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The Flying Winger

As this is Friday the 13th I thought I would share this newly written poem in memory of my late uncle Arthur Smith who was born on Friday 13th October 1929 . Arthur was my dad’s youngest brother and his story though challenging and the kind of tale that many families would sweep under the nearest available carpet deserves to be told as a mark of respect to a good man whose life was by blighted by the choices he made and the circumstances that shaped them. Due to the stories of his footballing skills I’ve given it the title The Flying Winger. I hope as he rests  enjoys the peace he never had in life. 

The Flying Winger 

Forgotton by an uncaring society 

which neglected those with issues

it was harder in your day 

some will say you brought problems on yourself 

you always had troubles with health 

the youngest son in the family 

you were named after your dad

the most talented footballer of the brothers

my dad always said you would have been discovered 

if only the flying winger had been 

more of a team player 

 you had the flair

but were far too greedy on the ball 

you were the boy who wanted it all

and could have had it 

when the chance came to take that job in England 

you should have grabbed it 

but you chose to stay to provide for the family 

as with brothers and sisters all married

you wanted to help your mammy

as your dad had been lost to cancer 

it was her death that broke you 

unable to cope you left a well paid job 

the calling off of your engagement

was a bitter blow which proved too hard to handle 

you turned to alcohol for comfort 

but your friend became your master

and would eventually leave you with only one kidney 

and living rough on the streets

you died in the great eastern hotel

a place where our city kept its lost sons

the ones that some would call scum 

but you never that 

you were a kind man who made choices 

you believed to be right at the time 

you are part of me and your story deserves to be told 

I wish I had known you better 

maybe been able to help in some small way 

on the day of your funeral 

only my dad and my aunt Betty

said their goodbyes to their brother

and comforted by each other 

shed a tear for the flying winger. 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

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The Chance To Be Me 

I wrote this poem yesterday for National Coming Out Day to give my view as to why a day I wish didn’t need to exist is still actually necessary.  This is day for taking steps and having that conversation you know the one you’ve wanted to have with a college. friend or family member but never quite got round to or maybe it’s about them saying to you it’s okay I’m on your side and dont worry everything’s going to be fine. After a lot of consideration I have decided to title this poem The Chance To Be Me as that is what coming out gives to so many people the chance to tell the world this is who I am . I hope you enjoy the read.

The Chance To Be Me 

On national coming out day 

no doubt some people will say 

why does it matter 

well let me explain 

coming out matters so that no one will ever need to be ashamed

of who they are or who they are attracted to 

but it’s political correctness gone mad 

or so we’re told by those who claim 

being LGBT is a lifestyle choice 

when we try to voice our concerns 

at this myth 

we are told to sit down , stay silent 

think ourselves lucky we are tolerated

we should be grateful for this 

but kissing our partners in public 

that’s not on nor will it ever be 

tabloid press and TV decide the way society is mirrored 

yet for so long we were only bit parts in the stories narrated through soaps and plays 

those days are the days some people yearn for 

ignoring the fact that many a secret was hidden behind the net curtains 

people were hurting unable to be who they were

ask yourself is that the kind of country you want to live in 

where people are labelled and suppressed

because of who they love.

or that some of us dress diffently 

from what’s considered normal

by those with the biggest stake in society 

who preach sobriety whilst living alternate realities

they have the wealth and means to disguise 

coming out matters because it puts an end 

to lying  just for the sake of others

it’s about discovering yourself 

and having the right to be who you really are. 

coming out means I can go to church

or walk in to that bar as the woman I am 

there is no longer a need to pretend

to be someone I’m not or never will be 

I am still the same person you’ve always known

 I still write poetry and hate snobbery and inequality in all forms 

do not be afraid to talk to me 

or ask any questions you feel you must 

trust me to be honest in my answers 

know that I will speak my truth and own it 

coming out as trans was the best thing I have ever done 

it was the moment I stopped running away from myself 

and admitted who I was, am, and ever shall be 

It gave me the chance to be me 

and that’s why on this day and every day 

coming out matters and it matters more than you think

© Gayle Smith 2017

As A Poet Talked Of His Mother’s Faith And The Dread Of A Black Forever A Musical Minstrel Made Memories As He Told Of An Amber River

