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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 

The Longest Fortnight

As this weekend starts the period that was traditionally known as the Glasgow Fair Fortnight I thought I would write a poem about this late lamented part of Glasgow history the significance of which has become somewhat diluted since my teenage years of the late 1970’s due to the diverse nature of the post industrial nature of our economy and the greater flexibility and choice both of timing of holidays and potential destinations. As  I struggled to think of a suitable title for the poem I asked friends for some ideas and as usual on these occasions there were plenty of replies. Eventually , I decided that The Longest Fortnight suggested by fellow poet, and independence campaigner Shaun Moore best summed up the sentiments expressed in the piece which captures the  memory of a Glasgow which has slowly faded in to history. I hope you enjoy the read. 

The Longest Fortnight

This was the day the factory gates closed early 
and  the shipyards and steelworks ceased production

as Glasgow shut down for the fair   

for many this meant a holiday by the sea

usually the Ayrshire coast or Blackpool 

If they could afford it 

budgets were a factor which couldn’t be  ignored 

of course I had dreams 

but living within our means 

was a lesson learned early 

looking back on my memories 

those days seem like yesterday

reality is the thief of time 

and time the burglar of years

now I realise the hopes and fears 

my parents had 

which adolescent me dismissed as sad 

were genuine to them 

but on this the first day of the workers break

I thought not of where we would go 

that was tomorrow’s concern 

I learned only of possible options 

in the Scotland of 1970’s 

and  knew boredom would drive me up the wall 

meanwhile my mother paced the hall 

wondering when my dad would come home from the pub 

and what state he’d been in on arrival 

looking back on my childhood memories

I realise the workers were celebrating their survival 

with their well earned break 

their work was hard work 

what my dad called a real job

where they were given a weekly wage 

for their eight or nine hour shifts

no wonder so many homes were rented 

people were conditioned to be content 

with what they were told they could afford 

our families accepted these attitudes

and showed gratitude by saving their  pennies

for what my mother would call rainy days

It was important she said to have some spare change 

for essentials and a few wee luxuries

the fair fortnight was an escape 

from the drudgery of their routine 

for the other 50 weeks year in year out 

when there were such things as jobs for life

where people worked from leaving school till retirement 

the ability to graft and learn on the job 

the main requirements for success

in the not so good old days 

so revered by those on nostalgia trips

eventually and usually a lot later than my mother liked

my dad would  come home mildly drunk 

with fish suppers in hand 

 a fair Friday tradition you understand 

on the day the factories closed 

and a city took a fortnightly break 

until one by one the jobs disappeared 

and the gates were closed 

for the final time 

and the last to leave switched off the lights. 

© 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 

The Night With Two Endings Was The Night We Saw A Star

Hey Readers.    
As I get ready for the annual festive shenanigans which is the Words and Music Christmas cracker it’s time to look back on the events of magical November in which our featured acts were a mixture of youth and experience and there was the welcome return of some our most popular characters to our cultural family fold.

As is now customary I opened the night dead on 8 o’clock and this months opening poem was House Rules a comic poem on the rules I believe every girl should set before moving in with potential suitor. 

Job done, it was time to open the floor to the first of the billed readers and is was a tremendous pleasure to welcome my long standing friend and supporter of Words and Music Alex Frew to give us his unique take on the world. In his first apperance at our new home Alex read three poems starting with My First Telly, before moving on to the more serious topic of Care Homes and then lightening the atmosphere with his final poem Trumpets which was his ‘ tribute ‘ to  followers of a certain Donald Trump. This was a top quality set which illustrated why Alex pictured below with Andy Fleming) is so highly rated by yours truly and such a welcome addition to our company whenever he can make it along.

Picture (1) Alex Frew And Andy Fleming take in their new surroundings with Maryanne Hartness looking on.

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Next up was first time performer Mary Wilson. Mary had attended the October edition of our event just to see what she thought of it and I’m delighted to say she decided to come back. On this occasion Mary decided she would perform and on her debut performance she read three poems and I can remember the titles of two of them This Is Where We Come In and Canvassing Time. I have to say as a political activist for the SNP I really enjoyed canvassing time through I’m not sure I agree with all the, sentiments expressed in it.  

