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Active Citizens 

As a spoken word poet I am rightly proud of our tradition of activism on just about every topic you could name. From Apartheid to Women’s rights poets have opinions on everything and not afraid to voice them. This is something we share with all performers, but in this poem I take a look at musicians both folk and pop, and in particular the protest songs written over the years to express support of causes and campaigns to document an important part of social history . Whilst some of the songs, I’ve incorporated in to this poem may be very obviously political others may initially at least  strike you as slightly less so but when you look closely at the lyrics you’ll see they may be more radical than you think . I’ve given it the title Active Citizens as I have  long held the belief that the creative community are often a government’s more effective critics. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Active Citizens
My journey started with McGinn of The Calton 

who sang of  a may day for the ordinary people

and women pining for the pill .

Glen Daly told the story

of a wild colonial boy 

whose spirit will always live 

in the hearts of rebels with or without causes

the Corries took me over the sea to Skye 

while the hills of Donegal 

and the fields of Anthery 

showed the other side of my family tree 

both sides displaced in the name of the great white sheep 

and generations later the Proclaimers 

lamented the industrial clearances 

when they sent a letter from America

and narrated Scotland’s story 

as a  land of migrants 

throughout our history 

our so-called masters have ignored us 

attempted to silence our voices 

in the name of their false unity 

but our community remains strong

writing and  singing  the protest songs 

that expose them and their cruel deeds

carried out in the name of greed and personal gain 

meanwhile though she took a train to Leeds Central in 1989.  

we are still  looking for Linda 

and when we find her 

she will know she is one of  Jock Tamsons Bairns 

regardless of where she was born 

you see  where you are from can only be the first verse 

the starting point of the protest song

what follows is the journey about where your going to

and  how we help you get there 

by listening to the lyrics 

and the lessons they teach us for the future 

we can’t afford to be seduced and abandoned

by falling for lies and false promises 

or ignoring the 1 in 10 

we need to send the selfish homeward 

make them think again on the consequences of their behaviour 

their attitudes that make me a very angry girl 

I come from the generation who dared to feed the world 

and ask when there would be a harvest for it 

a harvest we could share 

with west end girls and smalltown boys 

we can’t let politicians create 100 000 Allentown’s 

or hold back the years in a vain attempt 

to keep us in what they think is our place 

in the rat trap they’ve created over years and centuries

to preserve what they see as the natural order 

with those McGinn sang of at the bottom 

with independence lies the hope of a better Scotland 

though we will still have our problems 

and protest songs to sing 

in the hope of the finding solutions 

as creatives we have always been political 

critical of our establishment regardless of party colours

and as our future governments will discover

we will always be active citizens

speaking out on the issues that matter. 

.© Gayle Smith 2017 

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Lessons 

On day 3 of NaPoWriMo it is time for a political poem and it may not come as too much of a shock that the  topic of choice is independence. What may however be a bit of a surprise is that the tone of the poem comes as a warning to yes supporters to learn the lessons of history to avoid repeating the mistakes and indeed disappointments of 2014. In this poem I urge our supporters to offer the hand of friendship to those voters who voted no in 2014 and set about winning them over to Yes and winning a better Scotland because of it. I have given it the title  Lessons I hope you enjoy the read 
Lessons
If Scotland is ever to see the day 

