Tag Archive | Identity

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 

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 

Smelling The Roses

​On day 24 of NaPoWriMo I decided that political satire would be my poetic weapon of choice after seeing a UKIP candidate’s response as to why they are standing for election on social media. After laughing so much it nearly split my sides I remembered what I’ve always known namely politics is a serious business and though UKIP might like to portray themselves as lovable eccentric guardians of tradition they are in reality anything but. In fact truth be told these people are of the hard right conservative school of political thought and have some very  extreme and dangerous views. It is with in mind I decided to write this poem in the form of a UKIP candidate’s speech to highlight the type of country I don’t want to live in. The title for the poem was chosen for me by my Norwich based friend and fellow poet Andy Bennett  who selected the title Smelling The Roses. I hope you enjoy the read. 

Smelling The Roses (The Thoughts Of A UKIP Supporter) 
You ask me why I want to be elected 

well I’ll tell you 

it’s because I believe

  the British way of life is under threat 

and I want to put forward  solutions 

I couldn’t give a damn for devolution

the revolution has to be stopped.

I’m a proud Scot but I know my place 

so here’s what I think we need to do 

to put some pride back in the red white and blue 

I’ll start with sports

 I am convinced every child  should learn to ride a horse 

but as for golf , those courses are environmental disaster 

and a threat to the safety of our people 

and that is something I cannot abide 

still on environmental matters 

I want plastic bags abolished 

they are a threat to animals especially whales and dolphins 

as for an independent Scotland forget it 

I’m a proud Scot but 

Westminster is our colonial master 

and we should be content to keep it that way 

Mrs Thatcher was wonderful back in the day 

I’m a plain speaker and say what’s on my mind 

which I think you’ll find enlightening 

some people find my views on capital punishment frightening 

I think the death penalty should be restored 

but I wouldn’t bring back hanging 

the guillotine would be better 

and I’ll tell you something else

we’re heading in to world war three 

due to China, India , and the SNP 

that lot are a public danger 

and it’s all to do with 

money, and greed  

we in Britain do a lot for charity 

comic relief is wonderful 

so is children in need 

talking of children 

I think poor people shouldn’t have them.

now this is only my view 

but in my united kingdom 

mother’s should stay at home

to look after their little darlings

there should be no support for nurseries 

but all schools need classes 

and education needs reforming 

 this is a warning we are heading for  world war three 

I blame it on the SNP 

it will have nothing to do with Tony Blair or Theresa May 

personally I think we should go to war with Spain over Gibraltar

after all we’ve beat them before

when we sunk their Armada

remember the Falklands it was great wasn’t it 

yes I know there were millions unemployed

and living in poverty 

but we had pride in the flag

we were respected then 

now it’s all this political correctness lunacy

there is no such thing as an LGBT community

that kind of thing should be kept private

behind closed doors

you get good and bad people of all types 

talking of rights

I believe Margo MacDonald’s right to die bill

should be put to referendum 

well old people are living too long 

though working them till there 70 

should tire some out 

well if there dead  we don’t need to  worry about their living expenses 

we really need to come to our senses

the free bus pass scheme has to stop 

these people should be encouraged to walk 

I know you’ll be shocked at some of my views 

but here’s the bit you didn’t hear on the news

I would reopen public loo’s 

and create community gardens

yes I know I maybe hard on some issues

but believe me we don’t have time for tissues 

 it’s time to wake up and smell the roses. 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

Jewel Of The Clyde 

On day 11 of NaPoWriMo my topic of choice is culture as I look back to 1990 when Glasgow was European City Of Culture and look at the legacy this has left us. I’ve given it the title Jewel Of The Clyde. I hope you enjoy the read.  

