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As Lands Lie Bleeding 

On Remembrance Day I write a poem which is based on the concerns of a 94 year old veteran who served in the Second World War. This former soldier believes that we are now standing at the brink of a third world war and potential global catastrophe due to what he calls the greed and self interest of a group of sociopathetic leaders who have no compassion or empathy for those they lead or for the greater human race as they seek only power no matter the cost to the rest of us. I hope I have done justice to the words of Harry Leslie Smith in this poem which I’ve titled As Lands Lie Bleeding. I hope you enjoy the read. 

As Lands Lie Bleeding 

I can’t stand by and watch the world explode

these are not my words 

but those of a former soldier

in the winter of his years

who genuinely fears for our human race 

this is a man who has faced unspeakable horrors

the likes of which we hoped we would never see again 

like hearing whilst stationed in Germany 

that atomatic bombs had been dropped on japanese cities

and turned the souls of inhabitants 

in to what he describes as chalk marked stenciled drawings on pavements 

in the fragile peace of a cold war world

we had believed those days were behind us 

yet now we stand at a crossroads

not seen since the 1930’s and rise of Nazi Germany

as once more the conservative right 

squares  up for a fight without realising the consequences 

these people have a glorified sense of self 

but no sense of other nor compassion for their plight 

without a moral compass they play games with our lives 

in contrast to those who rebuilt a shattered continent 

at the end of the last global conflict 

who in this country brought us

The NHS and welfare state 

but now the politics of fear and hate are on the rise again 

as the disadvantaged look for scapegoats

to blame for their decline 

shortage of housing and rising crime statistics

blame it on the forigners not the British 

say those who preach exclusion 

as if by doing so we magically solve all problems 

I support an independent Scotland 

but I recognise that independence alone would not solve our problems overnight 

however in the dreamworld of the British Conservative right

they are prepared to make no such admissions about their United Kingdom

and by perpuating their delusions 

they are sacrificing the ambitions of their children 

to live in a better world than this 

an old soldier is warning us 

with autocratic governments in positions of power 

the world stands at the darkest hour 

since the days of Hitler and the reich 

life he says cannot go on like this 

something has to give.

we are standing on the brink of war 

he urges us to take a step back 

not for the Saltaire, stars and stripes, or union flag 

but for humanity 

he worries about the sanity of sociopathetic leaders 

with no respect  for others 

as they lust for power at all costs

and watch lands lie bleeding 

as they play war games by remote control 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

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A Woman’s Choice

I have written this poem for one very simple reason and that is to express my support for the me too campaign which is highlighting the problems of harrassment and sexual assult against women. Trust me these are issues which need to be addressed if women are ever to receive full equality in society. I’ve given it the title A Woman’s Choice I hope you enjoy the read .

