shots of mass communication, flaming fragments of emotion.


Eventually, the slogans and single sharp statements grew descriptive, and the important elements more specific. The abstractions became something I would deliberately bury – grief would not simply be grief, but a coastal path, a grassy bridge in salty wind near Broad Haven beach in January.

From there, I explored “external voices” – looking to other places outside myself for poems. I went through a phase of writing poems regularly from New Scientist articles; a few years ago, I wrote an entire chapbook of poems after the Clash’s 1979 album London Calling – swapping songs for a world on fire for poems for a world on fire.

This brings me back quite neatly to punk, and how punk led me towards poetry. John Cooper Clarke has likened his style to the Romantic poets meeting the Ramones – emotion at 1000 miles an hour. I think I’ve taken the punk ethos in a different direction – that specificity of a life lived, of days made up of small things. What colour was that coat? That conversation you thought you heard in the woods – was it punctuated by a can opening? What colour is Mars through a skylight on a cloudless night? When you are sad and feeling old, what mug do you take from the cupboard as the kettle bubbles and whispers?’

George Sandifer-Smith, April 2024.

The Monk’s Ghost


Letting go of the Monk’s Ghost deserves language 

in a matching transparency. The decade snapped 

into fingers like a KitKat. Choices made in video 

fuzz – KitKat or Batman comic – litter this 


collection of nights dreading an open door 

longing for the Monk’s Ghost to knock, storm 

Trefloyne’s reeking stairwell to knot the present 

to another last hurrah with the boys on Paynter Street.


So, here we are – the title track. Because songs, 

when pressing fingers to the mirror while you bend 

it, are poems. Paintings are poems. All is music 


and verses each a piano rattling down 

the stairs at 106 developing faults and over-running to shatter lava 

lamps into shards. For matching 

this one to the others here, letting go must mean 

a lack of the science I’ve built. Letting go must mean binding 

these developing streams to a page. Letting go must mean passing 

the Monk’s Ghost on to the light of another. 

One Hundred & Six


You build the door like you remember, black

and hot, peeling a little, in the summer.


You write an airlock where fuse boxes bolt

themselves high, sealing into plastic borders.


You paint a picture of bannisters, the mirror

for checking the look, the suit, the scarf, gelled hair.


You carry 106 on your shoulders,

into bed. Your wife asks about your dream.


You feel the carpet weft draw patterns on elbows,

shrunk and lying across the third step, reading a Beano.


You conjure a cat that spoke to the dead, her howls

from under the kitchen door. She shuts up when it opens.


You cut glass in impossible sheets to frame

a long garden. A barn winks in and out of sunlight.


You weld a spiral staircase in silver, twisting up into

your irises. A Dalek lifts a lonely eyestalk, mournful.

You sing the song of pipes heating patches of red,

away from a shiny floor that once smashed your face.

You always walk a little faster in this corridor, even

with the light like an inverted crystal ashtray, yellow.

You hold a lintel up to mark the living room, secure it,

enter and weave a curtain of squares, elephants, golds.

You exorcise the bedroom with glass doors, open to slates

in high winds. You slept here after your first all-nighter.

You cast the episode of Coronation Street that was on, rewrite

the script. Maxine Peacock lives instead. Spots him in the screen.

You get out of bed, but not your bed, and ring church bells

long-rusted. Visit the first room you had a bed in. First dreams.

You could open it, Russian Doll it. Ask the face that formed

on the squares of the door why it looked so hungry.

You sketch your sister crying in her sleep. Tell her,

settle her. Wonder if the same shade passed her.

You blueprint the bedroom you spent most hours on, trip

on a duck-shaped door-stop. Run fingers over volumes.

Your wife asks what you remember. Architecture folds, though

– you are still carrying 106, but never every brick at once.

You layer tracing paper over more tracing paper, translucent over

translucent, couplet to couplet. One room at a time, one time hard.

You choose a memory to display in each place. You know

there are others living there, but it’s too many colours for the map.

You haunt the house in your sleep. You accept your ghost-role

in order to travel to hours long-consumed and write them, bright.

Moon Secrets

In silver and white, mother’s alabaster family

home is pulled brick-by-clod into waves, cold

glass blown inhale to exhale by the distant

breath of the Moon. Secret verses exchanged


by night between her and the Earth

with its molten heart, feasting on herself

daily. Greedy sun drops, and the gifts begin.

She holds back plenty in her lunar songs;


they say an ocean stitched into her dust

delivers genesis in plain language,

crunching the numbers of Adam, render his rib

into truth, no narrator but the Moon.


These stories, I couldn’t jump

for them. You’d need a drill, retro

rockets, living space to live

in space. Dried food – mother could keep


her nine courses for these truths,

that you could crack from that tranquil mirror

with a toffee hammer. Origins of the species

written up there, in her stopped hourglass.

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