Poetry: Carn Euny

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Carn Euny – an extract

I hadn’t been back to Cornwall for a few years other than for brief visits to family and friends.  Then I found myself one day at Carn Euny, an Iron Age settlement in West Penwith. It was the middle of October and it was deserted except for myself. To reach the settlement on foot is something of a mission in itself – it is accessed through tiny narrow lanes that have moss growing down the middle due to the damp and the age of the road surface. Then it’s up from the road across the moorland to the stile that heralds. It has a stillness that is tangible and while standing meditating on the stones and the view across the peninsula it began to mizzle – that fine rain peculiar to Celtic regions – a damp veil that separated me from the past of the place, and me from my own past in West Penwith. I remembered my feeling of separateness from the small community where I grew up that has grown neither more or less by distance and time and my desire to belong….

‘And now I stand here at Carn Euny
Looking through a mizzle that curtains me from this.
So close I can almost touch the ghosts.
I begin to believe that if I reach my hand through the damp air
I will become part of my own longed-for history.
The sweetness and the stillness seduces, for a second I belong.
But even as I slip into the bowels of West Penwith, seeking digestion,
I am vomited, a foreign object.’

The experience brought home to me that you don’t have to travel from one country to another, settle in a foreign land, to be an outsider. Different accents, clothing, lifestyle is enough. I recently returned to Cornwall for a funeral of a much-loved friend of the family who we had grew up with. One of the topics of discussion was whether or not I was Cornish. For me it echoed the poem.


Carn Euny published as Emmet in Fortnight magazine November 2007. Fortnight is a Northern Irish arts publication.