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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 

Dissenting Voices 

On day 29 of NaPoWriMo my penultimate poem of this year’s collection deals with the authoritarian politics of the increasingly right wing British Conservative Party whose Prime Minister, Theresa May has recently  boasted about crushing dissenting voices in the United Kingdom. This is something which I find very alarming indeed as I happen to believe that debate is an essential part of the political process in any civilised democratic society. It is with my democratic values in mind that I have written this poem and given it the title Dissenting Voices. I hope you find it a challenging and thought provoking read. 
Dissenting Voices
When someone talks of dissent

rather than debate 

the spectre of hate speech 

appears like a dark shadow 

on the clouds of an early morning 

this is a stark warning 

of darker days to come 

the slow beginning of the demonsation of others

the creeping use of ghostly figures 

used to represent a past which was never glorious 

but in which we will be told we were happy 

because our country was victorious over our enemies

in this language of blame  

prejudice rears its ugly head 

time and time again

so instead of making progress 

on the journey to equality 

or helping working families find routes out of poverty 

we will collectively be known as the silent majority 

who thought it best to stay silent 

in the face of hostility from authority 

and generations to come will ask the question 

why did our ancestors not fight 

for the yesterdays that were our grandparents tomorrow’s 

they will speak with sorrow and shame 

when they see the causality list of rights 

we sacrificed at the temple of self interest 

because we thought it was the best thing to do 

to secure our future regardless of who we hurt

disabled people were trampled into the dirt 

as were those with different gender identities , sexualities , or races 

this is what happens 

when someone talks of dissent rather than debate 

couched in that language

is the place where hate begins

where fear and ignorance wins over hope 

and the road to a better tomorrow lies decimated

 before the fight for it has even begun 

yet some would want us to walk that path 

of selfishness and loathing 

ignoring the fact we have been here before

when a wolf wrapped himself in the clothes of a sheep 

so no-one could see the swastikas hidden underneath 

and a beaten people danced when they were told 

falling in to line behind the master 

there were no dissenting voices in the Reich 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

 

A Little Town Laments (The Story Of Christmas In Bethlehem) 

In my  23rd  Blogmas post  I honour a promise to the Scottish Palestinian Society which I made on a trip to Edinburgh last month when supporters held an information session in the chill of a November afternoon as on en  route to the Scottish Poetry Library for an all day  Women’s poetry symposium.  

As I chatted to one of the volunteers who was staffing the stall he gave me a Christmas card and asked me to put it up alongside the others I would get.  Needless to say I promised I would and not only that I promised I would I write a poem on the information it gave me and this is that poem I’ve given it the title A Little Town Laments I hope you find it an enjoyable and thought provoking read. 

A Little Town Laments 

It was in Bethlehem a child was born in stable 

laid in a manger to rest on hay

fast forward to the present 

ask what would Jesus say 

about the fact there are 22 illegal settlements 

where people stay in fear of their lives 

there, are barriers to movement 

no room for inclusion or improvement 

for those branded terrorists

ordinary Palestinian citizens

 are hemmed in by fortresses and walls 

bombs could drop on them 

at any time of day or night 

Isreali air strikes a permanent reninder

of the occupation of their lands 

Christian and Muslim both understand

 they cannot worship openly 

practising their faith is almost impossible 

restricted as they are 

by a rule which is in many ways similar to Herod’s 

at the time of Christ’s arrival 

when survival was the name of the game 

It’s sad to think the story’s still the same 

as a little town laments the causalities of hate 

In another bleak mid winter 

@ Gayle Smith 2016 

A Christmas Wish

On day 9 of Blogmas it’s finally time for my first Christmas poem of the year if I’ve titled it A Christmas Wish. I hope you enjoy the read

A Christmas Wish

Christmas pudding, party hats and part time Christianity
eating turkey for a week
can drive you to insanity
crackers, cards , and mistletoe
and gifts beneath the tree
images that let you know
what Christmas means to me

this is a magical time of year
when Santa brings presents and toys
and spreads the gift of happiness
to all the girls and boys
as for me I’ve a Christmas wish
I’d like to see delivered
and that’s for peace in every land
and an end to war forever.

