Small Victories

This poem is written in memory of Scotland’s first ever First Minister Donald Dewar. Though both a member of The Labour Party and a staunch unionist Dewar as this poem shows was a man I could respect even though I disagreed with his Scottish-British Identity. I have titled it Small Victories as a testament to a man who I believe could have achieved so more both for himself and for Scotland had he just been a bit bolder and the embraced independence. That said I respected the man though I didn’t agree with his unionism. I hope you enjoy the read

Small Victories

A crowd gather at the statute of a man

who would have opposed his statue being built

the man whom his acolytes

called the father of the nation

till the Wallace society called them out

a quiet man who disapproved of shouting

he preferred more measured tones

but he would have raised his voice on this occasion

in the name of fairness and the faith

in which he was raised

the dour Presbyterian

the mask he hid behind

to cover political disappointments and private hurts

we will never know nor need to

a Glasweigan from comfortable kin

he used his pragmatic conformity

as a way to win small victories

his dual Scottish-Britishness sat uneasily with me

but I got it even though I didn’t agree

and later joined the SNP

to make progress on what he clained to be

the settled will of the Scottish people

raised on faith Donald Dewar knew his commandments

he would have smiled at the fact

we were delivering Scotland’s asylum seekers

from the evil of exploitation

as we stood united SNP, Labour, the Greens

to say as our first ever first minister would have said

every small step is a landmark on the road to progress

and a testament to the kind of country we aspire to become

in the name of the father who gave us his son

the blood of the lamb purchased for our sins

© Gayle Smith 2018

Picture Glasweigans gather at the statute of former First Minister Donald Dewar to protest at the treatment of Asylum Seekers.

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Sleeping Lion

Tomorrow will mark the fourth anniversary of our independence referendum in which I was proud to vote Yes for an Independent Scotland. This is a decision I have never once regretted as I believe it will be in the best interests of future generations for Scotland to take this path and a join the global family of nations where we are treated as a equal member of that family rather than remain in a not so United Kingdom where we are devalued and dismissed and treated like a disobedient child for daring to raise our voice on issues that concern us. This poem sums up the optimism I and many others felt on the night before the vote and the betrayal we’ve felt ever since the UK was saved by those who for whatever reason voted no. It is my belief that the only thing the unionists won with that no vote was time I have given it the title Sleeping Lion I hope you enjoy the read.

Sleeping Lion

It was the night before the vote

there was nothing more we could do

tomorrow we would know

if we had done enough to unchain the unicorn

or if it would still remain tied

would our vision prevail or would lies and false promises

sugar coated with dishonesty save the UK

we could only hope but alas the dream faded

though no matter what some try to say

it didn’t die that was never going to happen

two years of chapping doors

leafeting letterboxes

and talking to voters at street stalls

had fired us up for campaings to come

for days when we would be labelled insurgents

by those desperate to smear us

pretend they couldn’t hear us

and tamper with democracy

in an attempt to diminish our representation

as they made a mockery of the family of nations

they claimed we would lead

when they needed our support

now the progress report for better together doesn’t look good

the gloss removed it shows the weakness of union

devolution has not been made permanent

the shipbuilding jobs we were promised

disappeared faster than autumn leaves fall from trees

and nobody believes anything they say

now all that remains

is for yes to prove the strengh of our case

to win over those voters we never reached first time

do that and victory is ours

but we must remember it isn’t about us

we want it not for personal gain

but as the inheritance for generations yet to come

in shire and in scheme

on this night in 2014 we shared a dream

that dream hasn’t died

and like a sleeping lion

it will awaken when it knows

the time is right to devour the wolves who prey on us

© Gayle Smith 2018

James McFadden’s Goal

This poem commemorates one of Scotland’s most glorious ever results in our international football history as it relates the story of a wonderful night in September 2007 when we to Paris as underdogs and emerged victorious thanks to a James McFadden wonder strike which sealed our first win in Paris in 57 years. This game also has a very personal memory for me as I had made an important and life changing decision and there would be no more extra time to put off till the future something that should have been done many years earlier. I have given it the title James McFadden’s Goal I hope you enjoy the read.