Next up was Peter Russell who read two poems Sandy Denny’s Wake and Only Those Who Change To Themselves Stay True. Both of these poems were powerful , passionate and filled with brilliant imagary which is the hallmark of one of most refreshing voices on the spoken word scene at the moment.

Peter was followed to the stage by the man I view as my mentor, the one and only Derek Read. On this occasion Derek read a poem by Louis McNeice and one of his own poems on The Closing Of The Burrell Collection and it’s great to see a talented poet beginning to find his way back to the spoken word scene as ill health has curtailed his appearances in recent times.

Picture (2) Derek Read Regales the company at the Tin Hut with his unique brand of entertainment.

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After Derek it was the turn of Alan McGlas to entertain the company and Alan read three pieces Silver Birch, Difference, and Glasgow Docks all of which he delivered with his customary aplomb before taking his seat to enjoy the rest of the evening.

As Alan made his exit Susan Milligan took her five minutes in the spotlight reading two pieces Fancy Veichle, and Back Doors On Buses before concluding her set with a song about Shipbuilding.

After Susan’s set it was the turn of Suzanne Egerton to share her cultural thoughts with us Suzanne started her set with Autumnal an excellent prose piece which showcased her ability as a storyteller who really knows the power of language and the impact it can have. Unusually for Suzanne who has gained a reputation as a quality prose writer she decided to show her poetic talents with us and Tuppence For him which she wrote about the closure of the Ravenscraig steel works was the work of a quality wordsmith Suzanne finished her set by returning to the world of prose for Arc Of An Affair before returning to take her place amongst the faithful.

Next up was the ever entertaining Fingers who led us to the bar break with two of his more serious poems which he tends to read around the time of Remembrance and So The Politicians Said and Keep The Home Fires Burning, certainly gave us plenty to think about as we stopped for a well deserved bar break.

After the bar break it was time to welcome our featured writer and in Marc Sherland (pictured below) we had a man of experiance and a consummate performer who is well practiced in the art of stagecraft and knows how to work an audience

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Picture (3) Our Featured Writer and keen Words And Music supporter Marc Sherland takes The Tin Hut stage

Mark started his set with Flourish, and moved on to Rumination, Braveheart which has I am pleased to report nothing to do with the Mel Gibson movie of that name but was a very moving tribute to his late brother who endured a personal battle with disability throughout his life. After this emotional and personal piece, Marc read the Edwin Morgan classic poem Strawberries, and his reply to it Kirkpatrick Hills which I enjoyed as every bit as much as Morgan’s original. He continued his set with Rip It Up And Start Again and Practising My Best, before concluding a fast paced and enjoyable set with This Is For The Fireman Who Saved My Life and his final poem Nice Shoes.

As I said I enjoyed this set but then I always enjoy Marc’s work he’s a quality writer and has a style to his  performance which like his sonnets can only be described as uniquely Sherlandian and that to me is great news for the Scottish spoken word scene.

After the featured writer it was time for our featured musician and in debut girl Caitlin Buchanan who was making her first appearance at Words And Music I believe we have unearthed a star who will enrich the Scottish, British , and Global traditional music scene for decades to come.&nbsp

Caitlin (pictured below) started the best debut set of any featured musician since a certain Anna Meldrum with The Cinema she followed up with moving Another Top, and The Tallest Tree which is my personal favourite of her songs before moving on to Hope Of Release and finishing an outstanding debut performance with the excellent Fools Gold. I have to admit I enjoyed a spot of bias as knowing Caitlin from the Blue Chair open mic nights I knew how good she was going to be as did Grace Alison who had come along to support her. That said it was great to hear her getting praised by the likes of Andy Fleming and Marc Sherland who unlike me had never seen her on previous any previous occasions and Marc was so impressed by this dynamic young singer songwriter that her gave her his business card at the end of the night.

At the end of her set I had one of those mammy moments with a girl who I think is destined to follow someone else I tipped for stardom the first time I saw her at the Danny Kyle open stage at Celtic Connections her name is Rachel Sermanni. As those who know our traditional music know Rachel went on to win a Danny Kyle award and has gone to much bigger things. Now I don’t know why but I believe I saw someone else who can also follow that path and her name is Caitlin Buchanan.

Picture (4) Our Featured Musician the brilliant Caitlin Buchanan rocks the Tin Hut with her breathtaking Words And Music debut set.

