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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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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

When Women Are Visible In All Shapes And Sizes It Really Is Something To Celebrate 

At the beginning of the month  I had the privilege to be part of the Visible Women festival a two day which celebrated who and what women are through the context of art, workshops, and discussion. 

Organised by the human dynamo that is Keira McLean, visible women had an action packed programme of theatre and discussion including the premiere of a one woman show by the hottest property  on the Scottish spoken word scene Victoria McNulty, the controversially acclaimed show Gaslight by Darren Loki McGarvey, and workshops on feminist music , comedy and film festivals. 

As a trans woman I was delighted to asked to submit a poem to this festival but me being me I e-mailed three to Keira and let her decide which one she wanted to include. The poem she selected was Does My Lipstick Scare You ? which I wrote for World Transgender Remembrance Day in 2014. On chatting with Keira she told me that she made her choice due to the fact it was the best fit for the event as it challenged those in attendance to redefine their notions and images of women and of womanhood. Looking back I can quite clearly see why she made this poem her choice and I believe that I would have made the same decision.  If you look at some of the artwork featured in the exhibition you’ll see why. 

Picture (1) Women And Words asks a fundamental question on the power dynamics in male- female relationships 

Picture (2) This picture uses a word which is usually used to describe power and authority that an individual or organusation may hold over us in certain situations. Don’t get me wrong the word obey is fine when we use it in it’s proper context like for example reminding children to obey our parents or school teachers, or if we are members of a group, or a club we promise to obey the rules of that club or group. Unfortunately however,when it comes to women the word obey has very negative connotations. In our case it is usually inferred or even stated that we should obey the men in our lives no matter in what capacity. Yes even in 21st Century Scotland/UK this attitude still prevails albeit to a lesser extent than was once the case,but it is still very much out there.

 To me the idea that I should be considered of secondary importance and therefore subservient  to male family members, work colleges , or lovers, just because I’m female is fundamentally flawed but attitudinal barriers are often the hardest kind to break down and we need to remember that it is only  30 years ago that this word was included in every wedding ceremony in the country as part of the bride’s promise to her husband.  Yes I know it says in the Bible that wives should to their husbands but it also says that nobody should eat pork and people can sleep with family members, and I don’t either of these argument work well in today’s consumer based society .

Picture (3) Words,can be used as weapons and they very often are as capitalism promotes inequality between the sexes as the collection captured, in this photograph amply demonstrates.

Picture (4) Gives you a message the established order don’t want you to know and that message is freedom is power. It also asks the most fundamental of questions which is how can you have no home? For women however, this question still needs to be addressed as  more women than men will be homeless due to changes in their domestic circumstances so though freedom may very well be power for men locally, nationally, and globally this doesn’t apply to women who often find themselves out in the cold due to changes in living arrangements.  

Picture (5) If every picture tells a story then the images on this wall speak of judgement with slogans like to cover up and shut up and not fit to be a mother informing us of the standards men or the more neanthadal among that species think women should aspire to.  Now I hate to shatter the illusions of these delicate little creatures but maybe they have their centuries confused. For the avoidance of doubt  this is the 21st and it’s time they stopped living in the 12th

. Picture (6 ) I find this image both challenging and powerful and I’m sure many people will have their own personal take on it.  As for me, my interpretation of the phrase walk with me is that men need to spend a day walking in our shoes to understand the prejudice and discrimination, we still face in Scottish/ British and Global society even in these so-called liberal and enlightened times.  

Picture (7) This image tackles the thorny image of stereotypes. If you look closely you will see a picture of a women’s crossed legs. This in my portrays the idea of woman as seducer, and temptress. It is if you like the typical male view what femininity is about though it doesn’t constitute an image of any women I know.  Indeed if truth be told it provides only one representation of what may or may not be at any given time and as such should not be given a greater prominence than it deserves.  

In the same photograph you can also see the word hysterical. This is a word, which is only ever attributed to women and the implication behind it is that unlike men who are always perfectly balanced, women are not in control of our emotions are liable to throw a temper tantrum if we are not given our own way.  This sexist use of language gives the misleading impression that men are more rational than women and is often used to discriminate against us.

Picture (8) If visible women means making women proud of who we are   then this picture of my friend and fellow poet Carla Woodburn which shows her looking happy, confident, and relaxed  is the perfect picture to include in this post. Carla is a very visible woman in the Glasgow poetry scene and has recently set up her own spoken word night Tell It Slant  at The Project Cafe on the last Friday of the month and with her friendly but professional attitude and her warm and welcoming personality I am sure it will be a fantastic event which will become a valuable part of our spoken word scene in the months and years to come.  

