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Exchanging Pleasantries 

This is a poem written for everyone who has had to deal with that difficult relationship as we often must at this time of year due to the constant round of social engagements. You know the type I’m talking about lt’s like the one you had with that annoying relative or irritating former colleague or anyone else you have said you would never see again but circumstances have forced you together just one last time. I’ve given it the title Exchanging Pleasantries I hope you enjoy the read.

Exchanging Pleasantries

It was an awkward hello
a forced smile through gritted teeth
I suppose you could say we were exchanging pleasantries
forced by the situation
and the presence of others
to at least pretend to get on
but there would be no crossing the divide
too much pride was involved even to give it a thought
why ask another how are you
when you don’t really care
if there is nothing to be said
don’t waste words
by attempting conversation
it may be cold but it makes the goodbye much easier
look them in the eye
then walk away happy
you didn’t bother
with a hug or a handshake.

© Gayle Smith 2010 

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Speaking My Thoughts On The  Human Rights Act 

I wrote this poem yesterday to celebrate the International Day Of Human Rights. I’ve written in the style of a chat we need to have with those who want to get rid of The Human Rights Act. You know the type, we’ve all met them. You know those who will shout very loudly about the rights they want for themselves but never give a thought for the rights of others. I’ve titled it Speaking My Thoughts On The Human Rights Act I hope you enjoy what I think will be a thought provoking read.

Speaking My Thoughts On The Human Rights Act 

So you want to get rid of the Human Rights Act? 

do you really want it scrapped ?

well here are some facts I think you need to know 

before you act in haste 

this act layed the foundation for the humanity we cherish

god help us if it should perish on the rocks of fear 

now let’s get a few things clear 

this act established the right to freedom from slavery 

to get rid of it would be stupidity not bravery 

it enshrines in law to the right to assemble 

and of freedom of speech 

in so many lands these are rights beyond the ordinary people 

and some powerful people here would remove them in a heartbeat 

we cannot afford to sleepwalk our freedoms away

so you still want to bin the Human Rights Act ?

all for the sake of a union flag or indeed any other

I think it’s time you learned some uncomfortable truths 

about what it can and does do

like establish your right to marry 

to raise a family and have a private life 

to gain access to education 

to freedom of conscience and thought 

whether governments like what your thinking or not doesn’t really matter 

don’t be fooled by the chatter of those with vested interests

we actually do need this legislation

as artists when we get inspiration our work is protected by copyright 

we have to fight for our rights in a way we shouldn’t need to do 

the right to shelter is a right you and I are given in this act 

though some will always fall the safety net 

when benefits and protections are cut in ever narrower patterns 

due to greed, inhumanity and deliberate lack of understanding 

by those who have too much and give too little in return 

we must campaign for freedoms which were hard won  in times before now

like the right to a fair wage and to join a trade union 

which stops profiteers exploiting you 

like your a commodity or a cash cow

do you still want rid of it now? 

well let’s see some other ways your protected 

it respects your right to a nationality 

gives you justice and equality 

supports your rights to live in a democracy 

provides you with the right to own property 

and gives you freedom from torture or inhumane treatment 

and to be innocent of any crimes 

until found guilty by a jury of your peers. 

your entitled freedom of movement

and a safe space to live away threats or fears of violence 

It gives you the right not to be silenced 

to say with pride I value my rights 

to life, liberty, and dignity 

I care about the univrsal declaration 

made by the United Nations

in which this act is grounded

I cherish what the founding signatories had in mind 

when they first wrote just after the second world war 

this is what we were fighting for 

this is why we couldn’t let Hitler’s Nazi’s win 

this was the new beginning we needed 

to protect individuals and nations

so I’m saying knowing what you  know now

would you still get rid of the Human Rights Act ?

would you remove the United Kingdom’s signature 

from the universal declaration ?

 if you say yes to that 

for the sake of an empire which will never return 

there is something I think you need to discover 

if you get your way and we lose these freedoms 

we have taken for granted for so long 

you may sing a song of sorrow

far sooner than you think 

you  yourselves may need to wear triangles 

yellow , pink or  other colours 

it won’t matter to those who take the possessions you prized 

if you fall for their lies then remember 

it was you who cried wolf so many times 

that nobody believed you when he stole all you had 

and feasted on the carcus of your trust 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Irn Bru And Optimism

On St Andrew’s Day I thought it only fair to take what I hope is a light hearted look at my country which I love in spite of its flaws and in some cases maybe even because of them. I’ve given it the title Irn Bru And Optimism I hope you enjoy the read. 

Irn Bru And Optimism 

Irn Bru and optimism 

limits placed on my ambition

Calvinism, and Sunday schools

a land of far too many rules 

Scenary and shortbread tins

national teams that nearly win

McIlvanney, Morgan, Lochhead 

inspired me to write my Scotland 

Telling stories through my poetry 

remembering tales my granny told me

of Jimmy Reid and John MacLean 

Scots and socialists worth the name

Spoken word and traditional songs. 

