Tag Archive | Prejudice

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 

Our Stories

​With the UK pride season taking  place throughout the summer I thought I would share my  views on what the pride marches mean to me and why they have such important place in the history of  the LGBT community in this new poem entitled Our Stories.I selected this title as I believe it captures the spirit of the event as it shows that the only way any community will gain any sort of respect let alone the equality they deserve is by speaking their truths in their language.  I hope you enjoy the read. 

Our Stories 

With rainbow flags side by side with other banners

 we marched through the city  

as well wishers smiled, took photographs, blew kisses 

with only the odd look of disapproval

from those who wished to  rain on our parade

this was and is a day to celebrate who we are

in all our glorious diversity 

some may call it perversity 

but love is love no matter what 

your gender identity or sexual orientation may be 

and in the new inclusive nation we are building 

there is room for everyone to express ourselves 

in whatever way we like 

this is what pride is all about 

as we gather together we see as many differences as there are similarities

like families no two among us are exactly the same 

nor would we want them to be 

individual identity is important on days like this 

when we take risks on dancing with strangers  

kiss frogs and hope we’ll turn them in to princes and princesses

see characters in dresses and shorts 

so tight they could never be worn on tennis courts 

and meet oversized guys with oversized egos

who truly believe they could be  heroes 

when you think that life on mars has been discovered

and arrived on Glasgow Green 

It is a wonderful mixture of the beautiful and the obscene

but that doesn’t matter the most important part of the day

is to see and be seen in this colourful cavalcade

there was a time when this day and this parade

would not ,indeed could not have taken place 

we would have called a disgrace

for daring to show our faces

and public displays of affection 

would never have been allowed

now we hold hands as we march 

through city streets 

we are even allowed to marry 

politicians speak at our events 

expressing support for our right

to be who we are, 

live life without fear 

be accepted as we accept others 

because we got active became the change 

we wanted to see in the world 

by telling our stories in our words

© 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 

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 

 

Democracy Matters 

On day 20 of NaPoWriMo I tacke the media made myth that Scotland’s voters and getting tired of voting and may be have a bit of voter fatigue. This is exactly how Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale  want you to feel , it represents by far their best chance of even limited electoral success as they know that a politically motivated Scotland is not in their intersts These people who are no  more than branch office managers for their respective Westminster parties are really keen for Scotland to be quiet and go back to sleep so they can do what they like and no-one will notice or even care. It is therefore fair to say that apathy is one of the most important weapons they happen to have in their quest to keep Scotland subordinate and that’s why I’ve tilted this poem Democracy Matters. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Democracy Matters. 

The drip feeding has started on TV and in the press

as the establishment suggest 

the voters of Scotland are fed up with voting 

 you’ve  got to be  joking 

I never tire of defending my hard won rights and liberties 

I’ll campaign hard but I’ll do it with dignity 

you see I’ve been involved in too many fights 

for too many causes 

to ever even think of giving up on democracy 

so when I hear people say 

I don’t do politics 

I say a prayer for the apathetic 

and hope they remember their words 

when someone they don’t like gets elected 

and their rights are infringed 

I’ve had enough of this cringing 

it really is time for them to stop their whinging 

or shut up and never raise their voice in anger  again 

as for who wins the race to number 10 

God forbid  the Tories will be re-elected 

though I think they will 

I like some Labour policies 

but voting for them would be 

 too bitter a pill to swallow

their still toxic to me 

I voted yes to independence 

and will do so again 

I’m scunnered with Westminster

and their heartless austerity policies

I want to live in a country where democracy  matters 
where our rights and liberties are respected 

and no-one needs to live in fear 

because of who they are 

or what  they are perceived to be 

stereotypes don’t do it for me 

my politics will  never be 

 about giving people different coloured triangles 

this is not 1933 

I wouldn’t be here if it  was

a trans woman with physical impairments 

who supports the Trade Union movement 

I’d have been a cert for the final solution 

my only saving grace would have been

having so many labels 

the Nazi’s wouldn’t have known 

where to place me or what box to tick  

though no doubt they would have got me on something 

trust me I’m not bluffing 

this country is facing a very stark choice 

if we don’t use our vote 

The Tories will claim we’ve made our choice 

more families will be forced in to poverty 

more disabled people will die 

but the top one percent will thrive 

and the media will spin it

 that we’re doing well 

they’ll talk of prosperity and dig out a few selective examples 

as proof of their point 

giving no further thought to consequences of their actions 

or the trail of devastation they leave in their wake 

to be apathetic to this heartless government 

is a risk I’m not willing to take 

If you say we’re voting too often 

that’s your call 

but if you fall for this trap 

 don’t say you weren’t warned 

when your nightmares become reality 

and  one by one your rights die 

at the dawn of a true blue Tory kingdom 

united in your name

 by your apathy and your ignorance 

© Gayle  Smith 2017 

Ingredients 

On day 9 of NaPoWriMo My poem was inspired on enjoying a bowl of soup after church this morning.  In it I reflect on the fact that we are all made up of many parts, ingredients if you like and it is when these ingredients are blended together they are combined in to the recipes which makes us who we are. I’ve given this poem the title Ingredients I hope you enjoy the read. 

