Tag Archive | The Great Depression

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 

The Clothes Of An Honest Man 

Hey Readers On what would have been his 90th Birthday I post a poem I’ve spent the whole day working on in loving memory of my father John James Smith. I would have liked to post it earlier but I had to get it just right before sharing it. My dad was an engineering inspector and would have expected no less. I am however pleased to say that I have finally completed it to my satisfaction and it will be posted on time. I have given it the title The Clothes Of An Honest Man. I hope you enjoy the read.

The Clothes Of An Honest Man

 
Born at the time of depression 

he was the fifth of nine children 

eight of whom survived to adult years

In reflective moments my dad wept tears for Alexander 

the wee brother who died 

in infancy 

a quiet man who kept his dignity 

he never showed emotions

in front of others 

I was the exception to his rule 

he encouraged me to do well at school 

and knew my rebellious streak 

was his gift to his youngest child 

he couldn’t deny the reality 

even if he wanted to try 

too many others knew the truth 

with proof from his younger days 

used as evidence to convict him 

the man who lost his religion

but never his team

 green  and white till the day he died

though the faith of his fathers lapsed 

when a priest threw a book at him 

for forgetting his catacisim 

in class 

never again did my dad go to mass 

and when he was told  

he couldn’t marry outside the church 

he told the priest what he thought 

a proud pragmatic Scot 

he often went fishing 

though he seldom caught a fish 

as for his politics he had a very clear vision 

of a better nation 

 which he claimed much to my mother’s annoyance 

could only come with independence

like most unionists I knew growing up 

 she avoided poltical debate 

having what my dad called  Mrs Bouquet syndrome 

and I  knew what he meant 

she was content to leave the world to it’s fate 

claiming it was just the way it was 

I got more sense out of Santa Claus 

than I got from my mum 

too many friends of her family 

 banged on the empty drums 

of a lost cause 

and could never forgive her 

for marrying a catholic 

even if he did raise his children 

in the faith these people walked for 

but seldom if ever practiced 

and to those who thought 

that the wee man should know his place 

I answer that he did 

and it was way beyond 

anywhere they could ever reach 

this was a man who never gave up on me 

when I was ill and doctors claimed  

I wouldn’t see my first birthday

he told them  I would come through  

because I was a fighter 

on my graduation day 

he knew the truth of his prediction 

my honours gained by the hard work and commitment

which were the hallmark of a skilled engineer 

who rose to the rank of inspector 

in the job he held for 30 years

till Thatcher closed the gates 

in the name of electoral geography 

and votes in marginal seats in the midlands

in this united kingdom

which he said was united only in name 

whilst the so-called workers party 

did union jack to help others 

I have long since discovered the truth of the words 

he spoke in anger on that fair Friday night 

when he said Labour had always  played the Westminster game 

and must be viewed with suspicion 

in everything they do 

they would he said

 always put the red and white 

before the blue  

 they were the  secret enemy

 whose mask would eventually slip 

his daughter I now attend the kirk 

though this socialist republican Scot 

is an internationalist to the core 

my father never wore a sash 

preferring the clothes of an honest man 

Maggie and Arthur can be proud of their son 

the  boy from the scheme 

who was equally at home in the countryside

may have been a rebel 

but during his time among us 

he taught me the values I keep to this day 

fair play,  honesty, and being the best you can be 

whilst doing your best to help  others 

were the marks of the man 

the quiet rebel  

I am proud to call dad 

@ Gayle Smith 2017