@ Gayle Smith 2016

Bloodstained.

Hey Readers

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

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

Bloodstained

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

@ Gayle Smith 2016

Man Of Many Faces

Hey Readers

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

Man Of Many Faces

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

@ Gayle Smith 2016

As We Reassigned Our Memories At The River Of Reflections Everyone Played Glasgow Games With Spoken Words And Songs

Hey Readers

As this is the First Tuesday of the month and I thought I review the events of the first Tuesday when the residents of Words and Music finally moved in to our cultural home. Now before I recall the events of what was a truly excellent evening and a very important occasion I would like
to give public notice of thanks to Colin Skinner son in law of our founding mother Pamela Duncan for his assistance in helping us find the Pollok Ex Servicemen’s Club which is as of last month is the new headquarters of Words and Music

The Tin Hut as it is known locally is a cracking wee venue which I am sure will become as beloved to our community as the wee back room at Sammy’s always was. The only concession I had to make to the secure services of our new home was to move the event from the first Monday of the month to the first Tuesday and that’s exactly what I did to the Words and Music family back on the road. From a personal point of view it was great that Pamela (who is pictured below with myself) was able join us to commemorate this special occasion.

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Having set the scene it is time review the events of an action packed in which we were joined by a mixture of faces both new and more familiar and it was all smiles all round as we kicked off our first night in our new surroundings. As compare I was my duty to get this party started and on this occasion there was only one appropriate way to do it. Well as Steve Allan said there are times you have to remember what certain people did for our club and one of those people was the late great Hughie Healy.

It was in my opinion only fitting to give the first words and indeed first poem of the evening to Hughie, the man who was to many of us our other poetic parent and read one of his poems to start this night in style. With Hughie being a Partick Thistle fan there was really only one poem I could choose to launch our new home and that was Against The Odds his homage to his team’s greatest ever achievement when they beat one of the best ever Celtic teams in the history of club 4-1 in the 1971 League Cup Final leaving this compare who was then only ten a wee ten year old deeply traumatised. Come to think of it Hughie left us all deeply traumatised on many occasions but that was part of the act. it was just the way he was, and he was our poetic dad so that was allowed. So on our opening night at our new venue I sent this message to heaven we still miss you wee man and love you more than you know.

Having got the new home christened it was time to read my first poem in The Tin Hut what better way to kick off my contribution with a poem entitled Spoken Word on what these types of night are really like just in case anyone had any misconceptions which needed shattered. It went down well and having done my duty it was time to welcome the company to the stage.

First up was Rosie Mappleback who along with Jane Overton had travelled all the way from Ayrshire to be with us. Rosie read two poems both of which tackled serious issues with sensitivity. In her first poem Reassigning Memories Rosie gave a very moving account of her own journey as she supports and empowers her transsexual daughter to be the woman she knows she has to be.

This was followed by the Vaginal Monologues a poem which speaks with honesty and pathos on what being a woman is actually all about Trust me as a trans woman myself I know that being a woman is not an easy shift and I have faced a different kind of prejudice and discrimination than I had in the past. Women need to speak out and address the issues we face with honesty and integrity and it is refreshing to hear a woman do exactly that and telling it like it is.

Next up was Lesley Mackay ( Traynor) whose Alternative Burns Poem went down far better than she thought and was thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance.

Lesley was followed by Jane Overton whose poem Toilet Walls raised more than a few giggles amongst the gathering as it exposed the naked truth on more than a few secret thoughts none of which were written by Jane I hasten to add at least I don’t think they were. My reason for making this bold pronunciation is that having read some of the stuff written on the toilet walls of ladies rooms some of the spelling is so appalling no self respecting poet would put her name to it and we definitely wouldn’t leave our phone numbers as calling cards to prove we’d read it. Anyway this was the first of many great contributions Jane will make to make to Tin Hut Tuesday’s and believe me they won’t be bog standard.

Next to take the stage was Susan Milligan who read two poems Make The Change, an excellent and suitable choice on such an occasion and Music, a poem on a subject which as those who her well will know, is Susan’s real passion. Susan then finished her set with a song and this time it was Changes. This again was a good choice when you the consider the importance of the night.

