Poem of the week: Yeomen

A new work by Maurice Riordan

Maurice Riordan. Photograph: Derek Adams

Maurice Riordan. Photograph: Derek Adams


Either Pharaoh or Moses has been with me all year,

January to January, haunting the landing.

At night when I pad down the stairs for a drink,

one of them steps to the side. No sound or touch,

just a slight drop in temperature as I go past.

At the fridge, I hear bullocks wheezing on the slabs.

Stepping out to piss, an owl screeches in flight

and I spot the Dioscuri in the branches of the elm.

Brothers christened for a laugh, or in ignorance?

One twin – Moses or Pharaoh – died on the Marne

and is remembered on a stone in the churchyard.

The other stands guard outside my bedroom at night.

Maurice Riordan’s books of poems include The Holy Land and The Water Stealer (both Faber & Faber). He was nominated for the TS Eliot Prize and won the Michael Hartnett Award