A Woman’s Choice 

When I came out as a woman 

I was asked inappropriate questions 

about who I’d prefer to have sex with 

in other words did my transition mean I was a lesbian 

I don’t think some people got it

so at the risk of what they called playing gender politics

I tried to explain that sexuality has nothing to do with trans identity 

I was making a decision to live my life my way

you know the way it works for me 

I would still support Celtic and The SNP

just as other women would support neither both or maybe one 

we all different but have some things in common 

and in 21st Century Scotland and the UK

one of those things is and let’s be honest about it

 the fact that women still get sexually abused or harassed 

as cavemen find it funny to make comments about bodily parts 

or what a woman wears

trust me I’ve received stares and  comments 

in bars and on the streets 

none of which were soliticed 

about my breasts and my bum

if you think wolfe whistles are welcome

your living in a fantasy world 

and to think I’ve heard people say 

I should be flattered as these unwanted attentions 

is beyond my comprehension

I can’t understand why anyone would enjoy this behaviour

it is like giving permission to be judged 

and that is something I reserve my right to reject

I claim the title woman and say loudly and proudly

Women deserve respect 

maybe you’ll get it on the day we judge you 

tell you what to wear to work

critisise the length of your skirt 

when there is no dress code for any other employee

yet the minute you wear anything an inch above the knee 

you are told men will look to see what they can see 

can they not understand 

that the problem lies with men not me 

a women should be free to wear she likes

and not be treated like objects of desire 

male lust is a fire  which is not

a woman’s responsibility to extinguish

they need to do that for themselves 

but the patriarchal structures in our society

somehow suggest this is a woman’s fault 

It is not and never will be 

we will not take the blame 

for attitudes so ingrained our country 

some men turn ugly when women say no 

claiming she really means yes 

so let me say it straight no women 

is ever asking to be raped, assaulted, or harrassed 

because of the way we are dressed

this is wrong it has to end 

we can’t go on pretending it doesn’t exist

and risk the next generation of girls growing up

believing it is acceptable to be treated in this way 

we have to say we are women 

not objects of desire

we will not tolerate being viewed 

through the window of male privilege

it is not your right we are not your toys 

so let make it clear when it comes to intimacy 

 or who we interact with 

it must always be a women’s choice 

© Gayle Smith 2017

Eclipsed

As many of you will know this is National Poetry Day and this year the theme for the event is freedom. Like all the themes chosen to celebrate this day it can be interpreted in any number of ways but inspite of mywell documented support for both the Scottish National Party and the cause of independence , if you have come here looking for a braveheart claymore wielding poem in support of my party or cause your going to very disappointed.  I’ve written plenty of those poems in the past and will do so again when the occasion demands. This however, is neither the time nor the place for it. Instead i have chosen to look at the top in a more petsonal capacity by addressing those hard won freedoms that should be the hallmark of any civilised society and the danger to them from the Conservative goverment and The Great Repeal Bill which would give UK Prime Minister Theresa May the powers of a medievil monarch. This is the most dangerous piece of legislation brought before any parliament since the German parliament passed the Enabling Act in 1933 which paved the way for Hitler’s reign of terror. I’ve given it the title Eclipsed as i genuinely fear for our rights if this passes into law. I hope you enjoy the read 

Eclipsed
Freedom 

For this Glasgweigan 

means being able to assemble 

with my friends at a place of my choice 

raise my voice in demonstrations 

or poetry nights

fight for the rights of others

as well as myself 

I’ve never been the selfish type 

some kinds of freedoms are greatly overhyped 

like that to offend others

in the name of free speech 

freedom means having within my reach

the chance to make the most of my skills and abilities

walk the streets with dignity 

unafraid to be who i am 

whilst respecting others 

even when we may disagree on certain issues

it is not a woolly concept

supported only by guardian reading 

bleeding heart liberals 

and must be availble to all citizens 

not just those who can afford 

to send their children to the right schools  

it is imposing only rules considered reasonable and necessary 

for society to function properly 

but in all honesty 

not everyone is as free 

as should be the case in a civilised country 

I recognise freedom can have an ugly side 

if allowed to go unchecked

to me it’s all about respect 

we can’t afford to neglect our hard won rights 

or the sun will go down on them 

and as we sleep through the darkest hour of night

we will wake up to find them eclipsed 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

Diet Of Kindness 

With all the madness of Brexit and and an ever growing culture of individualism and the me first society, people are increasingly putting their own needs ahead of the common good. In this poem i take a look at what local, national, and global society could be like if we could move to from the cult of personality politics to a kinder way of communicating with and responding to the needs of others. Ive given it the title Diet Of Kindness i hope you enjoy the read .

Diet Of Kindness 

As evening approaches i am aware 

it will soon be time to dine

but i think not of food 

though a fish supper is appealing

it is not a meal i want right now

rather a change in the way we treat others and ourselves

this will be beneficial to the emotional health

of our communities and nations 

we should seek inspiration from volunteers not millionaires

we need to change what we aspire to be 

this is not about food

 it is about the common good of the human race 

too often we are told to know our place 

and accept this order without questioning those who served it up

or asking them why they didn’t put respect on the menu

from Hitler to Stalin from Franco to Caucescu 

we have been taken to the fast food  politics

of instant gratification

only to hunger for commodities  dished out on our individual platters

by the tabloid press and 24 hour  television

to limit our ambitions 

to what they believe is right for them 

as half the world starves to death 

and the other half craves what they can’t posses

are we too blind to see the answer that lies before us 

humanity is not about building borders barriers or walls

pride will always come before you fall from a very great height 

as evening comes i am aware 

it will soon be time to dine 

but it’s not food i have on my mind 

it is change in the way we live

it’s about taking less and giving more 

talking to the outcasts 

those until now you have chosen to ignore 

it’s about changing who and what we aspire to be 

setting ourselves free from authoritarian chains

it’s raising our voices in anger when we  see others being demonised and labelled 

it’s about accepting people

 be they LGBT , disabled or from different religious groups 

it’s a recipe not for the stomach but  the mind 

and replacing individualist self indulgence 

with a diet of kindness served up with compassion and humanity 

© Gayle Smith 2017

A Warrior Wordsmith Who Speaks For The People ( A Review Of Door To Door Poet By Rowan McCabe)