Picture (9) Shows my poem Does My Lipstick Scare You? Hanging on display in the exhibition. Though the text is not clearly visible in this photograph you can quite clearly see that it is a poem in the way it is laid out and I was proud to have it featured at an event which looked at who women are and how we are represented in every way imaginable. On chatting to others who attended the festival , I found that many had viewed my poem and were very complimentary about it saying that it challenged heteronorative norms as to who and what women and told the story of a very visible trans woman who wasn’t afraid to be herself 

Naturally I was delighted to receive such positive feedback on my  work particularly on a poem which I believe challenges everyone but especially alpha males to recognise that trans woman are women and will not be bullied by anyone Looking back at the festival I can honestly say I completely understand why Keira selected this poem to represent my work and trans women more generally as it challenges the notion of patriarchy and illustrates that women come in all types , shapes and sizes and when we can visibly embrace the fact and enjoy being ourselves then  it really is something to celebrate.  

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X 

Global Warning 

Hey Readers This poem looks at my mother’s unspoken passion for nature and what I would now refer to as green tv programmes.Though politically unionist which I  think was due to being a wee girl at the time of world war 2 and from listening to friends and neighbours than any firm conviction to that cause my mother was never unfair or at least not intentionally and I would describe her as a liberal with green tinges. Due to fundamental differences in our opinions particularly on Scottish independence and Irish unity (I , like my dad and my maternal gran supported both unconditionally and still do without any concessions)   I seldom discussed domestic politics  with my mother. International issues however were a different matter and something on which we found areas of agreement. For example my mother was the first person I knew to mention the Rainbow Warrior and supported the Greenham Common women,  but I must admit I giggled when she referred to Global Warming as Global Warming. However with the benefit of hindsight I think she have been more right than I thought on that call. So it is to my mum Mary Roberson Russell that I dedicate this poem written in her memory  and entitled Global Warning I hope you enjoy the read.

Global Warning

My mother got it wrong

when she called global warming

global warning

for a woman of her generation

it was an easy mistake to make

but she may have been more right

than she thought

and she was certainly a fan

of recycling

often taking clothes to charity shops

and encouraging me to buy from them

before it was cool or on trend

she thought unleaded petrol

was a good idea

when others condemned it as an unworkable dream

my mother was a wee bit Mrs Bouquet

when she talked of living in the suburbs

rather than the schemes

which to her were someone else

I think it was it was her village mentality

which made the good life required early evening viewing

she would watch documentaries on trees and polar bears

before comedy or programmes on poverty

as for her politics I would described her as liberal with green tinges

I think she would have liked Partick Harvie

though she would have been more at home with Robin Harper

he was more of her generation

she would have related to him better

seeing Patrick as more my style

she often watched wildlife on one

telling me we needed to look after the world

because David Attenborough said so

I couldnt argue with logic like that

If I tried I’d be reminded

everything has its place

and we shouldn’t endanger species or plants

but tend them with care

on studying the physical environment

I told her of the damage to the ozone layer

to which she replied this had been a long coming

we didn’t have as many white Christmasses

or long hot summer days as she once remembered

maybe it was her memory playing tricks

or perhaps we had taken too many risks

in the name of progress

and what Adam Smith called

the wealth of nations

geography has to come before economics and politics

it’s the only way to create a better society

whilst ensuring our survival

in the longer term

the slash and burn approach

of so-called capitalists

who think of only of themselves

and the potential profit margins

they could make whilst others starve

or die forgotten in dull dark spaces

which nobody wants to inhabit

has caused untold misery

in every country you could name

it’s time to raise our game

my mother may have been

more accurate than I thought

this is a warning shot

and as tempretures rise

and weather becomes more extreme

with greater seasonal variations

than any time in history

we will unravel the mystery

and in doing so

we might finally get the message

the insanity has to end 

@ Gayle Smith 2017

 

The Verdict

Hey Readers

In this poem entitled The Verdict i aim my sights firmly in the direction of the UK Parliament and ask why our political leaders talk a lot of hot air and put profit before people whilst doing as a little as they think they can get away with on climate change. It is my opinion that lack of action will not be viewed favourably when these politicians meet their makar it is for this reason I’ve given it the title The Verdict I hope you enjoy the read 