Ingredients

When it comes to the  recipe 

which was used in my creation 

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration

for me to claim 

I am a mixture of ingredients 

I am gabby wee Glaswegian 

who says things as I see them 

 I am a poet,  a thinker,

a coffee drinker who is concerned

about cash crops ,cash cows, and sustainability 

I try to use what abilities I have to help others 

I have discovered myself 

and I like who I am 

I tend not to plan 

but live in the moment 

savouring every experience 

life has to offer

I campaign for an independent Scotland 

not for wha’s like us shortbread and tartan 

my yes vote wasn’t born cheering the team at Hampden 

it was a product of the schemes 

Tory governments destroyed 

I get annoyed with those won’t take a stand against poverty 

because they are doing alright 

fairness is everyone’s fight 

I won’t write poetry on nice safe subjects 

nor do it for family occasions

Hallmark do celebrations so much better 

I have a poetic agenda and yes it is political 

some would say overtly so 

but I have always believed 

as you sow so shall you reap 

I weep tears of anger at the not so great unthinking 

who think that acting tough 

in front of their drinking companions 

gives them credibility 

it doesn’t it just makes them look thick 

diplomacy is not one of my skills 

honesty however night be 

whether they  like or not 

I will enlighten them 

by shattering their fragile sense of self 

if that is what it  takes

I will use humour to break them 

if they even dare to start 

their sexist , racist, misogynistic, or transphobic crap 

believe me this would not be a smart move 

I am a fighter who knows

 what tactics to use and when to use them 

that said, I have a kind heart 

for those who really  matter 

I’m not attracted to patter merchants 

who think they can talk me in to bed 

when I like someone intellect 

rather than my hormones 

will make the decision 

ambition is my biggest turn on 

I want someone who smart and successful 

confident in themselves and in  others 

as I said I have discovered myself

and I like who I am 

more importantly I like the ingredients that make me 

and gave me the recipe for success 

© Gayle Smith 2017  

Scotland Of The Heart

On day 6 of NaPoWriMo I remember that today is not only Tartan Day but also the anniversary of the Declaration Of Arbroath in which Scotland asserted our sovereign right to independence. Bearing this in mind, I decided that it may be a good day to assert my own personal politics and share my vision of the Scotland I want to see I’ve given it the title Scotland Of The Heart I hope you enjoy the read. 

Scotland Of The Heart 

It was on this day

 our nation  declared our right

 to full independence 

so being a socialist , and feminist 

I suggest it is a suitable day 

to say what I have to say 

 declare my personal political views 

I want a Scotland of all colours and hues 

where rights are protected not taken away 

and being lesbian , gay bisexual or transgender

does not mean you surrender to bullies 

who want you to cower in fear 

Let me make it clear 

Intolerance is not an option 

 being English, Irish , Indian or Lithuanian 

or indeed a child of any nation 

does not mean you should be excluded

or made to feel unwelcome 

in this country  I call mine

my Scotland of the heart 

so where do I start to build this land 

you must understand I can’t promise miracles 

or turn water to wine

I won’t claim that everything 

will always be fine 

but what I will say is this 

I want a Scotland which will be comfortable discovering itself 

a land which will tackle health based inequalities 

fight poverty and be a good international citizen 

I declare a personal interest in advancing the chances 

for women and girls both at home and elsewhere in the world 

I want an education system which works for all 

not just the better off 

middle Scotland is not my Scotland 

my Scotland is a Scotland of the schemes 

I had dreams back in the day 

I was always a gab with something to say 

and that’s not changed 

I don’t want our youth to be 

estranged from the country 

they grew up in because politicians 

lacked the vision to take big decisions 

on environmental matters

Scotland is not just for the chattering classes

the schemes need to be  free from pollution

for our children to breath cleaner air 

I despair when some think that short term solutions can be given 

as  answers to long term problems 

I want a Scotland which will hold our heads high 

where people have a sense of belonging

not because of where we’ve been 

but where we’re going to go 

and what we will achieve 

when we get to our destination 

I seek my inspiration from ordinary citizens

I want a country where ambition is normal 

and not the preserve of others 

I want a Scotland which will be comfortable discovering itself 

happy with what it finds

and determined to not to rest 

but be the best we can be 

I want a Scotland free from disappointments of yesterday

which doesn’t wallow in the past 

Or drown its sorrows 

I want a country where we plan for tomorrow 

by the actions we are already taking

I want a bolder brighter nation  

where nobody will be shaken by propaganda 

from outside sources 

who make the gullible panic 

when they talk of divorces 

and  implied costs 

I want a country which will not be bossed 

I want a Scotland which doesn’t know its place  

 declares that  it’s time to be  brave 

and despite all the obstacles we face

creates a country we can be proud to call home. 

©Gayle Smith 2017