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A Woman’s Choice

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

A Woman’s Choice 

When I came out as a woman 

I was asked inappropriate questions 

about who I’d prefer to have sex with 

in other words did my transition mean I was a lesbian 

I don’t think some people got it

so at the risk of what they called playing gender politics

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

I was making a decision to live my life my way

you know the way it works for me 

I would still support Celtic and The SNP

just as other women would support neither both or maybe one 

we all different but have some things in common 

and in 21st Century Scotland and the UK

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

 the fact that women still get sexually abused or harassed 

as cavemen find it funny to make comments about bodily parts 

or what a woman wears

trust me I’ve received stares and  comments 

in bars and on the streets 

none of which were soliticed 

about my breasts and my bum

if you think wolfe whistles are welcome

your living in a fantasy world 

and to think I’ve heard people say 

I should be flattered as these unwanted attentions 

is beyond my comprehension

I can’t understand why anyone would enjoy this behaviour

it is like giving permission to be judged 

and that is something I reserve my right to reject

I claim the title woman and say loudly and proudly

Women deserve respect 

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

tell you what to wear to work

critisise the length of your skirt 

when there is no dress code for any other employee

yet the minute you wear anything an inch above the knee 

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

can they not understand 

that the problem lies with men not me 

a women should be free to wear she likes

and not be treated like objects of desire 

male lust is a fire  which is not

a woman’s responsibility to extinguish

they need to do that for themselves 

but the patriarchal structures in our society

somehow suggest this is a woman’s fault 

It is not and never will be 

we will not take the blame 

for attitudes so ingrained our country 

some men turn ugly when women say no 

claiming she really means yes 

so let me say it straight no women 

is ever asking to be raped, assaulted, or harrassed 

because of the way we are dressed

this is wrong it has to end 

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

and risk the next generation of girls growing up

believing it is acceptable to be treated in this way 

we have to say we are women 

not objects of desire

we will not tolerate being viewed 

through the window of male privilege

it is not your right we are not your toys 

so let make it clear when it comes to intimacy 

 or who we interact with 

it must always be a women’s choice 

© Gayle Smith 2017

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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 

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

The Hope That Kills You 

As Scotland fail to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia I’ve written a poem to sum up how it feels to be a Scotland fan as we miss out on a major football tournament I’ve given the title The Hope That Kills You I hope you enjoy the read 
The Hope That Kills You 

It’s the hope that kills you 

we always take it to the wire 

we’re always 90 minutes from glory 

but  happy endings have been absent from our story 

for too many years 

still we’ll cheer them on

it’s just the way we are 

we’ve had tragic stories of open goals missed

the shots that hit the bar with keepers rooted to the spot 

if only it had been an inch or two lower 

or we hadn’t been ball watching 

when they scored that last minute goal

we controlled the game but never put them away

god knows we had the chances

now as we look back on the campaign

we know we should have tasted success 

but yet again it’s the same old story 

when your 90 minutes from glory 

it really is the hope that kills you. 