There are sometimes when I really can’t believe how quickly passes and one of these times is when I write up my review of the previous edition of Words and Music . It seems like only yesterday I was preparing to welcome to our wee Tin Hut and now it’s time to tell you about the events of an very enjoyable and entertaining evening when we welcomed both old and new friends to our club . The fact I’m doing it two days after our October meeting is due a combination of a very busy life and my haphazard style of organising my notes 

At the clock struck 8 it was time to get under way. Since this was first night since the fringe I decided to kick off with Jewel Of The Clyde which is my take the events of 1990 when Glasgow was European city of culture.

Having done my duty it was now time to introduce the billed readers to the stage. First up was Susan McKinstry who though a recent addition to our team is a very welcome one. Susan read two poems Tolerance and Intimidation and both were excellently delivered by a writer with something to say about the state of both our nation and values. While I enjoyed both poems I particularly liked  tolerance as far from being what many people aspire to as the benchmark of democracy Susan explained in a carefully crafted way that tolerance should be the least we expect of others in a civilised society and that acceptance of others rather than merely tolerating them is the key to building the fairer more inclusive country we say we want to see.

As one Susan returned to join the company another took her place on stage and Susan Milligan performed two pieces Cats and Holiday In Heaven both of which had that quirky humour which has become Susan’s trademark. As usual Susan finished her set with a song. In this case the song of choice was The Carpenters classic Don’t You Remember You Told Me You Loved Me Baby after which she went back to her seat to enjoy the rest of the evening.

After two writers called Susan the next performer also had a similar sounding name and it was a pleasure to welcome Suzanne Egerton back to the stage for the first time since March having been absent from the company to a combination of holidays, hillwalking, and hospital appointments. I have to stress at this point that the hospital appointments were in no way related to either the holidays or the hillwalking . Anyway it was great to see her back where she belongs . Unusally for Suzanne,she started her set with a poem on growing older entitled No Mauve . This was followed by the tale of A Curious Incident At The Falkirk Wheel she then read a poem on hillwalking which she described is the lot of the older lesbian titled I Loved A Girl Wandering, before concluding her set with a story titled Autumal which was both enjoyable and appropriate since we were now in what the romantic poets described as the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. 

As Suzanne went back in to the body of the kirk,  it was time to welcome our first male reader of the night and Jim Ewing would take us to the bar break with a set of three poems Granny Barbour, Orange, and a poem on suicide written in memory of the late Catherine Walker titled  It Is Never The Only Solution. In this the final poem of his set Jim appealed to anyone harbouring these thoughts to speak to someone who may be able to help them and this seemed the appropriate time and place to take a break and enjoy the company of those in the gathering including what looked like half of Skelmorlie who had come up to support our featured musician Billy Pryce. 

It was due to half of Skelmorlie turning up for Billy and the cooperation of our featured writer Adam V Cheshire that I was able to make an intelligent adaptation to the programme and reverse the featured slots to suit the needs of the many not the few as some of the Skelmorlie crowd had to return earlier than they would have liked. This meant that instead of the featured writer kicking off the second half of the evening that task would on this occasion fall to the featured musician and as a seasoned Words And Music regular though he was making his first apperance at The Tin Hut , Billy delievred in the way I knew he would. 

Billy started his set with an old favourite of mine Spontaneous Acts Of Sorrow,  before moving on to Beautiful Suit. This was followed by  songs which could be considered ever so slightly topical and both The Invisible Hand, and Drones, have powerful messages contained within the lyrics.  After this Billy (Pictured Below) went for a change of dirrction with the more gentle Autumn Song. This was followed by Keep Talking, and the brilliant Amber River which has not only a beautiful  melody but stunning lyrics which move me every time I hear them. He concluded his set with Cats Contentment and showed why he’ll always be welcome at Words And Music and valued member of our family.