 The Verdict 

It seems to me that British politicians

talk a lot of hot air

when it comes to making changes

trying to avoid them just in case

they might not work

we they claim, are by nature risk averse

preferring safety first

or better the devil you know

personally I think this is madness

you can’t keep doing the same thing

and expecting different results

that is not how the world works

but this is something Britain fails to understand

an isolated island we are told

we are a happy land

and those who want change

are viewed with distrust

or even suspicion

blamed for causing divisions

which in reality have always existed

no matter what Westminster thinks

you can’t paper over cracks

by wrapping everything in union flags

yet they seem to believe

that singing a chorus of Rule Britannia

will make everything better

there will be no surrender to the truth

facts will be dismissed

as lies which get in the way of a good story

the British establishment live in a bubble

unable to comprehend

the importance of taking care of the land

or that the world has evolved over time

and may not want the benefit of our advice

which will always come at a price

when it’s wrapped in corporate pin stripes

by the city of London

as gamblers disguised as traders

get away with whatever they like

it’s the way they play the game

meanwhile the ragged trousered philanthropists

live in poverty in areas where dreams died long ago

I thought they would have known by now

this is the inevitable result

of trusting Tories with democracy

it is they and their wealthy friends

who want to frack the land for profit

extract shale gas from under the ground

without a thought for the long term damage

this could do our environment

not to mention the impact

on our tourist industry

food crops or drinking water

whilst gullible sheep are led to the pen of self interest

and deliberately misformed by the press and media

to ignore these trendy liberal leftie causes

as many gladly will

preferring tabloid horror stories

which are exaggerated for effect

by journalists who know

there is always someone to blame

and that rule applies

whatever the problem may be

the UK leaders need to be made to see

what Scots Sudanese , Senegalese, and Swedes already know

this is not the time for showboating and grandstanding

we need to develop an understanding of our habitat

and stop referring to those who value nature

as tree huggers

those who put profit before people

are no better than muggers

stealing priceless gifts of nature  which do not  belong to them

if you think that sounds like

I’m singing a song of sustainability

then that would be correct

I value my world I treat it with respect

this plundering of the planet

cannot be allowed to continue unchecked

we need to learn where things are at

and see that next summit we attend

debating the problems facing the earth

we have to open our eyes and see the solution

if this takes a revolution in our thinking then so be it

we can’t just wish these issues away

global warning does  exist

we must open our eyes and actually listen

believe it or not the world does not revolve round the united kingdom

far less the stockbroker belt in the home counties of England

we have bigger issues to consider

than playing petty political games

where short term goals

are all that can be scored

a problem ignored is a problem doubled

if we don’t sort it out

we’re heading for trouble

we need to focus on cleaner greener energy

cutting down on waste

not acting in haste now

and regretting decisions at a later date

for the sake of humanity the future can’t wait

we need to act locally, nationally, and globally

or slowly like desertification

tomorrow will speak of our shame

when that happens the judge of the earth

will deliver a verdict on our environmental vandalism

and the scandal is that

on the charge of death by hot air

we will be found guilty of murder by apathy

@ Gayle Smith 2017

Causalities Of Greed 

Hey Readers 

Later this month I will be reading at the January edition of  Extra Second spoken word event at The Blue Chair on the theme of Climate Change. As a Geography and Politics graduate this topic really  appeals to me and I want to do it justice by writing some new poetry to the theme of the evening. This poem freshly written this afternoon, is one I will consider performing at the event. I have given it the title Causalities Of Greed. I hope enjoy the read. 

Causalities Of Greed 

It’s been gradual 

a slow change 

which happened over time 

an environmental crime 

 caught us unaware

as we were guilty of neglect

for our living space 

our disgrace was the fact 

we failed to realise the problem

the damage it could do 

was doing will continue to do 

If we don’t change 

some dismiss it as strange 

the product of liberal thinking 

unpatriotic 

a fantasy which gets in the way of their profit 

their right to be a money making machine 

ensure their security and wealth 

those in robust health don’t think of long term solutions 

the damage pollution causes 

interested only in short term gains 

they conveniently ignore the victims 

as they watch the world chocking 

unaware they too 

will be causalities of greed 

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

The Coldest Season 

On day 10 of Blogmas I share a poem where I look at the the commercial side of our so-called festive season and why when we are wandering round the shops we should stop for a moment and think on others who may not be as fortunate as we are and what if anything we can do to help those abandoned by a society which is becoming more individualistic by the day as Conservative values take hold of western democracies and demonise those in need of genuine help I’ve given it the title The Coldest season I hope enjoy the read.

The Coldest Season

Winter, the coldest season 

where those discarded by a society 

in which winner takes all 

are refused access to the festive cheer 

whilst the rest of us spend 

more than we can afford 

on relatives we’ve ignored 

since last Christmas when we had that argument 

and brought up things best left unsaid 

or if we’re still not talking to them 

we’ll spend  our cash on  new friends 

get in to more debt that a small country 

all because that advert was lovely 

and filled us with the joys of the season 

it is after all time for glad tidings

silver linings of comfort and joy 

we’ll be in good voice singing carols 

at the church we attend once a year 

It’s Santa not Jesus in whom we place our trust 

to meet our needs in the season of goodwill 

but what about the old, the homeless, the ill

thrown to the wolves so others can jingle tills 

in the name of profit 

 of which they will see just enough 

to pay the bills and not a penny extra

this is the not so secret agenda 

of those who would kill the Christmas spirit 

by taking others to the brink

watching them sink from a world 

so immune to their pain 

we don’t see the irony 

when we hurry through shopping malls 

in this the coldest season of the year 

and the song we hear is do they know it’s Christmas. 

@ Gayle Smith 2016