  © Gayle Smith 2017 

Diet Of Kindness 

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

Diet Of Kindness 

As evening approaches i am aware 

it will soon be time to dine

but i think not of food 

though a fish supper is appealing

it is not a meal i want right now

rather a change in the way we treat others and ourselves

this will be beneficial to the emotional health

of our communities and nations 

we should seek inspiration from volunteers not millionaires

we need to change what we aspire to be 

this is not about food

 it is about the common good of the human race 

too often we are told to know our place 

and accept this order without questioning those who served it up

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

from Hitler to Stalin from Franco to Caucescu 

we have been taken to the fast food  politics

of instant gratification

only to hunger for commodities  dished out on our individual platters

by the tabloid press and 24 hour  television

to limit our ambitions 

to what they believe is right for them 

as half the world starves to death 

and the other half craves what they can’t posses

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

humanity is not about building borders barriers or walls

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

as evening comes i am aware 

it will soon be time to dine 

but it’s not food i have on my mind 

it is change in the way we live

it’s about taking less and giving more 

talking to the outcasts 

those until now you have chosen to ignore 

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

setting ourselves free from authoritarian chains

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

it’s about accepting people

 be they LGBT , disabled or from different religious groups 

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

and replacing individualist self indulgence 

with a diet of kindness served up with compassion and humanity 

© Gayle Smith 2017

The North British Cringe 

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

The North British Cringe 

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

Scotland is not oppressed 

Well if that the case 

why is Scotland’s population

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

now less than a 1/10 

they cringe when I tell them 

 there pro union argument makes no sense 

yet when we contest this notion we are scorned 

told we are idealistic but ill informed

but it’s our accusers who are deluded

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

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

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

When The Ailen Act was passed by a Westminster government 

determined to secure their unity at all costs

even their anthem talks about crushing rebellious Scots

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

this is a ban unionists choose to ignore 

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

whilst never mentioning the privileges it brought them 

too many in Scotland are ignorant of our history 

so I’ll start by informing them 

that much to our disgrace 

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

and wasn’t lifted until 1782

almost 40 years after Culloden 

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

It was a deliberate attempt to show resistance was futile 

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

the more fanatical sycophants

even tried have our country’s name wiped from existence

and replaced by North Britain 

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

but this girl from the schemes 

is wise to Westminster and there never never ending lies

whilst the truth cries tears at the endless myths and misconceptions 

their parties will use to gain votes at election time 

these practioners of the dark arts 

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

as we can see when they use their carefully worded propaganda

they fraudulently call British history 

this has been manufactured in the interests of the elite 

by their friendly Oxbridge historians

I afford them no credibility especially the Tory ones 

the hope and glory brigade

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

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

you see there was no voluntary migration to Canada in 1773

In the real world this has another name

It was called the clearances 

as tens of thousands of families were evicted from their land 

to make way for sheep 

yet you dare to tell me we are not oppressed 

I weep when I think of the martyrs of Tolpuddle 

or the massacre at Peterloo 

but I do so in an international context

 as I ask with respect 

why I was taught about these events at school

rather than the Paisley mill girls 

or the fact that Scottish radicals 

were executed by cold hearted killers 

for demanding independence in 1820

these facts are hidden from our young 

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

the myth that took centuries to build

by those skilled in the art of the cringe 

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

as we are allowed to wear kilts

and support our national football team 

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

I am told I am fanatical SNP

and unpatriotic to Britain

they make fools of themselves 

by going on about British highlands , whisky, and bridges

and saying that by being allowed to vote 

we can’t possibly be undermined in a way 

this is the garbage spouted by those Proud Scots 

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

the ignorance of these people astounds me and suggests 

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

and that’s the way they need it to stay 

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

or even tolerate them 

they’ve never been informed about the Scottish potato famine 

which though nowhere near the genocide 

faced by our Irish kin 

still happened nonetheless 

our oppression was and remains more covert in nature

the press and media used as tools to surpress 

any feelings of national identity 

and cover up any events the Brits would rather hide 

like the Govan rent strikes or the socialists of Red Clydeside

and why not because we are oppressed 

by the British is best brigade 

who make sure this history 

our real history is never taught in schools

it would undermine their right to rule 

to which they believe their entitled 

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

through the prism of their union jack blinkers 

these not so liberal thinkers 

who think narrow minds are prized possessions 

would still deny our oppression 

or while part of this United Kingdom 

some Scots oppressed those in other lands and their own 

In the name of empire crown and glory 

working class Protestants encouraged to vote Tory 

and many still do 

In fear of an imaginary Irish Catholic takeover 

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

believing themselves to be the true blue Scots 

yet boasting that they are Brits

from an early age these hypocrites were and still are 

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

with Muslims now perceived to be enemy 

the Irish and the others used to be 

as Voltaire once said it is difficult to free fools 

from the chains they revere 

on teaching our history 

we must make it clear 

Scotland’s story is not an easy read 

but read it we must 

if we are ever to conquer the cringe 

that of all nations only we 

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

this is complete drivel 

and the perpetrators must be called out as liars

as a nation we have to aim higher 

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

and facing up to our continued oppression 

this can only end with independence 

and becoming the authors of our destiny 

only then can we look the world in the eye 

as no longer conditioned to be shy 

we will say to every nation 

we are equal to you

the cringe has been conquered at last 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

The Cultural Manifesto Of A  Man Who Speaks For Fairness ( A Review Of Freedom By Matt Panesh)

In the comfort of the cinema room in my favourite Edinburgh bar on a busy festival Friday I did something I’ve been doing for the last eight years and I allowed myself to be entertained by the cheeky chappie of the Edinburgh fringe Matt Panesh. Matt aka Monkey Poet is always on my must see list and this year’s show was no different. In fact the fact  that Matt made it known that this would be his last full run after nine successive years of entertaining the crowds at the fringe eight of them at the Banshee Labyrinth often with two full snows made it if anything all the more important to see a man who over the years has become a valued member of my fringe family. 

