Speak To The Night

On day 26 of NaPoWriMo my poem looks at women’s safety and is based on the story of what  happened as I waited for a bus on my road from an enjoyable Last Monday at Waterston’s and why I was grateful to have the companionship of another woman at the bus stop as drunks and beggars stopped to give us their chat. Like it or not I do feel vulnerable in this situation and if there is one thing I’ve noticed since I started living as a woman it’s the fact that  you never see men get this kind of unwanted attention. This is as every woman knows one of the perils of living in a blatantly patriarchal society. Believe me the need for feminism in 21st  Century Scotland/ Britain is as strong or maybe even stronger than it’s ever been, I wish it wasn’t but it is. 

 As you can imagine thinking of a title for this poem wasn’t easy which is why I called on the services of my friend and National columnist Nadine McBay who suggested the title should be Speak To The Night which I think describes perfectly how my companion and I felt as the drunk guy approached us, so that is the title I’m running with. 
Trust me when I say that this is a very difficult topic to talk about as no woman should ever feel vulnerable on any streets in a so-called civilised society but the fact is many of us do and that’s why I had to write this poem.   I hope you find it  a challenging and thought provoking read.  

Speak To The Night 

At a bus stop, two women wait 

for different buses to take us

on homeward journies 

in the distance a drunk man appears 

we show no fear 

but hope he won’t stop for a chat 

unfortunately, he does exactly that 

evening girls he says you alright 

the silence broken he speaks to the night 

I worry my tartan tights may attract attention 

he slurs words beyond my comprehension 

my younger companion assures him we are fine 

 eventually he gives up  taking the hint 

we just want to be left alone 

he staggers on convinced we are either lesbians 

or a mother and daughter out for some women time 

as he goes in whatever direction

the wind blows him 

a begger approaches asking if we have any change 

we politely say we have none 

he shuffles on his way 

as we both complain about the unseasonably cold weather

we enjoy a blether 

 about what men would call women’s stuff 

finally a bus arrives 

I feel  guilty on leaving 

a girl I don’t know 

to face the night alone 

and like a mother I pray 

she gets home safe 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Free Fall 

​On day 25 of NaPoWriMo I tackle a theme suggested to me by my friend and fellow poet Stephen Watt who challenged me to write a poem on Thrill Seekers. Since I consider myself to be more daring than most you will believe and I have several friends who love extreme sports this was a very enjoyable poem to write. Though me being me I had to  add a note of caution about knowing when to stop. I’ve given it the title Free Fall I hope you enjoy the read. 

Free Fall 

Thrill seekers

on the rollercoaster ride

they surf the waves of life 

live fast die young 

or at least before they get too old 

to surrender their lust for adventure

thrill seekers like playing for high risks

starting with kisses behind the bike sheds 

at school 

they are never the type to conform to rules 

and regulations 

 seeking inspiration from unlikely sources

horses for courses is not their style

preferring to be a wee bit  bolder

thrill seeking girls wear the off the shoulder mini dress 

I would love to be able to get away with 

but can’t 

I would look like that underdressed aunt 

blind date and take me out rejected 

at the audition 

adrenaline junkies never lack ambition 

trying things I’d love to do 

like jumping out planes in parachutes

going on explorations where others wouldn’t dare 

having the flair to start a business 

or build a home from scratch 

or risking everything in on the roll a dice 

gambling in games of chance 

they tough it out in all areas of life 

relentlessly rushing in the quest to advance 

they never go dancing just for the dance 

but while they enjoy their latest glory 

I wonder what happens at the end of the story  

if instead of reaping the rewards of their decision 

when that last impulsive move  over stretched them 

and in their dejection they crash and burn 

going in to free fall 

the price for risking it once too often. 
© Gayle Smith 2017 

 

When Rabbie’s Lass Got Fierce With Words And Mused On Political Valentines We Searched For Silver Linings In A Tapestry Of Talents 

Never before in the history of  Words And Music have we held the  April edition of our club before I’ve had to reflect on the events of a March,  but such is the madness of NaPoWriMo that is what’s happened on this occasion and if it ever happens again it’s bound to  be in  the chaos that is such a regular feature of April these days.

As I look back on this night I am happy to say that was a night in which women played a very prominent part. After having no musician in February I was delighted that Bernadette Collier a well known and respected voice in the Glasgow folk scene was making her debut at our event. As I kicked off the proceedings dead on 8 o’clock, I was as always excited yet nervous as to what the night would hold. Well I’ve been attending spoken word events long enough to know that the only thing you can predict about a night like this is its unpredictability.  

I started the evening by reading The Clothes Of An Honest Man a poem written in memory my late father John James Smith who would if still among us  have been celebrating his 90th Birthday in the last week of February. It is I think fair to say that like most poems on my family this one was not without controversy as raised a few topical issues such as   the political cultural differences between my parents and on these issues I was very definately a daddy’s girl. 