James McFadden’s Goal

France in Paris
the French capital
was a formidable fortress for both French teams
Football or Rugby they knew how to win
and could do it with style or play ugly
but this was Scotland
and we knew how to beat the odds
we had beaten them at Hampden the year before
despite being played off the park
for most of the game
though surely on this night
they would claim the spoils of victory
I prayed for a miracle though defeat with dignity
would be a perfectly respectable result
and would have been taken before the game started
against the country who were the world cup runners up
we knew we’d have to ride our luck
but we had hope and belief in our team
now as a nervous nation gathered round TV screens
we wondered as we belted out flower of Scotland
could we even dare to dream
well I suppose we could but we were sure it all would unravel
I mean this was us
but that night we were buzzing
we gave them nothing not even an inch
there was more chance of me winchin Tony Blair
and trust me I wouldn’t even go there
not even to save my own life
see that night we were so tight at the back
even a safecracker couldn’t defy our defence
and when they did Craig Gordon was majestic between the posts
still haunted by ghosts from failures past
I wondered how long this would last
before some fluke deflection would defeat us
Okay it might be a refereeing decision would cheat us
or maybe a stroke of genius
god knows they had the players with the flair
to produce something out of nothing
but as half time arrived we were still holding on
at that moment we’d have taken the draw
but the real drama was yet to unfold
and in 64 minutes a goal finally came
and it was us who scored
the Scotland end of the staduim rocked
and in bars all over the country
we roared when a James McFadden shot
hit the back of the French net
stunned by this set back
an excellent side threw everything they had at us
but the better they played the better we defended
nobody ever pretended being a Scotland fan was easy
and that last 25 minutes was tougher than we’d like
but as the referee blew for full time
we celebrated long in to the night
as James McFadden’s goal
wrote a chapter in our country’s story
and in mine
there would be no more extra time
the future had already kicked off

© Gayle Smith 2018

Two Tribes ( A Haiku On Conflict )

This Haiku explores how religion is often used as an excuse for tribalism and conflict between imagined faiths. I’ve called it Two Tribes I hope you enjoy the read.

Two Tribes

Two tribes battle

religion used for colours

neither go to church

© Gayle Smith 2018

Friday Dinners

Growing up as the child of an inter faith marriage I learned early that different traditions had very different ways of seeing things. This wasn’t just confined to football loyalties but also to the fish on Friday debate. This short poem entitled Friday Dinners gives my take on this issue. I hope you enjoy the read.

Friday Dinners

Friday dinner conflict
in inter faith marriage
fish suppers the compromise
both parties can accept

© Gayle Smith 2018

The Power And The Glory

As I have accepted an invitation to be the Featured Writer at Faith/Unbelief this month I thought I’d better get writing some new poems and tailor them for event. It was with this in mind I wrote this one on the theme of temptation and titled it The Power And The Glory I hope you enjoy what I think will be a thought provoking read.

The Power And The Glory

The promise of the power and the glory

you know how it goes

it makes slaves of us all

as wolves clothes are worn by sheep

who continually bleat to get you to follow others

this trap is your enemies weapon

to discover your flaws

as it attempts to seduce you by offering

the kingdom of heaven

and presenting it as material wealth

to see if you’ll put self before community

personal gain before the good of humanity

there is no duality here

it knows you must take sides

you cannot hide from the choices you make

running from them only makes us tired

tempation is the deceiver’s greatest liar

and comes in all manner of disguises

to be used at the time of greatest need

as instant gratification

lust, money , creative inspiration ,

all are presented as marketing slogans

by companies using suits from PR

saying you can have the sun, moon, and stars

if you buy in to their brand

but silver linings come with clouds

this is not a road you want to go down

as you know you cannot serve two masters

without disastrous consequences

whilst on earth the spotless one

avoided it at all costs

knowing that selling his soul

was not an option

yet still they nailed him to a cross

but on that first good Friday

he went to his death knowing

that the power and the glory

belonged not to him but to the father

the God who will judge us all

© Gayle Smith 2018

Even R2D2 Thought Our Evening Was Orgasmic As A Night Of Five Star Birthdays Had A Recipe Baked With Friendship

As we arrived for the August edition of Words And Music we did so in good heart as many of our gathering prepared ourselves for a very busy month which would see us travel through to Edinburgh to play our part in the greatest show on earth otherwise known as the fringe. As is often the case there were a few of our number who couldn’t make it to our night and amongst them was our regular bartender Carly who was performing in a show that week as part of the Merchant City Festival.

With 15 in attendance which was our best August attendance since the move I kicked off what would be a history making night for us but I did it with a poem which showed my gentler side, yes contrary to some people’s belief I do actually have one as I illustrated with a poem entitled Keeper which I wrote to celebrate the wedding of my friends Patricia and Steven a gifted young couple I know from the traditional music community.

Next up was my brilliant co-host the lovely Jen Hughes with her hilariously funny poem The Moon Is A Lesbian in which she tackles the ridiculous notion of gendering the planets with the razor like wit for which she is gaining a growing and well deserved reputation as a writer and performer of considerable talent.