when we become an independent self governing nation 

we must learn the lessons of the last campaign 

we cannot afford to win the day 

and lose the future 

economics may be not my seducer 

but it is effective for many 

and that penny needs to drop  

we have to recognise its power 

or the flower of Scotland will never truly bloom 

our country will not be won 

by slogans, clipboards, and demonstrations 

though they will play a part 

we must use the head and speak from the heart 

be inclusive of all communities 

and not be afraid of tackling deeply held prejudices 

amongst our own supporters 

as to why we think the way we do 

this will be a challenge 

but it has to be faced 

we can’t simply wish it away 

and hope our opponents are magically cured 

of the loyalties which bind them to  union 

this is why we never won last time 

we need to engage and say clearly and with honestly 

we can offer no guarantees 

but neither can our opponents 

and we need to call them out 

when they claim otherwise 

there are no such thing as certainties 

to pretend that the present is set in stone 

is not the solution 

we were told we would never leave 

the European Union 

yet Brexit and the isolation it will bring 

will turn us more selfish and right wing

as gradually the UK becomes ever more insular 

with xenophobia masked as the new patriotism 

this is a vision I do not share 

I despair that our civic Scotland will be under threat 

and every word we say will be scrutinised 

the smears and lies have already started 

winning the future is not a job for the faint hearted 

we have to offer the hand of friendship 

to those who voted no in 2014 

not accuse them of killing our dreams 

in moments of anger and frustration 

it is too easy to throw about words like independence and nation 

without explaining why we would better than Westminster 

at running our own affairs 

I want to live in a country that cares 

for our most vulnerable citizens 

not a United Kingdom based on wealth patronage and privilege 

that’s why my identity is Scottish not British

I don’t want to live a land which still fantasises  

about a past when they called other countries colonies 

whilst keeping their own people poor in the name of empire 

 telling them they should be proud 

they couldn’t feed their families 

I don’t want to live in a country 

where people are devalued due to race , religion , gender or sexuality 

where diversity is demonised 

and difference is viewed with fear 

to me  these kind of attitudes

are barriers to the progressive society 

I’ve always believed in 

I know there will be some in both the SNP and yes

who will be uncomfortable with me 

because of the way I dress 

and the fact I am a woman with a trans past 

but I’m prepared to take the chance

 that our very different versions of what independence should mean 

will be keenly contested in elections in which Scotland’s voters matter 

as for now I’ll accept them as allies 

in defeating the spin and patter 

coming from unionists with agendas 

the way the Tories have been behaving 

they might as well start singing no surrender or Rule Britannia

or giving pensioners free photographs of Margaret Thatcher

rather than trying to pretend 

they give a damn about our country 

we need to debate them on the issues

we need to win ugly 

by convincing those voters who are willing to listen 

that Britain belongs in the past 

though I admit it  may have been good for some 

 this battle needs won 

not for Auld Lang Syne 

nor memories of old 

we’ve got to be bold for the future generations

those growing up 

and others still to see the day 

it is their future that’s at risk 

we can , we must, we will do better than this 

when we learn our lessons 

the future will be ours. 

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

Nightmare On Brexit Street. (The Story Of A Very British Horror)

​As Brexit begins with the triggering of Article 50, I genuinely fear for the country we’ll become if Scotland doesn’t leave the UK at the earliest available opportunity. Since the vote to leave the European Union the UK which had always been or so I was told by its supporters a green and pleasant land where people were in the main treated with fairness has become a very nasty place. It is no longer this inclusive union of nations which was I was told was  tolerant of strangers and valued individuals for who they were and the skills they could bring to the table.  

Of course growing up in the West of Scotland rather than Suffolk, Somerset, or West Sussex it is fair to say that I never bought in to this narrative and regarded it as a carefully  constructed myth. After all with a background of Highland and Irish ancestors I knew about both the clearances and the famine and other atrocities carried out in the name of the crown. When certain people tried to remind me that these events were in the distant past and that people had changed and the UK had evolved  since those times. I could at least listen to them without throwing up. 

This was especially true when these people usually nice well meaning  family friends mentioned standing together to fight and ultimately defeat fascism and of course the National Health Service After all as someone who a couple of impairments I value the NHS more than most and I wouldn’t be here  today were it not for NHS staff who saved my life as a child and have fought fascism and other forms of far right politics since my mid teens in the mid 1970’s. 

So why does the UK taking back control of our country as the leave voters so eloquently put it frighten me more than any other development in my entire political life ? Why does it concern me even more than the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States? Why do I think that Brexit represents the biggest threat to our human right since the end of the Second World War?  

I have these concerns because the in the months since Brexit vote, there is very clear evidence that there has been a sharp increase in rascist and homophobic attacks throughout the UK and though those in unionist politicial classes who promote Brand Britain as a accepting  friendly, and inclusive multi cultured country may be upset by this I am even more proud of my yes vote in Scotland’s independence referendum with every day that passes.

You see as a trans woman and a disabled person I saw the future of the UK when I cast that yes vote in 2014 and yes I will get smug about it because this nightmare on Brexit street is exactly what I said was going to happen when I campaigned for independence. I told voters about the dangers of voting no and that it would almost certainly result in us being dragged out of the European  Union as the Conservative Party had promised to hold  a referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the EU if they won the 2015 election which of course they went on to do and I had no doubt whatsoever that should we hold such a vote the majority would vote to leave. 

To be fair, some listened to my advice and maybe even acted on it. More often than not however I was greeted and how do you know , or but Labour will win the election , or my favourite of union jackanory brigade, namely that, we’re  too wee or too poor to be independent.  

