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The Day The Phoenix Rises 

This poem draws on the stories of my ancestors who told me about the importance of the phoenix in guarding the laws of Scotland and Ireland and the belief that our countries will finally be free of British rule on the day the phoenix rises. It is for that reason I have given it the title The Day The Phoenix Rises. I hope you enjoy the read. 
The Day The Phoenix Rises

Outsiders

we were scorned on arrival 

in a cold uncaring place 

the locals claimed we were not the same as them 

using lsnguage and religion as excuses to label us 

boasting of their achievements

as part of an empire

they were unaware their own culture was scorned 

Scots or Irish a Celt can never be 

reborn as a Brit

when they were told this 

the new order got angry 

they were beyond unhappy

when the Irish community formed a football club 

which would be open to those of  all faiths and none 

when trophies were won we were feared and hated 

the angry brigade felt threatened 

that their fragile identity had been questioned 

there were suggestions we should go home 

as those with blood on their hands

conveniently forgot  it was they 

who did the clearing 

which left us dispossessed 

the victims of cultural genocide

in the Celtic heartlands from which I am descended 

 I’ve always my blood is the blood of twin tribes 

both of which were marginalised 

the Irish  and the Islanders share 

a history of oppression

with stolen lands taken from the people 

and given to those who would obey colonial orders

without questioning why 

in Culloden and Atherny 

the pain lives on  in the lyrics of our songs

and the hearts of those who know 

the history the oppressers tried to ban 

along with our culture and traditions 

that however was a big mistake to make

in their determination to break us 

they inspired a spirit of resistance

they will not quell 

hell will freeze over before we ever accept 

the label outsiders 

It is not who we are nor will it ever be 

our freedom will come on the day the phoenix rises 

to take us home from the ashes of a ruined estate 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

No Way To Treat A Legend 

On looking through some old poems tonight I came across an unfinished effort I had started to write  on American Olympic legend Jesse Owens. It had some notes scribbled beside it which were key words and phrases I had taken down with the intention of adding them to the poem which was to be written on his achievements in Berlin and the subsequent mistreatment of one of America’s all time sporting greats. I noted that the inspiration for this poem was the anger I felt on watching a documentary on his life and times which was shown in the early noughties. On finding this poem and the notes I had taken to complete it  I set about finishing it and have given it the title No Way To Treat A Legend. I hope you enjoy what I think will be a challenging and thought provoking read.  
No Way To Treat A Legend 
Dateline 1936: Berlin. Olympic Games 

an athlete shattered Nazi dreams and ran his way to fame 

winning four gold medals he proved he was king of the track 

but Hitler wouldn’t shake his hand as Jesse Owens was black 

the champion was American from from the land of Uncle Sam 

and he’d met Hitler’s type before they called themselves The Klan 

those good ole boys who used the lord to justify their bigotry

no matter what they put him through he won with style and dignity 

by winning his Olympic crowns he captured people’s hearts 

he gave them dreams to cling to at a time when days were dark 

for unemployment plagued the land at a time of great depression 

but Jesse Owens had now become a global sporting legend 

This should have been a guarantee of national hero status 

for the man who mocked the master race and left them devastated

but Jesse’s dreams would be destroyed because he dared to say

athletics was a serious game and.he should earn some pay. 
Now this to those who ran the sport was regarded as a crime 

they banned him from all track and field until the end of time 

because he wouldn’t toe the line and wasn’t afraid to speak. 

in just four months he’d been reduced from a hero to a freak 

On boxing day of that same year his fall from grace completed 

he faced humiliation in the way that he was treated 

forced to race against a horse to see who would come out on top

a great Olympic champion had now been cruelly mocked 

he never gained another chance to show his record pace 

although he smashed the fantasy of the fascist master race 

but in his nation’s darkest hour he was given great acclaim

he should have been rewarded and enjoyed the fruits of fame. 

but this alas was not to be as Jesse’s dreams were crushed 

by those who held the reins of power who trampled him to dust 

though his place in history is assured by his victories in Berlin 

nobody knows his tormentors names but the world remembers him 

the suits who brought about his fall poured shame upon their country 

they revealed the truth they couldn’t hide their hate filled hearts were ugly 

when Jesse brought the glory home a brilliant future beckoned

until they destroyed a hero’s dream 

that’s no way to treat a legend. 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

Signature

It’s no secret that as someone who is actively involved in politics and has been for over 30 years I have signed my share of petitions on a number of different issues. My signature has supported campaigns on everything from demanding the end of apartheid in South Africa to the right to equal marriage, and the end of period poverty. So when someone asked me if I thought signing petitions mattered and could be viewed as political activism I had no hesitation in saying that it could and I wrote this poem entitled Signature to illustrate the point. I hope you find it an enjoyable and thought provoking read. 