After Susan and to prove it wasn’t a hen night we welcomed our first man of the night and in the history of the Tin Hut and Alex Cuthbert was the man who claimed that momentous place. A cracking poet and good friend to the company, Alex was saying that Tuesday nights may be better for him than Mondays. I have to say I’m delighted at this news and Alex performed two poems On The Turn, and Two Years Later both of which were of the highest possible calibre from a poet of quality and substance.

Talking of poets of substance they are a few better than our current Words and Music Champion Chris Young. As many of you will know Chris has not well of late and his appearances at spoken word events have become less frequent than they once were as he recovers from the ill health which has plagued him in the last year to 18 months.

Bearing this in mind it was brilliant to see him in attendance at our first night at the Tin Hut. On this occasion Chris performed three poems Clean Sheet, Confinement, and Siren all of which allowed him to show his abilities as a writer and a performer. Indeed Clean Sheet which details a wee bit of Chris’s bedroom adventures was the kind of poem which if our event had been televised would have meant it would have to been broadcast after the watershed. Indeed as our friend Steve Allan remarked to me during the break we could be the only club in history to be banned after one night. In the second of his poems Confinement Chris (pictured below with Jane Overton, seated next to him and Maryanne Hartness) tackled the issue of gender identity from a male perspective and he did so with a sensitivity which is his trademark when dealing with serious topics. You see though Chris likes to use humour as much as the next poet he is as I said before and will say again a principled man who is not afraid to see what he thinks on things that matter to him.

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As Chris rejoined the company it was time for our bar break and it was time to get some pictures taken to commemorate such an important evening in our history and as you can see from the picture below there were smiles all round from a very happy company.

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As we returned from the break it was fitting that the next performer called to the stage was our much matriarch Pamela Duncan to share her thoughts with the gathering.
On this occasion Pamela read two pieces, The Devil’s Island which highlighted her talents as an award winning prose writer, and The Land in which Pamela who was born in southern England pays tribute to Scotland the land she calls home. Well as she says it is the land in which she has lived most of her life, married and gave life to her five children. It is also a land which is as proud of her as she is of it and values her amazing contribution to the Scottish cultural scene over the years not least of which is her legacy which is Words and Music.

At the end of an excellent, entertaining, and if I’m honest quite and if I’m honest an emotional set, it was time to welcome our featured writer to the stage. Now I had to think about who should be given this honour for all of two seconds, as to me there could be no other choice than Carla Woodburn (pictured below). You see Carla had been scheduled to take up the featured writer slot In February when I was told the club would be no more as our former premises no longer opened on Mondays.

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As Words and Music is a continuing event rather than a new one I thought it was only right and proper that Carla should take the slot which was rightfully hers and denied to her only through a change in circumstances. Thankfully Carla agreed to take up the offer and the 20 Minutes which followed illustrated perfectly why I was so keen to get one of the most promising performers on the spoken word scene to grace us with her presence.

Carla started her with an interesting poem on Cyber friendship which was appropriately called Cyber Friends This was followed by. The Clown, Heart Of Stone, Half Man And Half Machine, Cables And Leads, Barcelona ( A Master’s Piece), Chasing My Fairytale which was one of my favourites of what was a brilliant set.

Carla then read her first ever poem entitled Who Knows What The Millennium Will Bring? This was written by a 17 year old Carla, and is as relevant today as the day it was when she wrote it. This was followed by Black Eyed Bob, I Am A Balloon, I Could Fix A Broken Heart, and the poem which is probably my favourite of all of her poems Just A Girl. Trust me there is not woman or girl on earth who wouldn’t be moved by this poem. Yes it is really is that good and I will never tire of hearing it. Our featured writer then continued her set with A Quiet Voice, before moving on to The Guide, Sunken Ship, Dreaming, An Ambivalent Structure, A New Opportunity, Blood Red Lipstick, before bringing arguably the most fast paced set in the history of Words and Music to an end with her final three poems of a breakneck breathtaking and brilliant 20 minutes.

