The new monuments we need? Your nan's old dress or a Stormzy lyric carved in stone | Vanessa Kisuule

Instead of stern, elevated statues, here are some ways I’d like to remember

Our secular cities are littered with false idols, all these solemn mythologies. The inscriptions are often too faded to read. They look stern and constipated, with none of the campy verve of a waxwork at Madame Tussauds. It’s hard to feel moved by these dimmed beacons, so removed are they from our present.

Sometimes, we tell ourselves lies. No one has perfected this better than Britain, with our misplaced memories of glory strung together like cheap bunting in a stiff breeze. To paraphrase James Baldwin, it’s because I love this country so much that I reserve the right to shake its hem and demand better.

So, here is my non-exhaustive list of alternatives to statues:

On each bit of dried gum on the pavement, a one-word poem. A national anthem riding a garage beat. Plaques that tell the truth(s). For every loved figure lost, a yew tree planted. Impromptu shrines in alleyways. A sepia photo of a moustached soldier tucked between the wheelie bins. The dress your nan wore to her first dance, seams intact. The mahogany pipe that filled your uncle’s lungs with soot.

Framed Twitter threads. The entire works of Shakespeare printed on sugar paper. Stormzy’s Shut Up carved in stone. Stamps that speak. A British Museum of Post-its, Pens and Pauses. A healthy distrust of white walls, reverent silence and simple heroes. A glinting maze of coins hosting different faces: Amy’s beehive, Attenborough, Shaznay from All Saints.

Make statues that stand at our height and meet our gaze. Suggested materials: bottle caps, Bristol blue glass, detachable bra straps, sandstone, salt. If wind or sea come for our new idols, let them. It is the natural, honest way of things.

Vanessa Kisuule is the Bristol City Poet.

Vanessa Kisuule

The GuardianTramp

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