Jewel Of The Clyde 
I remember it well 

  1990 

when Glasgow was cultural capital of Europe 

and we were told by our so called betters 

we were the Jewel of the Clyde 

this marketing slogan for the middle classes 

never sat well with ordinary lassies like me 

well not at the time 

though we eventually got used to it 

maybe even liked it 

we never got excited at the prospect the big ticket events 

not when the prices were at least a month’s rent 

we weren’t in to Pavarotti or Sinatra 

but a bit of Love and Money went down fine 

there were lines to be drawn 

between the Scotia Bar and the Tron 

my dad said 

though  I must admit I felt at home 

in both 

well one had ambience the other had heart 

less than a mile apart they symbolised the contrast 

between new and old Glasgow

the geography of conflict 

between socialism and gentrification 

where culture wars real and imagined 

began to be fought 

1990 showed the haves and have nots 

were warring tribes on the hunt  for new recruits 

aspiration and tradition the badges of honour 

claimed by opposing sides 

you could have one but not the other 

in the world according to my mother 

I wanted both and believed I could have them 

I was never wedded to the idea of class as identity 

my view that it was a bigger social construct than nation 

sat well with my radical dad 

but not my socially conservative mum 

who heard distant drums

 as a symbol of her white Protestant Britishness 

the togetherness unionists still bang on about 

even though its days are numbered 

2014 saw generational cultures colide 

but the Jewel of the Clyde voted yes 

to independence

and did it for MacLean and Jimmy Reid 

greed  has never been our way 

the big ticket events have their place 

but if 1990 showed us anything 

it was that our communities 

are what make us strong 

there were lots Glasgowing On 

to give us a sense of belonging 

and a sentimental longing for yesterday 

but times moved on 

and we found our voice

telling stories with authenticity and dignity 

 in plays in community halls 

and poetry nights in bars 

the ordinary people were the stars 

of the Glasgow show 

the roots we planted have grown 

we have flourished beyond recognition 

aspiration and tradition have married 

and the Jewel of the Clyde 

 is the voice they gave to their children. 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

Lessons 

On day 3 of NaPoWriMo it is time for a political poem and it may not come as too much of a shock that the  topic of choice is independence. What may however be a bit of a surprise is that the tone of the poem comes as a warning to yes supporters to learn the lessons of history to avoid repeating the mistakes and indeed disappointments of 2014. In this poem I urge our supporters to offer the hand of friendship to those voters who voted no in 2014 and set about winning them over to Yes and winning a better Scotland because of it. I have given it the title  Lessons I hope you enjoy the read 
Lessons
If Scotland is ever to see the day 

