Mametz Wood Analysis – A Poem by Owen Sheers Part I
February 1, 2018
Mametz Wood Analysis
For years afterwards the farmers found them –
the wasted young, turning up under their plough blades
as they tended the land back into itself.
A chit of bone, the china plate of a shoulder blade,
the relic of a finger, the blown
and broken bird’s egg of a skull,
all mimicked now in flint, breaking blue in white
across this field where they were told to walk, not run,
towards the wood and its nesting machine guns.
And even now the earth stands sentinel,
reaching back into itself for reminders of what happened
like a wound working a foreign body to the surface of the skin.
This morning, twenty men buried in one long grave,
a broken mosaic of bone linked arm in arm,
their skeletons paused mid dance-macabre
in boots that outlasted them,
their socketed heads tilted back at an angle
and their jaws, those that have them, dropped open.
As if the notes they had sung
have only now, with this unearthing,
slipped from their absent tongues.
This poem takes a reflective journey into Mametz Wood, the final resting place of nearly 4000 Welsh soldiers who gave their lives in service to the country, and whom, in return, were accused of cowardice (though this accusation was later withdrawn, it soured relations between the commanding officers for quite some time).
‘Mametz Wood’ is a deep, slow poem, inspired by Owen Sheers’ trip to Wales, during which a tomb of twenty Allied soldiers were discovered. Sheers was so enamored with the image, he was to later return and compose ‘Mametz Wood’.