( Our Featured Musician Billy Pryce makes a welcome return to Words And Music as he enjoys his first appearance at The Tin Hut since we took up residence in our new venue in June 2016)


Having waited patiently for his turn in the spotlight it was time for our featured writer Adam V Cheshire to share his thoughts with us and he certainly gave us plenty to think about in a passionate and powerful set which that a featured set doesn’t need to mean a lot of poems if as he and Billy did you place the accent on quality rather than quantity. Adam who made history by being our first Welsh featured act in the 27 years of Words and Music started  his set by drawing on his roots with My Mother Is A Christian. This poem in which he talks with openess and candour about his mother’s life and how her faith has helped her through difficult times and how despite his own lack of belief he will still go to church with her on Christmas Day. In his next poem Poetry Is,  Adam (Pictured Below) gives his personal insight in to what poetry means to him and explains his relationship with it. Adam then moved on to a poem on Mental Health Issues with particular reference to depression  entitled The Pining Dread Of A Black Forever. This is a topic on which Adam has very intimate and personal kbowledge and this really comes home in as  authentic voice as you’ll hear on what has always been and always will be a highly emotional issue.

Adam V Cheshire makes history at the Tin Hut by becoming the first Welsh featured Writer in the 27 years of Words And Music. 


Adam finished his set with a brilliant polemic on capitalism titled Capitalism Is Eating Itself Alive. In this amazingly well thought rant our poet puts capitalism the world’s most globally  powerful economic system in the dock and makes a compelling case for the prosecution. This was a top class set from a quality poet and a principled compassionate man. A man I was proud to have at our club.  

After two great featured sets it Claire McCann who had the difficult shift of following them and she gave it her best shot performing a piece called Chalk before rejoining the company.

With all the billed readers having performed it was up to me to bring the evening to a close which I did with a set of four poems. I started with Ten Days,  a poem on  both the ski similarities and differences of two girls born only ten days apart. The two girls in question were myself and Princess Diana who was only ten days my senior .

I followed this up with Glasgow Boy,  a poem in memory of the late Glasgow folk singer Ian Davidson who died last Christmas and who for many years was a Words And Music stalwart gracing our stage on many occasions when the event was held at Sammy Dow’s.  As those of you who knew Ian will know he was a principled man of the left and campaigned fervently for CND so I’m sure he would have enjoyed my penultimate poem of the evening which used a combination of comedy and feminism to make the case against neuclear weapons in Tights Before Trident.  This poem in which I look at things from the legally blonde school of economics shows why we should focused on a millon little things rather than wasting money on an expensive white elephant. Well little things contribute to the  economic well being of the country whereas neuclear weapons only contribute to destrucstion of global civilisation and could bring about the end of the world as we know it.

I concluded my set and the night with a poem which was written about one of my favourite events at the Edinburgh fringe. The event is an alternative caberet which caters for those acts you won’t see too often on mainstream bills which is why it is called Other Voices and funnily enough so is the poem with which I brought the curtain down on this edition of Words And Music. 

You know after the excitment of Edinburgh and the fringe the September edition of Words And Music is a welcome reality check as it’s good to get back in to the routine of attending local events , especially when it’s my responsibility to host the night. Though it is seldom one of our busiest 2014 being the obvious exception it has that relaxing atmosphere that lets you know your home and whoever said 13 was an unlucky number wasn’t at a night where a poet talked of his mother’s faith and the hole of a black forever and a musical minstrel made memories as he told of an Amber River. 