The fact that none of this is even remotely true seems to wash over these people who are so often categorised as small minded simpletons but instead of mocking them we need to be educating them that being afraid of change won’t stop it from happening. 

It is this resistance even hostility to change which made these people vote for Brexit and vote to remain in the united kingdom when I voted for a more inclusive Scotland at the heart of a progressive Europe. The Brexiteer, like the unionist is a reactionary creature who like shouting people down and afraid even terrified, of those who challenge their beliefs. They struggle to cope with the modern world even when in reality they have known no other as I found out when I campaigned for a yes vote in 2014. 

These people need our help, they often live in the past and cannot accept  any alternative version of society which contrasts with their Westminster worldview. To way of thinking the queen and her heirs and  will always reign over us and Westminster will keep us safe from the big bad world outside. To suggest there may be another way of doing things is in their world a dangerous and  treacherous act even when they are presented with evidence of our abundance of natural resources and informed that countries, such Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Slovakia all with similar populations to Scotland are successful self governing nations. 

This seems to frighten them and desperate to cling on to what they see as certainties in an ever changing world they cling on to a fragile British identity based on a deeply reactionary conservative sense of nationalism.This explains the growth of  Conservative support amongst the more entrenched unionist communities in Scotland and  UKIP in England and Wales. 

This support has its roots in what its supporters would call traditional values.I  however have another name for their beliefs and that name is plain old fashioned prejudice. The attitudes shown towards people from other nations shown since the Brexit vote has been nothing short of frightening and makes a total mockery of those oft repeated claim about British fair play, and Britain being an inclusive country which accepts anyone regardless of colour, creed, or religion.  

Though most of this  anger has been directed at people from Islamic countries it is  also fair to say that Europeans have also taken their share of xenophobic abuse from those who believe the headlines in the right wing press that ‘Johnny Foreigner’  has taken over a land which far from being green and plrasent is in reality  grey and unpleasant and getting steadily less accepting with every passing day. 

It is I think worth pointing out that this new intolerance is not just restricted to those from other nations but at anyone the Conservative establishment deems to be different. Target groups include disabled people,  and the LGBTIQ communities who these people see as a threat to their values.As a trans woman I have experienced more hate crime and transphobic abuse than at any time since beginning my transition in December 2008. 

Make no mistake I fear for my hard won rights in a post Brexit UK in which I want no part. I frar that as Theresa May brings forward her Great Repeal Bill which will give her the powers of a monarch she will go on a wrecking spree which will leave no corner of what we call British life untouched with workers rights , the Human Rights Act , and the devolved parliaments right at the top of her hit list as she aims to centralise all power at Westminster and subject us all to her Anglo Centric view of democracy. It is my belief that we are living in very dangerous times and that voted for Brexit based on a new golden age are going to get a very rude awakening. The fantasy of taking Britain out of Europe will have repercussions way beyond the limited imaginations of the Brexiters and I personally , see no way the UK will be able to survive the coming storm. 

When historians come to write the history of these tumultuous years they will I am certain write of a period when Scotland gained her independence Ireland was united and brand Britain was reduced to shadow of its former  self. When as, is their duty they have to look for explanations as to why this happened they will look at the day the United Kingdom ran away from reality and conclude that the nightmare on Brexit street was a very British horror and horror stories never end well.

 Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X

Marching Backwards

Hey Readers

It is my considered opinion that there is something very wrong with politics in democratic nations. With regards to the UK, there has been a disturbing rise in the number of racially motivated attacks in the aftermath of the Brexit vote and there have also been a significant increase in transphobic and disability related hate crimes.

Whilst not everyone who voted to leave the European Union is a racist and many decent and honourable socialists voted to leave for a completely different set of reasons but there can be no denying that post Brexit Britain has unleashed a very unhealthy strain of right wing British Nationalism which if unchecked could see Britain more divided than at any time since the 1930’s.

As a supporter of Scottish independence some people might say this should please me but those who make such wild assumptions do not know me and will never know me. I may be a member
of the Scottish National Party but I was raised an internationalist and I will hopefully many years from now die an internationalist. So believe me when I say I take no pleasure in watching this horror story unravel and the recent victory of Donald Trump will I fear drive this right wing agenda still further. It is with this division and politics of fear clear in my mind I have written this poem entitled Marching Backwards I hope you find it a challenging and thought provoking read.