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At the end of two fantastic featured sets it was the turn
of Maryanne Hartness to take the stage however on a night which would still have some interesting twists and turns before it was over Maryanne politely declined to go up as she believed that Caitlin should be the last of the billed acts to perform at that I should wind up the night. With Andy saying earlier in the night that he wasn’t going to perform. I thought I was getting up to bring the night to close and as I read three poems A Stain On The Sunshine and Dress Sense that was exactly what I thought I had done. It turned out that this eventful and enjoyable wasn’t quite finished as half way thorough my round up as I was giving my thanks to the performers, a slightly scootered Derek said that I missed someone was Andy by doing this threw the night in to chaos but for some reason known only to the almighty this seemed to work as Andy then decided to get up after all and performed I Love America in his unique style which makes him such a hit with the Words and Music regulars.

With Andy having made his Words and Music comeback in a way that only he can Maryanne decided that she would after all make her first performance since the flitting and read two poems Old Stories And Halloween before
I brought the night to an end for a second and final time by reading the final poem of the night Walk Of Shame which is a humorous account of a women’s most embarrassing moment and is always well received particularly by the women in the audience. Well let’s be honest they’ve all been through it at least a dozen times and probably will be again. It is what Arielle Karo would call one of those relatable poems on moments only women share.

As I brought the night to an end and everyone made their way back in to the chill of an early November evening I stayed for a while to chat Caitlin and her friends on how they enjoyed the Words and Music experience. As they gave me their feedback which was I am happy to say very positive I told our newest singing sensation that this may have been her first appearance at the event but it certainly wouldn’t be her last.

Naturally Caitlin was pleased with the news and told me she liked the fact she had an appreciative audience willing to listen to her songs. I have to say this comment made me smile and the more seasoned Words and Music regulars will know why. You see we were brought up by good cultural parents, and Hughie and Pamela would always remind us that the best of nights are always enjoyed when poets really listen to the music and believe me we listened as the night with two endings was the night we saw a star.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Faithful Daughter

Hey Readers.

My good friend Johnny Cypher has certainly selected a topical subject for this month’s Extra Second which takes place at The Blue Chair on the third Thursday each month. The topic of choice is religion and this is my poem which has been specifically written for this event. I have given it the title Faithful Daughter I hope you enjoy the read.

Faithful Daughter

I am one of the faithful
on a Sunday morning
you will find me in the pews
listening to the good news of the Bible
Presbyterian I may be but I am not wee free
I do faith without intolerance
am Protestant but not orange
I am loyal and true not to the red white and blue
but only to those I call family
biological or not this Scot says
they are the ones who matter
I won’t be bought
by the puritanical patter merchants
who preach fear of those they don’t understand
their attitudes are against the commandments
as I relate to them in scripture
I can’t stand bitterness
and knowledge of other faiths
was learnt early
as my mum and dad came from different branches of the Christian tree
my mum mission hall kirk
my dad RC from Irish ancestry
I loathe bigotry that’s why it was important to say
I am Protestant but not Orange
I cringe in the marching season
preferring to look in the other
direction
I feel a tension when they march
that I don’t have on other days
but I refuse to engage
to rant or rage
I have discovered a better way
I pray rather than shouting at others
I am more like my mother than I thought
sometimes I feel my church constrains me
from saying what I think
though I have to confess
this isn’t always a bad thing
I know what I can be like
but belief is nothing without compassion
I hope my faith comes from a good place
If some people think it strange
a trans woman attends church
I remind them I belong to a reformed tradition
which has to keep reforming
or face oblivion
within a generation
you can’t speak for a nation
if you don’t represent it
resting on laurels of contentment
is not the Christian way
when we have something to say
It should be said in faith and with power
my personal faith is based on
a vision for a better society
not on the pompous sobriety
of those Burns called Holy Willie’s
or the red white and blue of Rangers and the union
so loved by those this Celtic supporting yes girl
would call the less enlightened
I am not frightened to ask the question
what would Jesus would do
who would he accept in to his family
how would he treat those with alternative gender identities, non conforming sexualities,
disabilities,  different ethnicities from the dominant population
I believe he would view them with more kindness
than many who speak in his name
and refuse to the take the blame
for their hurtful behaviour
rebuking them not with malice
but with sadness
and prayers for their souls
faith should not be seen
as a crutch for the old
it must be a force for change
a living breathing mission
for a better world
and that’s why this woman
who was born to be but wasn’t raised a girl
is now a faithful daughter of the church