Till next time 

Gayle X

Daughters Of The Muse 

As regular readers will know, I  am a spoken word poet and early last August I was proud to be part of an event which though I didn’t know it at the time would completely change my life. The event in question was  women with fierce words in which those participating were encouraged to bring a fierce word to the Scottish Poetry Library to describe something relating to the poem they had chosen to read. This event then took on a life of its own as we became a fierce tribe and now just over a year later we have collated the poems of the day into an anthology and on Monday Lesley Traynor who was the driving force behind the event was interviewed on the Janice Forsyth show on Radio Scotland. In this poem which I have titled Daughters Of The Muse I give my reaction to the interview and the pride I feel on  being part of this wonderfully talented group of women . I hope you enjoy the read. 
Daughters Of The Muse 

A woman is interviewed 

about a new poetry collection

which the interviewer called
an exciting new development

before asking how it came about 

the women replied it was the result a challenge

to produce a piece of art in a day 

needless to say she rose to the occasion

and inspiration struck 

she asked poets to bring a  fierce word 

to the courtyard of the Scottish Poetry Library 

a word which empowered them

 or made them feel good about themselves 

as a starting place to introduce their poem

though all poets were invited only women replied 

what began as an event quickly morphed into a tribe 

as sisterhood showed its power

friendships forged that Friday afternoon

have matured and blossomed as we’ve celebrated each success

from Emma’s novel  to the launch of  Carla’s spoken word event 

we are not the type of women to rest on laurels 

we are daughters of the muse 

as we proved when we signed fierce words on canvas 

to become our art 

our creation 

we are an inspiration to others 

who will follow in our paths 

and now we have this collection 

as a memory of the day  

a day we tackled the task of rising to the challenge we faced 

and accomplished it by making  words our art 

@ Gayle Smith 2017

Tapestry

In my final poem for this year’s pride I bring my story up to date by relating the events from the 1990’s to the present day. I’ve given it the title Tapestry as it completes my story so far. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Tapestry

It’s been a long journey to get to where I am 

though from the 90’s onwards 

attitudes began to get better 

slowly at first, but they speeded up 

when we reached the millennium bell

things had been improving bit by bit

as more people began to be open 

to say without fear I am what I am

a friend of Dorothy who walks the yellowbrick road

in red shoes of whatever style I like

the T was finally included 

in what had been thought of as LGB rights

for me the journey would take just a few more years 

with smiles and tears along the way 

now in my 50’s I can safely say

I’m having the time of my life 

I’m more daring than I ever believed I could be 

yet at the same time respectable 

when the occasion demands 

no longer content to bury my head in the sand

I face the world and say 

this is me take it or leave it

but you won’t change me 

I only go back to the past

to collect memories which I join together 

crafting with care the tapestry of my story 

© Gayle Smith 2017

No Room For Rainbows

In my latest poem I look at what it meant to be a young trans woman in the very conservative 1980’s. To set the context to this work I should perhaps explain that as we started this  decade homosexuality wàs still illegal in Scotland and though this changed in 1981 bringing the law in to line with England and Wales where this had been the case since 1967 it was at a time when there was a climate of fear against the LGBT community and when homophobia and transphobia as we know them today didn’t exist and merely thought of as normal everyday behaviour. 

Seriously, that’s how it was back in the day.Thankfully times have moved on since those dark days and now living permanently as the woman I’ve always known I was I’ve taken a retrospective look at that part of my story and I think I’ve gained a better understanding of my mother’s issues with my trans identity by doing so. I honestly believe that my mother was a good woman who was probably afraid for my safety and that’s what shaped her views on it. 

As is the case with some poems I had difficulty in deciding the title because I had thought of more than one potential option for it. Bearing this in mind I asked my virtual villagers to make the choice for me  and it was Michelle Campbell SNP councillor for Erskine And Inchinan who was first up with her suggestion of No Room For Rainbows which I think is the perfect fit for a poem written about darker days than now. So I’ve to run with it and I hope you enjoy the read.  
No Room For Rainbows 

In the 80’s I danced to Madonna 

and sometimes to a bit of Donna Summer 

well much to my mother’s consternation 

there were some things from the 70’s 

I just couldn’t give up.  

