Poetry Map of Scotland poem no. 124: Stonehaven

Brass on Benches, Stonehaven

Nothing can quite surpass a brass nameplate on a council bench -
Not even the grandiosity of a statue’s public show;
Though kings and generals tower above us, colonise parks and squares,
Their stridency has nothing on understated intimacy.

See here beside this harbour wall
Where two brass plaques repeat the words "In loving memory",
Nothing holy, nothing austere, nothing more than names and dates,
Beyond those words their lives are blank - for perpetuity

But here as well where Jimmy Morrison's final gesture
Was a ghost-written script at 70 years
And Ellen Rollinson left no clues about herself
Before she was embossed at 73

We pause where they once paused to hear
The clinking of the boats moored up along the harbour wall
Or watch the tourists pass, or cool their feet at the waterside:
They leave in this a posthumous token of hospitality

And something else in these nameplates far more than the words describe -
The hope that there's fraternity in obscure and disparate lives,
They seek no adulation, fame or place in history
But hint at lifetimes spent in worlds as miniature as our own;

They are like us more than we guess
Though we may pass with scarce a glance,
Without a thought how gracious is
A wee nameplate on a square of brass.

Neil Young

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