With both of us having read it was time to introduce the first of the billed readers for the evening and this time it was Mary Wilson who filled that role. On this occasion Mary performed five poems in what I think was her best set to date. Mary started her set with Unpredictability a poem on how different poems can be interpreted differently depending on the audience. After this Mary moved on to perform four more poems Blinkered, A Helping Hand From Gran, Heatwave a poem about summer memories from childhood and her final poem Friends about the value of real friendships.

As Mary returned to her seat it was the turn of Angie Strachan to entertain the company and she did exactly that with a most intriguing tale entitled Eminem Meets Dido which was thought provoking and hilarious in equal measure. In many ways it was the perfect piece to read before launching herself on the unsuspecting citizens of Edinburgh.

After Angie’s top class performance it was turn of Moki The Goddess Of Mischief to take to our stage for only her second appearance at Words And Music. Moki who like me grew up in the north of the city started her set with Son Of Satan which gave us a mischievous look at being the child of the fallen angel. They followed this up with Mini Slender (The Wrong One) which looks at having a high school crush who does not share your sexual orientation and the devastation of the unrequited love which follows it. Moki finished a highly enjoyable set with a brilliantly titled take on student life for the millennial generation The Hunger, The Fear And Other Student Problems. This honest but topical poem was the perfect way to end a fabulous set and leave the crowd wanting more.

From a poet of the millennial generation we moved on to the slightly more seasoned voice of Derek Parkes. Derek started his set with a couple of poems on food opening up with Nan’s Kitchen, which he followed with Ham Haugh which took me down memory as the cut of meet of which Derek writes so fondly was used a staple for my mother’s Sunday soup and the roast which followed it. This was followed by Tuscan Eve and the excellently titled Long To Rain Over Us in which the intrepid Mr Parkes bemoans the inclement weather so lovingly bestowed on us by our geographical position in the world. Derek concluded his set with How Change Came To The British Tourist Industry a poem in which he laments the dad if neccessary demise of the British seaside towns and the rise of package holidays to sumnier climbs of Mediterranean Europe and beyond.

Next to the stage was Joanna Hughes whose set had us howling with laughter start to finish. Joanna opened her set with Bumblebee Deceased or as she described it with Tagert like accuracy the callous murder of a bee on the Newton Mearns Bus Now I don’t know about you but I certainly believe this is a case which requires the skills of our late Glasweigan detective or at very least one of his auccessors.

This was followed by Baywatch Blues (A Post Feminist Lament in which yet again the giggle meter was at full force as a gifted writer gave her brilliant and devastatingly accurate critique of what used to be essential early Saturday viewing for girls of the Jackie generation.

Still on the theme of sunshine Joanna concluded her set with Sun Worshippers Orgy before returning to her seat and taking the kind of applause that some people can only ever dream of. And trust me when I say that applause very well deserved after what was a brilliant performance.

As Joanna rejoined the company it was neither myself or Jen who introduced the performer who would take us the bar break. Instead we gave way to his dad as Steve Allan introduced his son Ewan to perform A Comic Monologue about asking a girl on a date. On taking the stage Ewan became our youngest ever performer at Words And Music and showed that when it comes to talent it was very much a case of like father like son. Indeed so authentic was his distress at the beginning of the performance that Jen actually went over to him to check if he was okay.

With the debut boy having giving a fabulous performance it was time for the bar break and not only that it was time for celebrations and I don’t mean the chocolates I had brought along I mean the fact that we were celebrating no fewer than five birthdays starting with my own which was back early July and ending with Jen’s in early to mid September. The others celebrating during this period included both our featured acts Steve Allan And Susan Milligan and club stalwart Andy Fleming. Naturally there was cake to celebrate such an auspicious occasion and it wasn’t just any cake it was cake or should I say cakes baked by my wonderful co-host aka our Jen and both her chocolate and banana cakes would totally delicious. Trust me if she ever gives up on writing which is not something I would ever advise she could easily win The Great British Bake Off.

After the break it was time for our Featured Writer and this month it was Steve Allan who entertained the company with a highly enjoyable mixture of poetry, prose, and jokes in the style he’s made his own.

Steve started his set with a cautionary tale about daughters wanting toys as he told the story of his daughter Georgia wanting the latest toy which in this case was called the wubble. In an amusing tale of misadventure Steve (Pictured Below) related the story of giving in to his daughters demands and buying this seemingly indestructible toy which was hopefully designed to keep his highly active youngster occupied for many happy hours. This however is Georgia and Georgia has a tendency destruct the indescrutable and did so with alarming ease. There is I think a moral to this story and it’s that no matter how much you love your children there are times when you need to run a mile when they want a new toy.