 I wanted a bit of hot stuff 

well though this material girl enjoyed her freedom years 

dancing in my fishnets and body suit 

in the peace and quiet of my room

was the closest I could get to being me

in the days when myths and misconceptions 

were par for the course if you were LGBT

due to the climate of the time 

anti gay hate crime was worse then than now

and trans women were figures of ridicule 

so I can understand my  mother’s attitude 

in trying to wish my identity away 

write it off as a phase

but all the wishing in the world 

wasn’t going to make me straight 

at least not in the male sense of the word 

the very idea of it is completely absurd 

though I get why she hung on to it 

tighter than any child clings to a comfort blanket 

the 80’s were uncomfortable times 

for anyone considered different 

she was probably scared I’d be attacked 

as Thatcher used force 

to unite her Britain under a union flag 

made of second hand rags and material concerns 

with no room left for rainbows 

© Gayle Smith 2017

Ten Days

As pride gets ever closer this poem looks at the story of a princess and a trans girl. Only ten days separated me and Princess Diana. Ten days, and different world’s.Though never a royalist it would have been impossible for a trans girl only ten days younger than Diana not to gush over her glamorous lifestyle not to mention wardrobe but sometimes fairytales are not  quite what they seem and at a time when I was struggling to confront my gender identity issues,  her life appeared to be less complicated than mine It is fair to say that perhaps I didn’t  realise how much pressure she was under or how lucky I actually was. As is often the case when I’m finding it difficult to select a suitable choice of title I let a friend make the call for me. On this occasion the friend in question was a member of the Blue Chair poetry family Molly Frawley who agreed with my original choice of title Ten Days as this shows both the few  similarities I had with Princess  Diana and the even greater differences between us. I hope you enjoy what I think you’ll find a thought provoking read. 

Ten Days 

I was never a fan of the Royal Family 

but as a young trans woman coming to terms with my sexuality 

I was subliminally influenced 

by Princess Diana who was only ten days older than me 

you see I  liked the way she carried herself

even though one of her dresses 

would cost ten times my family’s combined wealth

if everyone put all our money together

getting engaged to a Prince on Valentine’s day

seemed like the most romantic fairytale ever 

till I remembered that fairytales only happened in panto 

not to 19 year olds from forgotten housing schemes 

in remote parts of Glasgow 

and to be honest I never fancied her man 

well I couldn’t be doing with a guy

who spent more time talking to plants 

than he did getting in to my pants

no matter how rich he was 

that kind of man could never be my type 

he was more Mr Wrong than he could ever be Mr Right

now I don’t why but I always thought the marriage was a sham

It was too great a contrast 

like David Attenborough meets Wham 

and that it was never going to work in the long run 

Diana knew the meaning of girls just wanna have fun

not just the lyrics 

while his stiff upper lip made him typically British 

and I do mean sexuallly repressed 

when she got married I focused on her dress 

and how I would love to have worn it

for my  wedding to the groom of my choice 

she gave me the strength to admit to myself 

I fancied boys not girls

well I was too busy wanting to be one 

to look at them in that way 

of course, in those days 

If I aired those thoughts folk would have just have assumed I was gay 

nobody even considered girls like me could exist 

so I transported myself to the dream world 

of a girl who was just 10 days older than me

when her death came I was saddened 

though not as surprised as some 

I thought it best to say nothing

play dumb and watch Blair hijack her death 

cry fake tears for the queen of hearts

the people’s princess 

the girl who made another girl smile 

as she showed me style and high fashion

the kind of outfits I would have loved to have worn to the dancing 

if only I had the chance 

but the princess who was only ten days older than me 

was the girl who had everything

until she realised that sometimes princes turned in to frogs

and not every fairytale has a happy ever after 

© Gayle Smith 2017