Marching Backwards

Good morning Britain

I am now going give you a wake up call

ignore it and one day you will be

welcome to the UKKK

an insular xenophobic
small minded island

led by a right wing authoritarian regime

where a very privileged few
will fan the flames of fear

Who needs the facts when you have cheerleaders

like the BBC and 90 per cent of broadcast media.

If we try to find the truth they’ll ban the internet especially Wikipedia

they may deprive us of our human rights

but they’ll do it under the guise

of keeping us safe at nights

whilst numbing our minds

by remote control

EastEnders and Coronation Street

are light family viewing

not manna for the soul

but this is their strategy

they want you to talk about some fictional characters

having problems with their sexuality

this will prove how liberal you are

to friends and neighbours in your street

and your drinking companions at the bar

providing nobody like that lives next door to you

that would to be too much to handle

in this new fantasy land

where the only scandal is getting caught with your morals down

It just isn’t right and all those Muslims and other foreigners

frighten granny’s in Gloucester,

though she won’t say that when visiting her Syrian doctor

or her Bosnian care worker

In this land of strivers and shirkers

her Polish bank manager is always so nice and eager to help

but in this gray unpleasant land

she and her fellow Brits tell anyone willing to listen

this is their United Kingdom

so everyone else has to look , think , speak like them

they see 10 Downing Street
as the epicentre of civilisation

believing that Jesus once walked in their nation

claiming foreign fields as forever English

forgetting or dismissing the fact Scotland Wales and at least a small part of Ireland

are still for the moment part of the United Kingdom

they talk about only when it suits

meanwhile as union flags, flutes and Nazi salutes

are dismissed as harmless fun

tabloid Tories like The Sun, The Mail, and Daily Express

make me proud I voted yes in the independence referendum

and if they think I’ll by led like sheep to Armageddon

they must be living in an alternative reality

televised trivialities will not stop me

 pursuing my vision of a better world

where inclusion and attainment are not dirty words

and aspiration is viewed as normal

not dependent on a formal by which I mean private education

we must remove walls not build them

to keep others out

this isn’t what progress is about

nor is it about labelling, demonising, or stereotyping

to provide the few with silver linings

at the expense of everyone else

this mind thyself attitude

which puts Britain first

is the refuge of the cursed

the curse which if ignored

could see the wolf enter through the back door

and wreck havoc if unchecked

this is supposed to be
a nation of fairness and respect

where all lives matter

but the shaven heads who hold their flags

and chant Rule Britannia

don’t agree

these poster boys for the BNP
Britain First

and others on that side of the political spectrum

are the kind of Brits who don’t contest elections

this type of subject has no time

for anything as complex as choice

only wanting one nation one voice, one race

the world will be a safer place
they claim

point the finger of what they see as shame

at any group they don’t like

disabled people, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender

people of different ethnicities

these people are not truly British

according to their way of thinking

as the sinking ship austerity

brings their ideas into the mainstream

if this poem doesn’t make uncomfortable reading

we have not learned the lessons of history

and will be condemned to repeat its mistakes

by marching backwards to the right.

@ Gayle Smith 2016.

Bloodstained.

Hey Readers

On this remembrance Sunday I attended church to remember those who gave their lives in war such as James Stokes who died whilst leading others to safety in the great war and gave thanks for those who came home from world war 2. This includes my dad John Smith who joined the marines just as the war was ending, his brothers Robert Smith and James Smith who fought with the Highland Light Infantry, My uncle Donald (Dan Russell) who was proud to serve in the Scots Guards my uncle Charles Hayes who was a member of the Enniskillen Fusiliers, and my uncle Arthur Timperly who served in second battalion the Lancashire Regiment. All were good men who were proud to serve and fight in the name of democracy and freedom in the fight against fascism.

In more recent times I am also proud to have known poets such as Jim Craig who served in the Second Battalion the Parachute Regiment 1962-1974) reaching the rank of corporal and Sean McBride who like Jim also served in the Second Battalion the Parachute Regiment from 1983-1995 and also reached the rank of Corporal. It is for these men and many more and women like them I have written this poem entitled Bloodstained and I make no apologies for having a swipe at the political classes of all nations as it is on their hands the blood of the fallen and nightmares of many others, must forever rest.

