Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Who Shall Divide Us: Poem for Somme 100

By Patrick Slevin

The Connaught Rangers was an Irish Infantry regiment of the British Army. Known as The Devil's Own, they fought at Guillemont and Ginchy in the Battle of the Somme. In just over a week's fighting the 6th Battalion lost 407 men and 23 officers. This poem is about the men who fought, lived and died in those French fields. Their company motto was 'Quis Separabit' (Who Shall Divide Us).


All to one side like the town of Ballyvary,
They were eager for that boreen. Once barefoot
Boys, they dragged their boots, ankle deep in slutch
With blistered souls. Smudged lamps hovered like

The townsland stretch but no sleans were slung across
Broken backs. Smoke lingered white, still, in the
Night, as they ached their way forward to ‘The 
Bold Fenian Men’. Sporadic cracks split the

Grey, red punctured skies, they felt the dead crossing
The back of their throats. Dark eyes shouted behind 
Unshaven faces, washed with cold drizzle.
Teeth rattled amongst them like Gerry’s own 

Gun. Crouched, closing eyes, no time for jigs 
Or forty-five, they could have heard the sap, 
if only it grew. In the silence, in 
The seconds, before the whistle blew, frost 

Bitten pale hands clenched un-farmable soil. 
Green hearts and dry mouths weren’t warmed by 
Brave words, they didn’t take bets on who’d be
First to Berlin. As dawn descended, the

Screeching skreel screamed through the high sided gulch.
One banshee’s wail for that Guillemont field.
In formation they stuttered to German 
Alarms, the bodhron halted, no encore was

Called. Emeralds lay scattered, The Devil’s Own jewels.
The harp strings broken, ‘Who Shall Divide Us’
Remained unspoken. The breathing cried
Prayers. Desperate for peace and for home.

Text © Patrick Slevin
Patrick Slevin lives in Stockport. He has been writing poems and stories for many years.

To find out more about MIW's Somme 100 Commemoration, please click here


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