It doesn’t matter where your from

Govan , Maybole , Tain, Dumbarton

even Cumnock’s got some talent.

So on our nation’s national day

I’ve only thing left to say 

let’s place no limits on our ambitions

and toast Irn Bru and Optimism 

© Gayle Smith 2017

The Alt Right Claim That Snowflakes Are Delicate Little Creatures But The Truth Is They Are The Delicate Ones When You Look At Their Fragile Beliefs 

 Earlier this month it was my privilege to be part of a very interesting and very lively night at Extra Second. Well when the subject is philosophy it is shall we say bound to lead to a lot of stimulating discussion and debate and that was certainly the case on this occasion. 

Being more in the tradition of a philosophy cafe than a normal spoken word event was a significant departure from tradition for Extra Second you were allowed to challenge performers during their set and I faced one such challenge from an audience member with regards to my poem Snowflake. 

On finishing the poem I was quizzed by a very charming and polite middle class twenty something  male who asked if he could ask me a question on the poem. I said that I had no objection to him asking whatever he wished and I would attempt to answer him in the correct and proper way As I gave the floor to my inquistor I steadied myself in readiness for his take on my poem. 

My questionner asked that since I had inferred that the Alt Right referred to the those on the liberal left as Snowflakes and implied that we were delicate little creatures was is not hypocritical of me to then say towards the end of the poem that the Alt Right were in fact snowflakes and they were the delicate little creatures or was he misunderstanding my poem. 

I replied that he had indeed misunderstood the context of the poem as to get it you have to understand the psychology of the bully and why they not only fear change they are actually terrified of it.  This is why I referred to them as delicate little creatures because as soon as you put them under any sort of pressure they fold like a piece of paper . I went on to say that these people like to intimidate others but are not so keen when the groups concerned fight back and use the same assertive tactics on them and as long as there are racists, homophobes, transphobes and those who discriminate against others on the grounds on factors such as disability, gender, or anything else they think they can think of to make themselves relevant then I will continue to call them out for there actions. 

Having been challenged on my first poem I must to being genuinely shocked that I wasn’t challenged on my poem Mirrors Of Time as it showed both empathy to a younger poet who was experiencing what he described as his political puberty and also how my political views have changed over time. 

If lack of a challenge on that poem was surprising it was an even greater shock not to be questioned on my final contribution which was a very personal blog post written to celebrate the 21st birthday of a certain blogger to whom I have become very close. I say this was a shock as being a poet this was a massive step out of my comfort zone.  To be honest I would have welcomed challenges on both these pieces as this could have led to a tough but enjoyable cross examination of how I’ve evolved over time as friends would have taken the opportunity to ask about the events that shaped the changes in my thinking which both pieces illustrate. Indeed I would have been happy to take questions on them. 

That said however it seems that those in the audience got those changes from the context in which the pieces were set and only Snowflake caused anyone to misunderstand the meaning of what was being said.  This I must admit baffled me as I thought it was easily the most relatable topic of the three I had time to cover but it seems that someone who appears to be on the pro unionist right of the political spectrum didn’t get the fact that those they call snowflakes may not be quite as delicate as they would like to think and the fragility of their own beliefs may mean that in reality, the Alt Right are in fact far more delicate than those they choose to mock. 

Till next time 

Gayle X

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 

Storm Of Sorrow

On the day of the Catalan Independence Referendum the Spainish state is tainted as Prime Minister Rajoy tries to deny reality and employs both sabotage and brute force to stop people exercising their democratic right to vote. These tactics are an insult to democracy and reminiscent of Franco’s fascist dictatorship As I watched the scenes unravel on my phone I was sickened to see pictures of people covered in blood and yet the UK government statement talked only of Spain and how valuable an ally they are to the UK without giving so much as a moment  to consider the victims of these unprovoked attacks. Having csmpaigned for Scotland’s independence in 2014 I remember the support we received from our Catalan comrades and outraged at their treatment I wrote this poem in support of both Catalonia and their right to exercise their democratic mandate. Ive given it the title Storm Of Sorrow I hope you enjoy the read

Storm Of Sorrow

Carnage in Catalan streets

citizens shot down by riot police.

as people go to exercise their right to vote

on seeing images of bloodsoaked protesters

British politicians gloat on social networks

unable to continue their glee

before removing their offensive tweets.

this will teach the SNP they claim

on the day democracy is less important than blame

and Franco’s heirs flaunt their hate

they should be ashamed to side with Spain

but they do

the red white and blue is bloodstained again

as democracy weeps it whispers the truth

with tears used as punctuation

you can judge a nation’s leaders

by the company they keep

and people who lecture others on internationalism

fall silent in the storm of sorrow

© 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