Imagine the scenario. You get a knock on the door, you answer the door, and you see someone standing there with a clipboard and pen. Your imediate reaction is to ask the person concerned what they are selling and inform them as politely as possible that whatever it is you are not interested.  What happens however when far from being the predictable insurance , or double glazing salesperson you are met with reply I’m a poet would you like to tell me about yourself and what concerns you and I’ll write you your very own poem. 

My imediate reaction and i speak as a poet would be aye right so you are. So if i would be sceptical imagine the reaction Newcastle poet Rowan McCabe (pictured below) faced as he took his door to door poetry challenge round some of the roughest places  in the North East of England. 

During his year long mission Stockton born Rowan encountered a number of interesting characters and a significant number of  issues in his attempts to bring poetry to the people. Undetered our warrior wordsmith soldiered on in his quest to make poetry matter by making it relevant to the kind of audience who were put off by the poetry they were taught at school. 

As he begins the story of his poetic journey through the wildest parts of the north east, including the street once dubbed the roughest street in Stockton after being featured on the TV documentary show Benefit Street,  Rowan shares his poem on being a door to door poet and how he got the idea to do it which he says was due to boredom and wanting to do something different with his talent. As he takes us on his journey, he  tells us the story of Kyle a young man he met in a Newcastle housing scheme who would be the type of lad that polite society would cross the road to avoid. On meeting him Rowan explained his mission to be greeted by the expression what do i want with poetry ? Undaunted our door to door poet told Kyle that this poem would be his poem and be about the issues that mattered to him and he would receive a copy of his own customised poem . Gradually the man warmed  to the idea and challenged Rowan to write a poem about his girlfriend and how much he loved her .

 After finding out the information he needed Rowan wrote the poem First Date about Kyle’s first date in which he took his girlfriend to Greggs and they bonded over a steak bake. This claim was later disputed by his girlfriend who said that as she recalled it their first date was at the cinema . 

As our intrepid wordsmith continued on his journey he met a man who was concerned about immigration and had confessed to voting for Brexit , and a woman who had a passion for horses with a particular fondness for the three times grand national winner Red Rum.

During the course of his travels Rowan learned not only of the value of having good communication skills but also about being aware of the impact of The Data Protection Act when it comes to sharing online information and how even unwittingly a lack of knowledge on this topic can land you in some very tricky situations. 

Talking of tricky situtions our poet who dared to venture in to what the chsttering classes  would uncharted cultural waters learned a bitter lesson when it comes to  organisational cultute and the way it can make promises and then proceed to break them at the shortest possible notice. This through no fault of yours lead to cancel arrangements you made with others which were based on those promises and this can and did lead to a loss of trust all because someone else let him down on more than one occasion and this for Rowan meant losing relationships with potential participants he had worked really hard to build. 

Heartbreaking though it was Rowan ploughed on with his pioneering work and on meeting Alan an older man whose mother was German he discovered a man who was deeply concerned about the potential rise in far right racism in a post Brexit UK but was determined he would not be silenced despite having Swastikas daubed on his door by exactly the type of people he fears will grow in number. It was this meeting which  produced the inspiration for one of my favourite poems from the show , and Speak was a powerful poetic portrayal of why we need to be stronger than ever in our fight against this narrow kind of imperial , insular, xenophobic nationalism which in Scotland we call the worst kind of unionism.  Alan was featured on the BBC when their breakfast did a feature on Rowan’s ground breaking arts project and Rowan talked with warmth on his poem Speak which illustrates both Alan’s committment to speaking up for those people whose voices are being marginalised or ignored and Rowan’s passionate belief that door to door poetry can give them not only that voice but the belief that in 21st century Britain there opinions matter. 