Picture (1) Our Featured Writer Steve Allan sharing his thoughts on poets, daughters, and the potential for wubble trouble.

Steve then regaled the company with a wonderful story of all different types of poets you meet at a typical poetry in a brilliant poem which is appropriately titled Poets. This is a poem with which all poets can easily identify and I certainly got a number of references which were aimed at friends of ours and there was one line which I thought was quite accurately fired in my direction. Not that I was complaining as this is the kind of poem that poets actually want to be included in as to be left out would mean you hadn’t made enough of an impact to be noticed.

Our featured writer then went on to his joke on The Fire Station before moving on what I think has to be one of his finest pieces with his poem Hypno Poetry. In this piece Steve reveals his scepticism when it comes to hypnotherapy and when on visiting a hypnotherapist he is told that the hypnotherapist can make him hurt himself Steve mocks the idea till he is asked to tell the hypnotherapist something he enjoys doing. When he mentions that he likes writing poetry, he is put under a spell and experiances a negative reaction and ends up slapping himself every time the word is mentioned. The result is hilarity as poetry meets slapstick in the most literal sense possible.

Our intripid poet then moved on from hypnosis to Spreadsheets and his piece on a Spreadsheet raised a fair few giggles on a topic which is normally as dry as the Sahara Desert.

Having tackled some really unusual topics Steve now was on to the penulimate poem where revealed what he believes is the worst chat up line in the whole of human history with I Write Poetry. This take on what topics to avoid when dating will I’m sure be a valuable reference for generations of future poets as he a light hearted look at a subject most of us would avoid like the plague.

In the final poem of a fantastic set Steve ventured in to the field of country music and related the tragic tale when someone finds out their dad is a Daniel O’Donnell fan. As he bemoans the lack of support groups for family members Steve insists that this is a genuine affliction and is despite what some people may claim is no laughing matter. As for the audience we may have viewed it somewhat differently and I know that we really enjoyed a brilliant set which was packed with comedy gold from beginning to end.

Having enjoyed a fantastic set from an amazing featured writer it was now time for our Featured Musician to make the stage their own and this month the honour fell to club regular Susan Milligan. Susan (Pictured Below) started her set most of which were from the 1950’s and 60’s with Bluebird a song I hadn’t really heard till I heard her sing it earlier this year.

Picture (2) Our Featured Musician Susan Milligan delivered a set of songs which were entertaining, enjoyable, and easy on the ear.

She followed this up with the Dusty Springfield classic I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself before moving to two songs with moon in the title both from the 1950’s. The first of these was the Danny Williams song Moon River which is one of my favourites of Susan’s extensive repertoire which she followed up with Blue Moon

For her next song our resident songbird belted out her take on Ain’t That Sweet which she followed with the Kay Starr song Rock And Roll Waltz. Next on her list was another 1950’s hit Where The Boys Are after which she treated us to Carolina Moon, My Funny Valentine, and Crazy before concluding her set with a wee bit of musical comedy and an excellent sing a long song with Henry The 8th I Am to finish what was easily her best ever set at Words And Music.

After two top quality featured sets it’s never easy to be next to take the stage but someone has to do it and this time that someone was Andy Fleming. On this occasion included covers by Gerry Rafferty, and Pink Floyd but by far the highlight. of his rock style performance was what he called Techno By Numbers or what Steve Allan described as R2D2’s orgasm. Yes it really was that weird.

I suppose it was fate which meant I followed Andy and as the penultimate performer I decided that comedy was the way to go and that Lost The Plot was the perfect poem to continue the lunacy after Andy’s last piece. Well it does relate the adventures of a group of women at the dancing and believe me these nights can and often do get a lot more ludicrous than any of us will ever admit in public.

With my contribution completed I handed over to Jen who brought the night to a close with Interpretive Dance a poem which is as entertaining as it is thought provoking and shows her talent for imagery is only surpassed by her ability when it comes to creative language use.

As Jen closed the night with an entertaining and energentic performance all that was left to do was to plug a few events at the fringe and send everyone all who were Edinburgh bound our best wishes for a happy and successful time at the greatest arts festival of them all. As I reflected the madness of what was a truly amazing evening, I smiled with satisfaction as I remembered that even R2D2 thought our evening was orgasmic as a night of five star birthdays had a recipe baked with friendship.

Till next time

Gayle X