After the opening poem it was time to hand the night over to the company and get on with the show as only we know how. First to take the stage was Angela Strachan who was making her first appearance since our Christmas Cracker in December. Angela who is April’s featured writer celebrated her return to the fold by reading a story titled Dandelion Feicht which she narrated from the perspective of a teenaged boy. Before starting to read  Angela asked me if she could have a wee bit of extra time to read her story and I said that wouldn’t be a problem because unlike some performers over the years Angela had the decency to ask rather than assume she could take it and get away with it and I must it was an enjoyable story which was well worth hearing. 

Angela was followed by Mary Wilson who read three poems Pigeons On The Menu , Robotic Cleaner, and Fitting Time. Like Angela, Mary was also making her first visit of the year and it was good to see her back. 

As Mary returned to her seat it was the turn of a man who needs no introduction to Words And Music regulars as Alex Frew has been entertaining us for more than 20 years, both at Sammy Dow’s, and now in our new home at The Tin Hut . Be it poetry , prose , or music Alex can always be relied on make us smile and think in equal measure. This time, Alex chose to read  a story or should I say the first part of a which told a tale of childhood and I look forward to hearing the second part of The Note as and when he decides to share it with us. 

From an experienced performer we move on to a debut girl and Susan McKinstery showed why I moaned the face off her to come and share her work with two  excellent pieces When Bad Things Happen, and the brilliant You, I , Us. You know I’m really glad that Susan decided to come along as her powerful , thought provoking pieces challenged stereotypical prejudices and added something extra to the evening . 

Next up was the other half of Ayrshire’s dynamic duo Andy Fleming.  Like Alex, Andy has been coming to Words and Music for over two decades since making his debut in 1996.  Having attended pur monthly gathering for as long as he has, it is fair to say that Andy has a large volume of work so large in fact that he is never quite sure what to perform on any given night. Andy however is a great believer in democracy, and more often than not will let the people decide his set for the night by getting those of us in attendance to shout out random numbers and his set will be selected by whatever numbers we decide to call out. On this occasion Andy’s form of democratic participation meant that the audience were treated to three of his all time classics  and I for one thoroughly enjoyed One Star Review, Trashwalk, and his environmental rant You Are Not A Cyclist. This was a set which brought back memories for some of us and created them for those who are just getting to know a man I am proud to call my friend. 

Next up to the stage was Susan Milligan whose set focused on romance. This was no great surprise to me as this was the first Words And Music since Valentine’s Day. In this post Valentine’s set Susan read three poems Parting Kiss, One Last Look, and All Alone. I am also sure she sang a song and I enjoyed it but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was. 

As Susan took her bow and rejoined the company to enjoy the rest of the evening it was Alan McGlas in his now customary position who led us to the bar break with his hillirious piece titled Ten Reasons Why I Dislike Dying In Hospital. This piece of quality satirical brilliance was the perfect way to end the first half of the night and get us in the mood for our featured performers but first it was time to catch up with friends and enjoy the social side of life which always plays such an important part on nights like this.  

After the break it was time for the first of our featured performers and as always we started with the featured writer and this month that was was the none other than the fiercest woman in poetry otherwise known as Lesley Traynor. Now those of you know Lesley (picutured below) will know she has a naughty side and she showed that mischievous streak with her first poem Big Bad Wolf in which she got more than a wee bit suggestive about this character in a fun filled poem which gave us all a fit of the giggles.

Picture (1) Our featured writer Lesley Traynor takes tin hutters on a very interesting journey

Having shown us her naughty side, it was now time for her  to show her sensative side with her poem My Sister Sleeps. This poem illustrates Lesley’s gentle tenderness as it tells the story of her close bond with her sister with the use of loving evocative language and stunningly beautiful imagrgy. 

In her next poem Rabbie’s Lass Lesley looks at the relationship between our national bard Robert Burns and the love of his life Jean Armour and does so very much from Jean’s perspective. This is a poem which narrates a tale of compassion from a 21st century woman who would never have put with even half of Rabble’s chat but times were different in Jean’s day and Lesley shows genuine warmth towards her subject in a poem which takes a look at Burns through the lenses of both feminism and time. 

In her next two poems Dancing At La Garre , and Secret Place   Lesley tells of her time in Eithopia and the adventures she had and the challenges she faced as a young woman in what was at that time a  very troubled land. As if to demonstrate her versatility Lesley then moved on performing Threads before taking us on yet another adventure, this time to Milan where after visiting a gallery in the city she was inspired to write Cover My Mouth In Gold. 

