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The War Memorial, by Britta Benson

I was waiting for a bus in Somerled Square, Portree. And then, I witnessed a small gesture, that sent shivers down my spine. I was not sure about whether to put this poem up, but I feel I have to. Watching a young woman stand in front of the war memorial in Portree today sparked off a poem that just had to be out there.

The War Memorial

On Somerled Square in Portree

between bus stop and cafe,

police station and car park

sits the town’s war memorial.

Wherever I go,

in this country

or further afield,

there is always one,

with far too many names of local men,

remembered for not coming home

when they should be remembered

in much better ways,

as loving fathers, sons and husbands,

beautiful, important people,

hearts and souls,

not allowed to live full lives.

Their children’s children,

and the ones they never had

should sit on benches

under trees,

all over the world,

in squares without the need for plaques

or names of the fallen chiselled in stone.

They should be licking ice creams,

watching happy days go by,

chatting, laughing, remembering

the parents and grandparents they had.

And when a visitor from another world

stands in the centre of town wondering

‘Where is the war memorial?’

a little child should tug gently

at her mummy’s sleeve

and ask with big curious eyes

‘What’s a war?’

Instead, there’s a young woman

standing in Somerled Square today,

tracing a couple of names with her finger

before touching her heart,

taking a bow

and going home.

Britta Benson


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