when we become an independent self governing nation 

we must learn the lessons of the last campaign 

we cannot afford to win the day 

and lose the future 

economics may be not my seducer 

but it is effective for many 

and that penny needs to drop  

we have to recognise its power 

or the flower of Scotland will never truly bloom 

our country will not be won 

by slogans, clipboards, and demonstrations 

though they will play a part 

we must use the head and speak from the heart 

be inclusive of all communities 

and not be afraid of tackling deeply held prejudices 

amongst our own supporters 

as to why we think the way we do 

this will be a challenge 

but it has to be faced 

we can’t simply wish it away 

and hope our opponents are magically cured 

of the loyalties which bind them to  union 

this is why we never won last time 

we need to engage and say clearly and with honestly 

we can offer no guarantees 

but neither can our opponents 

and we need to call them out 

when they claim otherwise 

there are no such thing as certainties 

to pretend that the present is set in stone 

is not the solution 

we were told we would never leave 

the European Union 

yet Brexit and the isolation it will bring 

will turn us more selfish and right wing

as gradually the UK becomes ever more insular 

with xenophobia masked as the new patriotism 

this is a vision I do not share 

I despair that our civic Scotland will be under threat 

and every word we say will be scrutinised 

the smears and lies have already started 

winning the future is not a job for the faint hearted 

we have to offer the hand of friendship 

to those who voted no in 2014 

not accuse them of killing our dreams 

in moments of anger and frustration 

it is too easy to throw about words like independence and nation 

without explaining why we would better than Westminster 

at running our own affairs 

I want to live in a country that cares 

for our most vulnerable citizens 

not a United Kingdom based on wealth patronage and privilege 

that’s why my identity is Scottish not British

I don’t want to live a land which still fantasises  

about a past when they called other countries colonies 

whilst keeping their own people poor in the name of empire 

 telling them they should be proud 

they couldn’t feed their families 

I don’t want to live in a country 

where people are devalued due to race , religion , gender or sexuality 

where diversity is demonised 

and difference is viewed with fear 

to me  these kind of attitudes

are barriers to the progressive society 

I’ve always believed in 

I know there will be some in both the SNP and yes

who will be uncomfortable with me 

because of the way I dress 

and the fact I am a woman with a trans past 

but I’m prepared to take the chance

 that our very different versions of what independence should mean 

will be keenly contested in elections in which Scotland’s voters matter 

as for now I’ll accept them as allies 

in defeating the spin and patter 

coming from unionists with agendas 

the way the Tories have been behaving 

they might as well start singing no surrender or Rule Britannia

or giving pensioners free photographs of Margaret Thatcher

rather than trying to pretend 

they give a damn about our country 

we need to debate them on the issues

we need to win ugly 

by convincing those voters who are willing to listen 

that Britain belongs in the past 

though I admit it  may have been good for some 

 this battle needs won 

not for Auld Lang Syne 

nor memories of old 

we’ve got to be bold for the future generations

those growing up 

and others still to see the day 

it is their future that’s at risk 

we can , we must, we will do better than this 

when we learn our lessons 

the future will be ours. 

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

Stiff Upper Lipstick 

Hey Readers  In this post I share a poem on the topic of mental health from highly personal perspective which is that of identity  in particular relating to gender. As  a trans woman, I do not believe nor have I ever done that my gender identity is a mental health issue, but I do believe  where an identity is repressed it can trigger this type of issue and I will openly admit that coming out and living as my real self probably saved me from not only an episode but from a complete meltdown. It is with this in mind I have written this poem on pressure to conform to what society sees as the acceptable cultural, social, and political norms and why sometimes you have to defy them to be truly happy and live the best life you can. I’ve have given the poem Stiff Upper Lipstick as challenges the dangerous and potentially damaging myth that people in the UK are not allowed to show emotion and must remain controlled at all times. I hope you enjoy the read 
Stiff Upper Lipstick 

you must keep a lid on emotions

it’s for the best 

you understand 

you were raised in the British school of thought 

Scottish identity suppressed 

deemed unworthy of recognition 

by those and such as those

who fantasise that a united kingdom 

can be anything other than a fairytale 

these people ignore reality 

any discussion of sexuality 

would be bound to make them blush 

god help them with gender identity 

to them  it wouldn’t matter

if you knew from an early age 

your body didn’t match your  brain

preferring pink to blue

tights to socks

and skirts to shirts and ties

a conservative society tried to downsize your dreams 

as parents, teachers, and youth leaders 

focused on  reinforcing the dominant cultural theme 

boys were boys and girls were girls 

you couldn’t be somewhere in between 

let alone change sides

someone born a boy 

couldn’t dream of a big white wedding

let alone being a bride 

this was something you had to hide 

and you couldn’t complain 

you had to  wear stiff upper lipstick 

whilst reading secret copies of girl’s magazines 

you kept hidden under your  bed 

and only you knew why your face went red 

when you saw that boy you liked 

and had to keep the door to your heart closed 

even if you wanted to open it 

and show the world 

the girl you knew was real 

feelings ignored but never quite crushed 

you blushed as you went in to your room 

dressed yourself in your mum’s old clothes 

and wore stiff upper lipstick 

as your heart cried tears 

and you longed for a kiss from a prince.

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

My Scotland

Hey Readers 

image

As this is St Andrew’s Day I thought I’d share a poem which was written on this day in 2008 and inspired by my friend by my friend Laura Hainey . Since it was my tribute to my country and written on the day when we celebrate our national saint , there was only one title I could give it and that title was My Scotland. I hope you enjoy the read.

My Scotland

Haggis Suppers
Irn Bru
Hue And Cry
Deacon Blue
a sense of community
traditions and history
Rabbie Burns
a quiet dignity

Misplaced pride
in our national teams
a land of equals
sharing dreams
rain in the summer
breathtaking hills
Bannockburn Bravehearts
men in kilts

Battling clans
warm friendly smiles
a feeling you really are
destiny’s child
a welcome for everyone
no matter where from
that’s Scotland my Scotland
it’s the place I call home

@ Gayle Smith 2008