For this year’s show Matt (pictured below) departed from his usual monkey poet style ramblings I’ve come to know and enjoy and instead was just Matt Panesh. However I should perhaps explain that there is no such thing as just Matt Panesh. Trust me, this guy is a consummate performer and an excellent storyteller who knows how to engage his audience right from the get go. 

Picture (Matt Panesh on stage in the Cinema Room of The Banshee Labyrinth)

The topic for this show entitled Freedom, was the fringe and what the idea of fringe theatre means to him .  In his opening line which marked the start of an hour of top quality entertainment Matt reminded us that the Edinburgh festival wás celebrating its 70th birthday this year as it was born from the rubble of the Second World War when the people of Britain and Europe needed something to cheer them up after the horrors of the most brutal conflict in human history in which 60 million people died. Matt however had a reason to be grateful for the war as his Polish and Russian grandparents who  met in an Austrian refugee camp and married in Italy and had to cross the alpes twice before eventually settling in Britain  would never have got together otherwise. It is due to the story I’ve just related that Matt has never told told his grandmother it’s a long way to the shops. 

Having given the audience an insight in to his own background Matt then went to inform us of the reason that the festival came to Edinburgh rather any other British or European city. The reasoning was simple Edinburgh wás the only one which hadn’t been blown to bits by the ravages of war and so the biggest arts festival wás born.

Matt then gave us his unique take on how he started doing fringes and he started in not in Edinburgh but in Canada, and Canadian fringes are a wee bit different to Scottish or UK festivals. You see in Canada the fringes aren’t held in big cities like Toronto, Ottawa, or Montreal, but in small towns  like Winnipeg where the culture comes to visit for two weeks a year and then disappears again for the rest of the year. It was during this time of doing festivals in Canada and the USA Matt began to realise the benefits of having what the locals would call an exotic accent but also saw for himself the benefits of what culture can do for the economy of particular geographic locations. 

As an established regular performer  on the Edinburgh scene Matt spoke with passion on what we have come to know as the free fringe which celebrated its 22nd birthday and without which he and countless other performers couldn’t afford to bring their shows to be part of the festival. Gradually Matt became more involved with the free fringe and along with Fay Roberts programs the spoken word section of it. This as he told us is rewarding but not without potential hazards but as he rightly says it saves performers a fortune as they get the venues for free and any money they make from public donations is their own and with all the premises for the free fringe given free by local Edinburgh businesses it brings a host of performers to the city who would not otherwise be able to attend the event.

In being so directly involved with the free fringe Matt has seen for himself the benefits that it can bring to the area in terms of both tourism and finance and is therefore a staunch supporter of this kind of festival and the platform it can provide for the creative arts. Having relocated from Manchester to the coastal town of Morecambe after last year’s fringe Matt found that opportunities for potential nights out were a wee bit limited as the place he now called home didn’t have any spoken word venue and there wasn’t a single comedy club anywhere in the town. However,  those of you who know Matt will also know he is if nothing else a man brimming with ideas and after thinking about this cultural dilemma he faced he started sounding out local venues and businesses about the idea of a fringe festival in Morecambe. After an initially cautious reaction Matt told us how he won them round to the idea by persuading them of the economic advantages both for the town and the wider geographic area. 

Initially this year’s  Morecambe fringe which started tonight will be a weekend affair with it expanding to a week  long event next year. Being the cheeky and persuasive  chappie I know he  can be , it came as no surprise to me that  he even managed to convince Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn,( on whom by  his own admission he has an enormous man crush) of the merits of his brainchild which he says will be run on a small scale version of the Edinburgh model. 

At the end of a journey through time, culture, and history Matt said he  might as well finish with a poem and asked the audience which poem he should do. Knowing his work better than most people in attendance I suggested Understanding, which Matt said he has since retitled How To Be Patriotic Without Sounding  Like A White Supremasist in response to the rise of far right parties like The BNP and UKIP. This uplifting poem sets out Matt’s vision of a Britain for everyone and more than any other poem sums up the cultural manifesto of a man who speaks for fairness  

Till next time.

Gayle X