Lesley then concluded an excellent set with her final poem Thrawn. This is a poem which is  close to her heart as it was written for the women with fierce words event she organised for the Scottish Poetry Library for the first day of the Edinburgh festival fringe. The idea behind the event was that every poet brought with them a poem and a fierce word which described something about them and Lesley chose the old Scottish word Thrawn which can be used to mean stubborn or determined and Lesley is determined to get as many women as possible to record it in as many unusual venues as possible to illustrate that there is no place on earth on which a woman can’t be thrawn which reminds me I’ve still to record my version of the poem outside Celtic Park. This was an excellent way to end a top quality set which was enjoyed by all in attendance. 
After Lesley it was time for our featured musician and this month that honour fell to Bernadette Collier. Though I’ve known Bernadette (pictured below) for many years this was her first time at the club. Bernie started her set with a song that appealed to my pro independence sentiments titled If You Were Free. She followed this with a jazz flavoured number Killing The Blue

Picture (2) Featured musician Bernadette Collier makes a long awaited debut at Words And Music supported by seasoned regular Bob Leslie.

 For her next number she was assisted by Bob Leslie, as they dueted on  one of Bob’s songs Hook Your Train Up To My Wagon. Bernie followed this up with another transport related song when she covered Chasing Cars. For her penultimate number Bernadette sang a Spanish song which I not knowing the title can’t spell, pronounce, or translate but I did enjoy it.  For her final song Bernadette sang Dance Me and with that she did the quickstep off stage to enjoy what was left of the evening 

As Bernadette and Bob rejoined the company it was time for the penultimate performer of the evening and this month it was Claire McCann who had the unenviable task of following the featured acts and she did it by singing a song titled Look Whose At The Door. 

As Claire concluded her performance it was my job to bring the evening to a close  I did so by performing four poems I kicked off my set with my tribute to the late great Tommy Gemmell. I titled this poem The Goal That Changed The Game as that is exactly what he did with the equaliser which broke Inter Milan’s defensive wall and with it their resistance thereby setting up Celtic up for my club’s and Scottish football’s greatest ever victory. I followed this up by reading Quartet.This is my tribute poem to Orcadian band Fara who I go to see at every chance I get. For my penultimate poem I decided on a bit of satire with my Valentine’s Day poem Political Musings On Valentine’s Day in which I take a no holes barred look at the Valentine’s that certain politicians and organisations should have got. For my final poem I stayed on the theme of politics and in Silver Linings I took a reflective look on my journey back to normality after the disappointment of the referendum and the part poets and musicians played in brightening my mood. 

It was with that optimistic note that I ended this edition of words and music and yet another night was written in to our history. It was a night when the 13 of us who made it along were thoroughly entertained.So when Rabbie’s Lass got fierce with words and mused on political valentines we searched for silver linings in a tapestry of talents. 

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X

Smelling The Roses

​On day 24 of NaPoWriMo I decided that political satire would be my poetic weapon of chosen after seeing a UKIP candidate’s response as to why they are standing for election on social media. After laughing so much it nearly split my sides I remembered what I’ve always known namely politics is a serious business and though UKIP might like to portray themselves as lovable eccentric guardians of tradition they are in reality anything but. In fact truth be told these people are of the hard right conservative school of political thought and have some very  extreme and dangerous views. It is with in mind I decided to write this poem in the form of a UKIP candidate’s speech to highlight the type of country I don’t want to live in. The title for the poem was chosen for me by my Norwich based friend and fellow poet Andy Bennett  who selected the title Smelling The Roses. I hope you enjoy the read. 

Smelling The Roses (The Thoughts Of A UKIP Supportive) 
You ask me why I want to be elected 

well I’ll tell you 

it’s because I believe

  the British way of life is under threat 

and I want to put forward  solutions 

I couldn’t give a damn for devolution

the revolution has to be stopped.

I’m a proud Scot but I know my place 

so here’s what I think we need to do 

to put some pride back in the red white and blue 

I’ll start with sports

 I am convinced every child  should learn to ride a horse 

but as for golf , those courses are environmental disaster 

and a threat to the safety of our people 

and that is something I cannot abide 

still on environmental matters 

I want plastic bags abolished 

they are a threat to animals especially whales and dolphins 

as for an independent Scotland forget it 

I’m a proud Scot but 

Westminster is our colonial master 

and we should be content to keep it that way 

Mrs Thatcher was wonderful back in the day 

I’m a plain speaker and say what’s on my mind 

which I think you’ll find enlightening 

some people find my views on capital punishment frightening 

I think the death penalty should be restored 

but I wouldn’t bring back hanging 

the guillotine would be better 

and I’ll tell you something else

we’re heading in to world war three 

due to China, India , and the SNP 

that lot are a public danger 

and it’s all to do with 

money, and greed  

we in Britain do a lot for charity 

comic relief is wonderful 

so is children in need 

talking of children 

I think poor people shouldn’t have them.