This started with the first poem I ever heard her read in the Words And Music Championship last year the brilliant I Once Knew A Woman Who Swallowed A Spider before moving on to Fountain Of Youth, before concluding her contribution to the night with Mouldy Soup. Trust me this set had everything it had comedy, it had dreams, it had memories, there really was something for everyone and I’m so proud we had such a wonderful talent as our featured writer

Just like Carla our featured musician Daryl Sperry had never been a featured act at Words and Music before. In fact unlike Carla he had never been to Words and Music before. However when I saw him sing at the launch of Jim Ferguson’s new poetry collection I knew this was someone I wanted to be featured musician as soon as I could get him and believe me he lived up to and exceeded my expectations of him.

Daryl started his set with I Don’t Want To Be Everybody which he followed with A Week On, The Sun Is Out Today, Me Myself And I, Teenage Heartbreakers, and finally concluded it with Seagull. As for personal favourites from his set I particularly enjoyed The Sun Is Out Today and Teenage Heartbreakers as I thought the lyrics were superb and the melodies transported me to a dreamy kind of place. Well I can’t help it if Teenage Heartbreakers reminds me of Donny Osmond and The Bay City Rollers as they were my teenage dreams in the early mid 70’s but seriously this is a young man who star is on the rise and from whom I expect to hear a lot more in future.

After two fantastic featured acts it was back to the seasoned performers who make our nights so enjoyable and such a privilege to be part of. Now anyone who knows Words and Music knows that to be next up after the featured slots is the hardest place on the bill. Yet one regular above all others seems to relish this position is Steve Allan. (pictured at the bottom of the paragraph with Alex Cuthbert) Steve, whose mix of poetry and comic tales are a surefire winner with the regulars is always entertaining and his a natural ability to see the absurd in the mundane moments of life and find humour where most of us may miss it.

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On this occasion Steve like myself paid tribute to the memory of Hughie Healy by reading one of his poems. The poem he selected was Age Limit which had the audience smiling. This is in my opinion the ultimate tribute to both Steve and the man who inspired a generation of us who he famously called the young team. You know, it’s funny how as time those once called the young team are now seen as the establishment in the Words and Music family though whether we would see ourselves in this role is a very different story.

When Steve returned to his seat it was time for the penultimate performer and in this case it was Maryanne Hartness to take the stage. I really enjoy Maryanne’s work as it always gives the audience plenty to think about and this was no exception. Maryanne read three poems all of which were of the quality we have come to expect from such a talented wordsmith and River of Reflections, The Waltz, and Glasgow Games were an enjoyable listen with last one in evoking memories of childhood and early teens for many of us myself included.

So finally having through the sensible readers it was up to me to conclude the night and bring the evening to a close. I did this by performing a set of four poems starting with Forgotten Soldiers a poem commemorating the soldiers who never got to D-Day as they were busy fighting in the Italian campaign to stop Mussolini’s fascist army advancing northwards and in doing so preventing them lending from lending Hitler a helping hand.

My next poem also covered the topic of death but this time it was a much more recent one as I paid my poetic tribute to David Bowie In Ode To A Martian Transvestite which was how my mother referred to a musician she would later admire in the early 1970’s.

I followed this up with Learning Swedish a poem written in support of the young Swedish poet Agnes Torok who has been receiving a lot of online abuse for her excellent poem This Is My Body in which she asserts the right as all women should, to claim her body as her personal and private space.

Over the last few years as Agnes studied at Edinburgh University I got to know her both as a poet on the Scottish spoken word scene and more importantly as a friend and believe me I have never been so proud to read any poem as I was to read this one which speaks truth to power on behalf of all women who wish to claim it.

Finally I ended my set and indeed the evening by performing the first poem I ever read at Words and Music back in 1993 and Every Saturday Night proved just as popular as it always does and was I think a cracking way to finish our first night in our new home.

At the end of what was an excellent entertaining evening I reflected on the events of a night where we were valued and made welcome that this in many ways was just the Sammy’s of old before corporate interests took it over and made it feel like a strange and alien land which had no room for nights like ours. This is in total contrast to our new home which has taken Words and Music to its heart and believe me the feeling is mutual and as we reassigned our memories at the river of reflections everyone played Glasgow games with spoken words and songs

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X