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As Lands Lie Bleeding 

On Remembrance Day I write a poem which is based on the concerns of a 94 year old veteran who served in the Second World War. This former soldier believes that we are now standing at the brink of a third world war and potential global catastrophe due to what he calls the greed and self interest of a group of sociopathetic leaders who have no compassion or empathy for those they lead or for the greater human race as they seek only power no matter the cost to the rest of us. I hope I have done justice to the words of Harry Leslie Smith in this poem which I’ve titled As Lands Lie Bleeding. I hope you enjoy the read. 

As Lands Lie Bleeding 

I can’t stand by and watch the world explode

these are not my words 

but those of a former soldier

in the winter of his years

who genuinely fears for our human race 

this is a man who has faced unspeakable horrors

the likes of which we hoped we would never see again 

like hearing whilst stationed in Germany 

that atomatic bombs had been dropped on japanese cities

and turned the souls of inhabitants 

in to what he describes as chalk marked stenciled drawings on pavements 

in the fragile peace of a cold war world

we had believed those days were behind us 

yet now we stand at a crossroads

not seen since the 1930’s and rise of Nazi Germany

as once more the conservative right 

squares  up for a fight without realising the consequences 

these people have a glorified sense of self 

but no sense of other nor compassion for their plight 

without a moral compass they play games with our lives 

in contrast to those who rebuilt a shattered continent 

at the end of the last global conflict 

who in this country brought us

The NHS and welfare state 

but now the politics of fear and hate are on the rise again 

as the disadvantaged look for scapegoats

to blame for their decline 

shortage of housing and rising crime statistics

blame it on the forigners not the British 

say those who preach exclusion 

as if by doing so we magically solve all problems 

I support an independent Scotland 

but I recognise that independence alone would not solve our problems overnight 

however in the dreamworld of the British Conservative right

they are prepared to make no such admissions about their United Kingdom

and by perpuating their delusions 

they are sacrificing the ambitions of their children 

to live in a better world than this 

an old soldier is warning us 

with autocratic governments in positions of power 

the world stands at the darkest hour 

since the days of Hitler and the reich 

life he says cannot go on like this 

something has to give.

we are standing on the brink of war 

he urges us to take a step back 

not for the Saltaire, stars and stripes, or union flag 

but for humanity 

he worries about the sanity of sociopathetic leaders 

with no respect  for others 

as they lust for power at all costs

and watch lands lie bleeding 

as they play war games by remote control 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

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A Triumph For Humanity In Spite Of The Greatest Of Obstacles As A Poet Asks The Questions On The Topics That Won’t Go Away (A Review Of The Other Side Of The Flood By David Lee Morgan) 

As regular readers will no doubt be aware due to my lack of posts on the topic, my Edinburgh fringe was a wee bit late in kicking off this year. This was due to the after effects of a leg injury taking longer than expected to sod off and so it wasn’t until the Tuesday of week three that  I finally got off and running but when I did I hit it with a vengeance As I got to the Banshee which is and ever shall be my Edinburgh local I settled in , having my first of many Diet Coke’s before going to see my  first show of Edinburgh 2017. 

The show of choice was The Other Side Of The Flood by David Lee Morgan (pictured below) This play in six voices set in the year 2035 was a beautifully constructed piece of theatre in which Morgan an accomplished poet , and musician narrates the story of a world on the brink of a global socialist revolution. Fighting has broken all out all over the world and all communication has stopped. To add to this the American government has used nuclear weapons on it’s own people most noticeably the Los Angeles Socialist Revolutionary Commune which has been decimated by this attack. 

Picture David Lee Morgan rocks the Banshee Banqueting Hall 

During an action packed 50 minutes Morgan explores the themes of socialism, internationalism, love,  cross cultural boundaries, death, hopes, fears, and mental health through Jesse a young Mexican-American , and his lover Sultana who comes from a traditional Pakistani Muslim background.

 As our story begins the world is on the eve of the revolution but this development is not welcomed by everyone and is being  fiercely opposed by those forces who have most to lose. The Los Angeles commune has been attacked and many of the revolutionaries killed whilst Jesse lies on a life support machine. There is only one way to save humanity from an impending Armageddon and that is to place the brain of a fighter for peace in to the computer drone which could change everything and Jesse is the perfect candidate for the task. Through still alive, he has no chance of making what we would call a full recovery and is living out his last days determined to do what he can for the cause he believes in with every fibre of his being

During this time a void is needing to be filled as people lose faith in organised religions and the old order is on the verge of collapse. This depending on your viewpoint can be seen as crisis or opportunity and the global socialist movement view it as an opportunity to create a new belief system to benefit humanity. The old order however will not go quietly in the night and resistance to change will be sharply defended.

On the eve of what would surely be the war to end them all, a young couple think of the coming days as the great battle for a better world. Though from very different backgrounds Mexican-American and Pakistani Asian there is no doubting the strength of their beliefs or indeed their love 

With her passion running as deep as her principles Sultana calls her mother to tell her of her plans to stay in America with Jesse as something wonderful was going to happen but the fight will begin soon. Her mother reminds her that is there is  also fighting in her homeland and pleads with her to return home. Sultana however is headstrong and in love and has no intention of leaving Jesse behind for her mother or anyone else. This causes tension between Sultana and her mother though the familial bonds of love and loyalty remain strong across both cultures and generations. 

At this point Sultana reminds her mother that though she lives in the west she still attends mosque and prays five tines a day and that Jesse understands the importance of her faith. Her mother however reminds her that she cannot  marry outside the faith. Frustrated by rules and regulations Sultana reminds her mother that it was fine for her brother to marry a non Muslim and asks why her it’s different for girls Meanwhile Jesse’s condition is deteriorating as we hear flashbacks from his past conflicts and computerised voices telling young men to man up whilst other voices relate the tragic tale  of a soldier having a break down and this forces upon on us the grim realisation that for some former combatants the war never ends and the permanent potential threat of post traumatic stress disorder stalks them like shadows in the middle of the darkest time of night. 

 Tackling these issues with the sensitivity they deserve David Lee Morgan asks much needed questions about both conflict and the role of masculinity within it. These are questions which need asking and cannot be ducked. These are questions which it a brave writer and performer to ask. Luckily David Lee Morgan is exactly that type of  artist. He is an outstanding poet and musician who relishes challenging convention and saying the kind of topics I talk about are real and will not go away. He enjoys holding authority to account not by shouting  or stamping his feet but opening your eyes to new possibilities such as the potential for a real global socialism to take root and as he showed with the ending of this play where he presents us with two roads and leaves the decision to us as to which will be the destination of our choice.

In this show as in all of Morgan’s work he shows the  human spirit is capable of overcoming even the greatest of the obstacles as it triumphs in spite of itself and the barriers it so often puts in place to hinder the path to progress . That to me is the true mark of an artist of genuine substance and David Lee Morgan  is such an artist.

Till next time. 

Gayle X

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 

 locals claimed we were not the same as them 

using language 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 known 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