The year's best poems: Ruins by Fiona Benson

Fiona Benson's Spoils has been nominated for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem
Fiona Benson's Spoils has been nominated for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem  Credit: G Franklin/Forward Prizes

Ahead of this year’s Forward Prizes for Poetry, The Telegraph is publishing the five nominees for the Best Single Poem prize. Today’s poem comes from Fiona Benson. Born in Wiltshire in 1978, Benson writes with an eye for violent side of nature, and details her experience of motherhood with bracing honesty. Her first collection, Bright Travellers, was nominated for the 2014 TS Eliot Prize.

Ruins is "a poem that tries to look at a real, hardworking, postnatal, middle-aged body," says Benson. "I like that while it starts with dismay, it pivots on the recognition of the lopsided stomach into a celebration of what the body housed." It is taken from her forthcoming second collection, Vertigo & Ghost, which will be published by Cape in January.

Ruins

Here’s my body

in the bath, all the skin’s

inflamed trenches

and lost dominions,

 

my belly’s fallen keystone

its slackened tilt –

for all the Aztec gold

I’d not give up

 

this room where you slept,

your spine to my right,

your head

stoppered in my pelvis

 

like a good amen –

amen I say

to my own damn bulk,

my milk-stretched breasts –

 

amen I say to all of this

if I have you –

your screw-ball smile

at every dawn,

 

your half-pitched, milk-wild smile

at every waking call,

my loved-beyond-all-reason

darling, dark-eyed girl.

Originally published in Wild Court

Bright Travellers by Fiona Benson is published by Cape at £10. To order your copy, call 0844 871 1514 or visit the online Telegraph Bookshop

Fiona Benson will be reading with the other shortlisted poets at the Forward Prizes award ceremony at the Southbank Centre on September 18; southbankcentre.co.uk