Two poems by Ben Wilkinson


    The Flower Carrier


after the painting by Diego Rivera, 1935


These blooms are for the mayor’s daughter,
wedding on which a town pins its hopes.
Soon they’ll set long tables creaking,

throng streets in hanging baskets,
thread buttonholes of businessmen,
diplomats. If I were a cynic I’d call them

fig leaves; decoration to perfume
the stench of politics and little else.
But their weight on my back

is the weight of love itself, bright
yet strangely heavy; the faith we all carry
in our tired old hearts. I’ll arrive

in town, hat tipped against the sun,
pocket my fee, whistle and be gone,
knowing this beautiful lie is my art alone.


    The Champion


Because what I love best is the sweat,
swift force of will supplanting strength,
forehand cross-court with enough spin
to take your head off. Watch the racquet
warp above his glare, fighter pilot’s
propeller throttling on the ascent,
dent after dent in his opponent’s
confidence, winners he’s no right to hit.

Who wouldn’t want to watch that, grit
and graft above effortless grace?
Beauty’s for amateurs; success a story
of setback, repetition. Persistence
makes the moment you’ll watch again
and again, a burst of chalk or clay
as time and space bend to make way.


Ben Wilkinson

About Ben Wilkinson

Ben Wilkinson’s debut collection 'Way More Than Luck' (Seren, 2018) received a Northern Writer’s Award and an Arts Council England writer’s grant. An anthology of running-themed poems, 'The Result is What You See Today', edited with fellow poet-runners Paul Deaton and Kim Moore, was published by smith|doorstop in October. He teaches creative writing at the University of Bolton, reviews new poetry for the Guardian, and lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. He is currently working on a second collection of poems.