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@ Gayle Smith 2016

A Penny For The Guy

Hey everyone Of all my Halloween poems, this one , written in 2009 is my personal favourite. Based on real life events of that Halloween involving four teenage girls and a homeless man it is i hope a poem shows my Glasgow at its best and the warmth and humanity of a younger generation who in my opinion are often much maligned by those who should know better. You know, i sometimes of those of young girls and i hope they have done well and went on to or even graduated from university and i hope the homeless man is not only still alive but has a home or at least a place he can call home and isn’t a victim of the post Thatcher free  market consensus. I have titled the poem A Penny For The Guy, i hope you find a thought provoking but heartwarming read.

A Penny For The Guy

As fireworks light up the sky creating a rainbow of colour
I see a homeless man as i walk on my road to the shops
the world never stops to allow people
time to consider their thoughts and actions
recklessly taken without thinking
continuing my journey I see under 16’s
smoking, drinking,  laughing, having a good time
I don’t judge it’s not my place
one of the girls compliments my dress
I’m all dolled up, going to see a play
which  even in these enlightened days
will challenge myths and preconceptions
I tell her this, she seems interested
her friends gather round listening to my words
I refuse to patronise them
with pep talks on the birds and the bees
On this all hallows eve, one asks if i’m going out for Halloween
I say i’ll be clubbing later, but my costume’s in the bag
I’m going as a hooker, a working girl
call it what you like a prostitute is a prostitute in any language
I sweep nothing under the carpet it’s not who i am
in this life i say to them you have to be yourself
No matter the opinions of others
workmates, neighbours, brothers.
Remember
you were given this chance for a reason
to do the best you can and be the best can be
when  I tell them i’m transsexual
they smile, high five me, hug me
make no attempt to mug me
tell me to embrace my dream
enjoy being a woman
live my life with dignity and style
give me one last smile as they wished me well
at this, i disappeared in to the night
and they went back to the dancing
searching for potential potential Prince Charming’s
hoping not to find something from a horror movie
and believe me there were plenty of horrors to be seen
in the city centre
as i ventured towards my destination
I saw the homeless man
I had seen at the start of my journey
so i stopped and spared a penny for the guy

@  Gayle Smith 2009

The Lifetime Of A Holiday

Hey everyone. As today is Glasgow Fair Monday I thought I would write a poem on childhood memories of what Fair Monday once meant and how Margaret Thatcher killed this great Glasgow institution.
You see it didn’t matter wheather you went for a fortnight to the Costa Del Sol or day trips to the Costa Del Clyde everyone went on holiday during the fair fortnight. Coming up with a title for this poem was never going to be easy so I gave the task to the respected folk musican Bob Leslie who came up with the title The Lifetime Of A Holiday. I must admit I really like this title as not only does it give a twist on the Holiday Of A Lifetime idea it also illustrates the fact that the fair fortnight was destroyed by the Margaret Thatcher led Conservative Government. I hope you enjoy what I believe will be both a nostalgic and thought provoking read.

The Lifetime Of A Holiday

When I was a child
fair Monday meant
day trips to the coast
Largs, Salcoats, Troon,
Girvan, Ayr
In the hope it never rained
and I could build sandcastles on the beach
avoid getting too much sunburn and sand in my sandwiches

At the end of the day
just before the journey home
the family would often get tucked in to fish suppers and ice cream
exhausted I would sometimes
fall asleep on the train
back to Glasgow
a city that shut for a fortnight
till the summer of 79

I was 18 that summer
my birthday came before
the start of the holiday
on Fair Friday
my dad lost his job
in the place he had worked
for 30 years
a grown man wept tears of anger
not just for the weekly wage
but at the closing of the gates
on that rain soaked day

Apart from a brief spell in a bakery
in the early spring of 81
the engineering inspector never worked again
like hundreds of thousands of others
comrades, sisters, brothers
the sun had set on his working life the man whose job defined his character

A pedant and perfectionist
my dad was among the first casualties of Thatcher’s crusade
on that fair Monday we made a last trip to the coast
knowing it would rain
and that the Glasgow holiday would never be quite the same again

@ Gayle Smith 2015