This to me was the most heartwarming aspect of a show which I could very easily have overlooked had it not been for the glowing recommendations of two fellow poets whose opinions i rate highly enough to trust and Gemma Baker and Jenni Pascoe were totally right to tell me that this was a show i had to see. After an hour of poetry which was entertaining and thought ptovoking in equal measure i left raving about the talents of someone who is not only a door to door poet but a warrior wordsmith who speaks for the people. That someone is Rowan McCabe. 

Till next time

Gayle X

The North British Cringe 

Four years ago to the day I marched with 30,000 others  through the streets of Edinburgh in support of my country’s independence . Alas when the vote was held we were defeated by the forces of apathy and fear and our nation remains what the author John Steinbeck described in a conversation with President Kennedy as an unwon cause. It is my opinion that one of the key reasons for this is what some people refer as the Scottish cringe. You know the idea, that we alone of the nations on earth are too wee, too poor , and too stupid to run our own affairs. It is my considered opinion that this is a form of cultural oppression and this cringe is anything but Scottish. Indeed I believe it was in fact born in Westminster by those who are absolutely terrified to see Scotland become an independent nation namely the British establishment whose vested interests in our country be they economic or political make them and their all too willing servants  overtly hostile to our independence. It is for this reason that I have written this poem and given it the title The North British Cringe . I hope you enjoy the read. 

The North British Cringe 

We are told by the establishment and their friends in the press

Scotland is not oppressed 

Well if that the case 

why is Scotland’s population

which was a 1/3 of England’s at the formation of the United Kingdom 

now less than a 1/10 

they cringe when I tell them 

 there pro union argument makes no sense 

yet when we contest this notion we are scorned 

told we are idealistic but ill informed

but it’s our accusers who are deluded

the idea of not being oppressed because we’re Scots is misguided 

If you don’t believe me let’s look at the evidence 

we’ll start with the rough wooing in the period leading up to union 

When The Ailen Act was passed by a Westminster government 

determined to secure their unity at all costs

even their anthem talks about crushing rebellious Scots

then there was the banning of the Gaelic, the pipes, and the tartan after the 45

this is a ban unionists choose to ignore 

preferring to bang on empty drums about the sashes their fathers wore 

whilst never mentioning the privileges it brought them 

too many in Scotland are ignorant of our history 

so I’ll start by informing them 

that much to our disgrace 

this prohibition of our language, culture , and tradition did take place 

and wasn’t lifted until 1782

almost 40 years after Culloden 

if that wasn’t an attempt to keep us downtrodden I don’t know what is 

It was a deliberate attempt to show resistance was futile 

and the beginning of a campaign to keep Scotland in our place

the more fanatical sycophants

even tried have our country’s name wiped from existence

and replaced by North Britain 

I still believe this to be your career unionist’s wet dream 

but this girl from the schemes 

is wise to Westminster and there never never ending lies

whilst the truth cries tears at the endless myths and misconceptions 

their parties will use to gain votes at election time 

these practioners of the dark arts 

are well versed when it comes to the crimes of  deception and duplicity 

as we can see when they use their carefully worded propaganda

they fraudulently call British history 

this has been manufactured in the interests of the elite 

by their friendly Oxbridge historians

I afford them no credibility especially the Tory ones 

the hope and glory brigade

 who will claim we played a part in shaping the new world and the politics of empire 