Signature 

Someone once asked me

does signing a petition count as activism 

I told them it did 

they seemed happy with my answer

if slightly confused  

on realising this  I explained why our signature matters

I shared stories I had heard of injustice in South Africa 

when Nelson Mandela was labelled a terrorist 

by Margaret Thatcher

when all he wanted was  his people to have the right to rule their land 

I said that signing petitions was 

a way of raising awareness to make people understand

why things needed to change 

but would stay the same 

If we didn’t sign up to express our discontent .

I explained that this is direct democracy in action

and without this kind of participation 

it’s no exaggeration to  say 

Palestine would still be ignored

the lion rampant would never have roared for democracy 

governments could neglect child poverty 

and remain  inactive on tackling the gig economy.

equal marriage would have remained a distant dream 

and no it’s not the preserve of smaller parties like the greens 

It’s a valuable way of bringing issues from  the fringe to the mainstream 

of changing attitudes over time 

at street stalls or online 

authority knows

the power of your signature.

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Token Gesture

​I write this poem as a direct appeal to Facebook to retain the rainbow pride button they introduced for Pride Month. I do this in the spirit of friendship and equality and to remind them that though the pride season may be at an end in the USA that is not the case in the UK or in many other countries in the world where many important pride marches have still to take place during the summer months. There are and it has to be said many sceptics within the LGBTIQ community who believe that the rainbow button was only a token gesture used to generate good PR for the social media site. I however am prepared to offer the hand of friendship and give the organisation the chance to show it more rainbow friendly than some people think, and hopefully they may yet prove me right. I have given the poem the title Token Gesture due not only to how the removal of the rainbow button may be perceived but also due to the fact that there are still some people who believe that token gestures are good enough to satisfy a community which is larger and more diverse than they think and that we will be happy to be tolerated whether we are accepted or not. Well  I’m here to tell these deluded and ill informed souls that is not and will never be the case.  I hope you enjoy the read. 

Token Gesture 

As  a token gesture 

we are given  a rainbow button on social media sites 

I ask myself does it give us the right 

to express ourselves with pride 

fight for equality during pride month

surely that can’t be right 

or is it simply a sign that the ultra conservative right 

who champion traditional values

 will tolerate our existence 

on the grounds they can’t wish us away 

there are those among us who are nervous of anyone who is 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, 

or anywhere else on the spectrum 

they are still apprehensive 

when they see us holding hands , kissing, 

or daring to show any public display of affection 

and believe me they are more numerous than you would like to think 

the boys wear blue and girls wear pink brigade 

still use God to excuse their views on equal marriage 

personally as a Christian I find that so 19th century 

what don’t they get about the fact that the world has moved on 

and so has the church 

I remember a colleague commenting on the length of my skirt 

I replied that I didn’t come to work to flirt 

I go to the dancing for that 

and anyway there wasn’t any man in the office 

 I found attractive enough to waste my lippy on 

but men might look at you she claimed

honestly she should have been ashamed 

to even suggest that anyone would be so unprofessional 

as to look at me in that kind of way

when I was only doing my day job 

but this is this kind of thing I had to face

disgraceful yes , but not surprising 

when you consider the attitudes which are out there in wider community 

some of them are a cross between mythology and lunacy 

are usually grounded on hand me opinions 

from tabloid and television screens

where reality is lived through soaps and the six o clock news 

which many take as fact without ever questioning why 

meanwhile we watch as equality dies 

and we travel back in time to a past 

when life was colder and crueller 

and those considered different are labelled by triangles 

as one by one colours are removed from the rainbow 

and tolerance replaces acceptance

as the new normality 

and those who can will control the buttons 

we no longer are able to push. 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

People’s Friend 

As Jeremy Corbyn addresses the masses at Glastonbury I give my thoughts on a middle class man addressing a middle class crowd and pretending to be a friend of the people. I don’t know why but this working class hero stuff is something I just don’t buy. You see if you are a unionist of any kind you are essentially a conservative maybe not in the economic sense but you certainly are in the social and cultural senses of the word. I’ve given the poem the title People’s Friend I hope you enjoy the read. 

People’s Friend

A middle class man 

quotes a middle class poet 

to the middle class gathering 

at a festival in middle England 

with ticket prices which only the rich can afford

meanwhile champagne socialists 

ignore Scotland 

till they need our votes to gain power 

at a Westminster election 

if we dare to challenge them

they call us insurgents 

leading an insurrection

as the self righteous  luvvie brigade 

play pretend politics 

with a crowd to apathetic to care 

about humanity 

and grandpa Jeremy desperately tries to re-live his youth 

as proof he can hang with the cool kids

except the kids he’s hanging out with 

aren’t quite as cool as they would have you believe 

and this imposter did a cut and paste job 

on large parts of the SNP domestic policy 

and had the brass neck to claim it 

as radical

as his vision for the many not the few 

even a so-called red couldn’t ditch the slogan 

which had tints of a Tory Blue Tony 

and just like that phoney his mask is beginning to slip 

You see voters like me won’t take lip.