now this is only my view 

but in my united kingdom 

mother’s should stay at home

to look after their little darlings

there should be no support for nurseries 

but all schools need classes 

and education needs reforming 

 this is a warning we are heading for  world war three 

I blame it on the SNP 

it will have nothing to do with Tony Blair or Theresa May 

personally I think we should go to war with Spain over Gibraltar

after all we’ve beat them before

when we sunk their Armada

remember the Falklands it was great wasn’t it 

yes I know there were millions unemployed

and living in poverty 

but we had pride in the flag

we were respected then 

now it’s all this political correctness lunacy

there is no such thing as an LGBT community

that kind of thing should be kept private

behind closed doors

you get good and bad people of all types 

talking of rights

I believe Margo MacDonald’s right to die bill

should be put to referendum 

well old people are living too long 

though working them till there 70 

should tire some out 

well if there dead  we don’t need to  worry about their living expenses 

we really need to come to our senses

the free bus pass scheme has to stop 

these people should be encouraged to walk 

I know you’ll be shocked at some of my views 

but here’s the bit you didn’t hear on the news

I would reopen public loo’s 

and create community gardens

yes I know I maybe hard on some issues

but believe me we don’t have time for tissues 

 it’s time to wake up and smell the roses. 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

Hidden 

On day 23 of NaPoWriMo I take a wander back in to my 1970’s youth and look at the  world of gender roles and how they impacted on me and girls like me who were growing up knowing we were different from the so-called societal norms. Though it would be  easy to look back on those days with the rose coloured glasses of time it would  be a misrepresention of the truth . Trust me in days less liberal than now there were Secrets you had to keep hidden which is why I’ve titled this poem Hidden I hope you enjoy the read. 
Hidden
Rebel teen 

was never punk 

too much of a boy thing

don’t you know 

loved stage shows and any kind of songs 

except heavy metal rock 

folks would be shocked 

if they knew how much she liked 

summer nights 

 loved grease and wanted to be Sandy

but the beauty school drop out 

was too cool for school 

or the rules that went with it 

she couldn’t cope with limits 

it wasn’t her scene 

though expressing herself as a dancing queen 

was strictly for her bedroom 

with the door firmly locked 

the family would be shocked 

if they saw the  lipsticks and leotards

she kept stashed away 

in secret hiding places 

the boys would blush 

if they saw the smile on her face 

when she thought of them 

but these were less enlightened days 

when Rising Damp and The Walton’s 

were the stuff of teenage television 

ambitions to be different 

were best kept hidden 

or reserved only for the rich 

meanwhile down at the football pitches 

she tried to fit in 

but was never picked for either side 

instead she watched from the back of the goal 

as sweat soaked would be football stars

never knew what she thoughts of their talents. 

or who she would like to be man of the match.
© Gayle Smith 2017 

Polar Opposites 

​On day 22 of NaPoWriMo I look at the political debate using the metaphor of environmental geography. With the coming UK General Election people will have to make a very real choice as to what kind of country and indeed what kind of society they want to live in. It is for this reason that after some much valued proof reading from Gary Hay who I  thank for suggesting some important edits for me that  I’ve titled this poem Polar Opposites. I hope you enjoy the read. 

Polar Opposites

corrosion starts slowly 

as climates change

gathering pace when no precautions are taken 

no safety barriers put in place 

to stop the situation getting worse 

eventually as things deteriorate

those living in these conditions

develop a me first mentality 

as survival comes before all else 

mind thy self and to hell with civilisation 

is the mindset as all move from the centre 

the heart of the nation is broken 

the corrosion gets worse 

engulfing those in it’s path 

forcing them to move to extreme positions 

as those who were once friends 

are now polar opposites. 
© Gayle Smith 2017

Comfort Zone 

On day 21 of NaPoWriMo My poem  takes a look at the topic of Privacy. I do so with the issue of locality very much on my mind and that’s why I set it in the most personal places of all, well you can’t get more personal than your street and your home. It is for this  reason I’ve run with the title suggested by my Facebook friend Karen Campbell and titled it Comfort Zone I hope you enjoy the read. 
Comfort Zone 
It’s nice here 

I have nice friends

a nice home 

and a very nice life 

and believe me that is exactly how 

I want it to stay

nothing will take me from my comfort zone 

you see I give money 

to those less fortunate than myself 

I look after my health 

take care of myself 

I know it sounds so middle class

but I’m not I’m just cautious

I’ve always been honest 

maybe it’s because I’m single 

I may mix and mingle 

as much as anyone 

and believe me this girl 

has known how to have fun 

since before Cyndi Lauper hit the charts 

with the song that became an anthem 

but as a Cosmo girl I learned early 

to value my independence 

so when I shut the door behind me 

at the end of the night 

I like to keep myself right 

lock the door on the world 

and retreat to the space I call mine 

my home  is my comfort zone 

the place I can truly be me 

and have the privacy to freely 

express myself