and maybe we did but not in the way they would have you believe

you see there was no voluntary migration to Canada in 1773

In the real world this has another name

It was called the clearances 

as tens of thousands of families were evicted from their land 

to make way for sheep 

yet you dare to tell me we are not oppressed 

I weep when I think of the martyrs of Tolpuddle 

or the massacre at Peterloo 

but I do so in an international context

 as I ask with respect 

why I was taught about these events at school

rather than the Paisley mill girls 

or the fact that Scottish radicals 

were executed by cold hearted killers 

for demanding independence in 1820

these facts are hidden from our young 

just in case knowing them, might turn them against this precious union

the myth that took centuries to build

by those skilled in the art of the cringe 

the 90 minute patriots who claim we can’t possibly be oppressed 

as we are allowed to wear kilts

and support our national football team 

though when I remind them we can’t watch Scotland games on TV

I am told I am fanatical SNP

and unpatriotic to Britain

they make fools of themselves 

by going on about British highlands , whisky, and bridges

and saying that by being allowed to vote 

we can’t possibly be undermined in a way 

this is the garbage spouted by those Proud Scots 

 who read The Daily Mail , watch EastEnders and Match of the Day 

the ignorance of these people astounds me and suggests 

they know nothing of the place they are ashamed to call home 

and that’s the way they need it to stay 

they ignore the fact that their Westminster masters can’t stand them 

or even tolerate them 

they’ve never been informed about the Scottish potato famine 

which though nowhere near the genocide 

faced by our Irish kin 

still happened nonetheless 

our oppression was and remains more covert in nature

the press and media used as tools to surpress 

any feelings of national identity 

and cover up any events the Brits would rather hide 

like the Govan rent strikes or the socialists of Red Clydeside

and why not because we are oppressed 

by the British is best brigade 

who make sure this history 

our real history is never taught in schools

it would undermine their right to rule 

to which they believe their entitled 

reality however paints a different picture to the one they want to see 

through the prism of their union jack blinkers 

these not so liberal thinkers 

who think narrow minds are prized possessions 

would still deny our oppression 

or while part of this United Kingdom 

some Scots oppressed those in other lands and their own 

In the name of empire crown and glory 

working class Protestants encouraged to vote Tory 

and many still do 

In fear of an imaginary Irish Catholic takeover 

wrapping themselves in the red, white, and blue of union

believing themselves to be the true blue Scots 

yet boasting that they are Brits

from an early age these hypocrites were and still are 

indoctrinated in to hating the Highlander,  the Irish , the French , and Jew

with Muslims now perceived to be enemy 

the Irish and the others used to be 

as Voltaire once said it is difficult to free fools 

from the chains they revere 

on teaching our history 

we must make it clear 

Scotland’s story is not an easy read 

but read it we must 

if we are ever to conquer the cringe 

that of all nations only we 

are too wee, too poor , and too stupid to be free

this is complete drivel 

and the perpetrators must be called out as liars

as a nation we have to aim higher 

but first we must come to terms with our past and our  present 

and facing up to our continued oppression 

this can only end with independence 

and becoming the authors of our destiny 

only then can we look the world in the eye 

as no longer conditioned to be shy 

we will say to every nation 

we are equal to you

the cringe has been conquered at last 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Frontline 

As I’m sure most of you know activism whether cultural, social, or political has always played a big part in my life. So when it was selected to be the topic for this month’s Extra Second I was naturally delighted to volunteer my services to perform at the event and have written this poem entitled Frontline especially for the occasion. I hope you enjoy the read .

Frontline 
I attend demonstratations 

for a variety of causes and campaigns

come rain or shine you will find me 

on the frontline

supporting those who need it 

on a range of issues 

local, national, or international, 

sometimes the apathetic call me irrational 

tell me I can’t   change the world

or the society of the nation I live in 

but Scotland and Britain need people like me 

people who want to make changes 

for the better 

not surrender to selfishness and greed 

I want to help those in greatest need 

give them a hand up not a hand out 

and certainly not the kind the Tories talk about 

they deserve rights and equality 

not a world where the only way is poverty 

we are supposed to be a  wealthy nation 

 not a nation for the wealthy 

the mind thyself culture 

is not just unhealthy 

it’s wrong and that’s why I’m trying as hard as I can to change it 

we can’t allow those with gold plated gates 

to lock the rest of us out 

and that’s why it’s important to voice opinions

on what happens outside your borders 

there can be no limits to justice 

we have a duty to support the oppressed wherever they are 

designer goods and fast cars

have never been my style

as my gran always told me 

you can’t take them with you when you go  

and believe me I know the truth of that story

that’s why I oppose Tory policies

you don’t solve problems by creating inequality

foodbanks  are not the solution to poverty

and  I cringe at Westminster’s attitude

 at the wealthy selling arms to corrupt government’s abroad 

meanwhile millions of citizens are ignored 

as doors of opportunity to change

are slammed shut in their faces

If this is the best we can do it’s outrageous 

especially when  cutting costs means that slowly 

the NHS  bleeds to  death

for lack of funding 

this kind of attitude is disgusting

and it’s why you’ll see me on the front line 

protesting at the wrongs of the world 

and doing whatever I can

 to change them for the better 

© Gayle Smith 2017