from a Brexiteer who will always put himself first 

as he cynically attempts to manipulate the less aware

he has garden paths to lead them up 

and garden parties to attend 

this man whose style at Prime Minister’s Questions 

was enough to give me  indigestion 

raising points which we were meant to believe

 were sent by ordinary people 

rather than focus groups of party members 

the honourable member for  Islington 

is and has always been a servant of the Westminster agenda 

and had only  one mission for Britain 

namely to win the colony back for the crown 

unlike some I never bought his story 

the people’s friend , I see him as  just another red Tory 

though maybe not in the economic sense 

I’ll cut him a bit of slack 

but anyone who believes in the union flag 

is and always will be 

a conservative at heart 

it doesn’t matter how nice they are 

or how trendy or cool they pretend to be 

if they don’t want be to free from the last chains of empire 

they subconsciously out themselves as hypocrits and liars 

every time the word socialism passes their lips 

the little Brits lack the awareness to realise

you can’t have socialism in a kingdom 

united or otherwise 

it depends on the class system to survive 

as a middle class man 

who quotes a middle class poet 

to a middle class crowd 

knows only too well

as he pretends to be the people’s friend 

and remains no friend of Scotland. 
© Gayle Smith 2017 

Oath Of Aillegence 

As members of parliament get back to work after the recent General Election some people including myself are questioning the idea of Honourable Members having to swear an oath of aillegence to the monarch. This to me seems and outdated practice which should be best left in the past and replaced by an oath of service to their constituents after all it is their constituents they have been elected to serve. It is with this in mind I have written this poem entitled Oath Of Aillegence I hope you enjoy what I think will be a thought provoking read. 

Oath Of Aillegence 

I pledge my loyalty to my friends 

my fellow citizens of this shared living space 

irrespective of gender, impairment, race, religion, or sexual orientation 

or any other group by which the one percent seeks to divide them by 

I swear to support the global commonweal of every land , and tribe 

I will endeavor to be on the side of justice 

and fight inequality and prejudice wherever I see it 

if the powers that be don’t like it then  so be it 

but principles matter to me 

I’ve always played fair 

and I expect the same back 

no saltire, union flag , or star spangled banner will change the fact

I swear no oath of aillegence

to any monarch or ermine robed fools.

who attempt to set the rules for  my life 

doffing  caps and bending knees are so 18th century 

yet the servile defer to what they call traditions 

claiming that this dysfunctional behaviour is what makes Britain great 

they even say it’s what makes Britain British 

are these people for real ?

they don’t have a clue about what’s going on in the world

they don’t understand what its like 

growing up a boy who wants be a girl 

in a Glasgow housing scheme 

or the fact that poverty isn’t a lifestyle choice 

they piss champagne in to gold plated toilet seats

after singing out of tune from the top of their voices

and think that by buying a charity single 

they are doing their bit for humanity 

as they merrily  count up their millions

made by the sweat of the workers

people are dying just a few miles away 

they would rather I didn’t say this

in case it puts them off their nice expensive meal 

insulated from  real world problems 

they will never know how it feels to visit a foodbank 

or buy your clothes from second hand shops

this inequality has to stop 

and though I alone can’t do much to stop the suffering or the pain 

I who grew up listening to tinsil town in the rain

know what that song really means 

as does everyone who grew up in the schemes 

and that’s why I swear no oath of aillegence to any  queen or her heirs 

I swear my oath of aillegence to the people of the world

and swear to treat them with fairness and equality 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Mirrors Of Time 

​This poem was inspired by my good friend and current tartan tights man of the year Johnny Cypher as he gets ready to vote in his first General Election and has to make a choice between two contrasting visions of the future. In the poem I look back I hope with empathy at the 1983 UK General Election when I was in the same position Johnny is now. I’ve titled the poem Mirrors Of Time I hope you enjoy the read.  
Mirrors Of Time 

An intelligent thoughtful twenty something

contemplates his decision 

as yet unsure as to where he’ll place his cross on election day 

though he does know 

it won’t be for Theresa May 

and her selfish brand of conservatism

hatred and division are not his way 

he seeks to help others 

building bridges rather than barriers and walls 

he is aware of the fact 

his dreams may fall under a pile of ashes 

yet still he clings to them

hoping he might see change 

live in a better society 

than the one he has grown up in

this is someone who does something 

many people don’t 

he listens to opinions

in a way that others won’t 

taking an extra second to think things through 

before deciding what to do 

I understand him 

I respect his point of view 

I look back to 1983

and the women he knows 

can see herself 

through the mirrors of time 
© Gayle Smith 2017