Bloodstained

I remember uncles who never talked about war
they preferred to talk of those actions that caused them
the horrors of watching comrades die
I remember a mother who told me
boys don’t cry
and a dad who said that real men do
when they see injustice and
hatred cause by fear
so let me make it clear
when politicians pose for the photographers in tanks
whilst giving thanks to God
by quoting poetry from the ruling classes
I remember my father’s words
I am angry beyond rage
when I see politicians
with blood stained hands
hogging centre stage
believing that wearing a poppy
shows they care
I despair at this Union jackanory
the glory hunting
which shows they never served anyone but themselves
and the arms industry
meanwhile nations
stand in dignity
to mourn those to who never came home
give thanks for those did
and watch the greedy make fools of humanity
by allowing this insanity
to happen time and time again
the political classes who send
the young to die
at the going down of the sun
we will see hands covered in blood
and in the morning we will remember
them

@ Gayle Smith 2016

Act Of Resistance 

Hey Readers 
This poem is written in memory of a fantastic night of words and music at McChuills where poets and musicians played a benefit night for Palestine at the monthly Fail Better event entitled Match The Fine For Palestine. I was privileged to be on the billed performers list for this gig alongside such talents as The Wakes, Francis Lopez, Victoria McNulty, Carla Woodburn , Declan Welsh, and many more to numerous to mention. The night was well supported by the creative community and it was good to see friendly faces such as Ella Russell, Liam McCormick, Jim Monaghan, and Shaun Moore amongst the audience and we raised almost £300 to be sent a youth organisation which helps young Palestinians to develop their talents and life skills which will empower them to serve and lead their community in the years to come as they seek to build the Palestine of the future. I have given it the title Act Of Resistance I hope you enjoy the read 

Act Of Resistance

It was a night when poets and musicians

spoke with purpose and pride.

to support the people of Palestine

this was an event where no-one was content

to accept the lies peddled as truths

by the press and media

as they attempt to demonise a community

who don’t fit with their long held views

every night on the mainstream news

you will hear Palestinians castigated as terrorists

by a British establishment whose hands according to them

are completely free of stain.

if you are taken in by this and believe the way they play the game

ask yourselves what the red white and blue

has ever done for Ireland

I think you’ll find it’s not a lot.

after all genocide and attempted starvation

isn’t the way to win the hearts of a nation

it was the same in the Scottish highlands 

as bouts of mindless violence

cleared lands in the name of the crown

as we remembered our histories

we couldn’t let Palestine down

so we told our stories shared our poems and songs

in the name of those who have endured politically delivered wrongs

on a night like this I was proud

we belonged not to Glasgow but the world

as we raised money for the children of Bethlehem

Declan told tales of a recent visit

to a place which was warm and friendly

but also terrifyingly real

he spoke with a zeal fed by his passion for fairness

the couldn’t care less brigade

could stick to the comfort zones they have no intention of leaving

to hear of people grieving

would offend their sensibilities

the fragility of their certainties could not survive a night like this

they can save their air kisses for someone else

a selfish self indulgent type who would deny the basic necessities

to those most in need of our support

Declan had plenty to report

as let he us know of checkpoints and armed guards

patrolling the streets where Jesus once walked

If he were here I  think he would be shocked stunned and mortified

but most of angry that we could ignore

a people displaced and in distress

yes I do believe he would have said what he thought

would it have been popular?

probably not but it would have been an honest opinion

like those of the poets and musicians

who took this stage to make a point

if noses were put out of joint by what we said

that’s too bad I for one am glad

we did as Pastor Neimoller would have wished

In an act of resistance

we supported the people of Palestine

@ Gayle Smith 2016 
The picture at the top of the poem shows Johnny Cypher doing his set for the cause. 

Man Of Many Faces

Hey Readers

For the first time since 2007 when he finally left Downing Street I have written a poem on Tony Blair. Well in the light of Chilcott enquiry I thought it was appropriate to give the man his character and believe me when I say I haven’t missed my target.  I’ve given it the title Man Of Many Faces I hope you enjoy the read. 

Man Of Many Faces

He seemed charming
on his rise to the top
but I sensed a darkness
in the sociopathic socialist
I was never impressed by fake humility
nor his false airs and graces
a man of many faces
he was versed in the habits of disguise
lies dressed up as truths
were the tools of his trade
wherever there were games
to be played
he would always watch others
joining in only when he knew what side looked like winning
his cheesy grins and  sanctimonious smiling
convinced the gullible of silver linings
though it must be said I wasn’t taken in
by the man who craved power
at any cost
no matter what happened to others
in the ashes of Iraq
the man of many faces
lies exposed
as the last mask slipped
to reveal the face of evil.

@ Gayle Smith 2016