Traveling the Southern Coast: Cornwall

We were never far from the ocean: We heard it unraveling the dark at night. From coach stops we walked single file down roads where the grass was blurred by dust; looking down, I stepped in your flat tracks. Cornwall: best on a sunny day. Our cottage there had a crack in the ceiling which I watched from the bed. It trailed from the window ending vaguely by the door; it darkened with dusk, by morning faded incompletely, like an old scar.

When we left, there was fog. You smiled and said you liked it, how trees emerged like draped furniture, separate. It was a blank world, the mist filling that forest of empty arms with its peculiar emptiness, those trees which seemed to push the fog away before losing themselves to it completely, bit by bit.

Tossing sea stones from your pocket you sang how the ocean was creeping inland - I too could smell the salt, could see the small beads jeweling our clothes.


I first felt this poem when I was walking in England, although I didn't actually write it until I returned to America. When a teacher asked us to describe a place in order to convey a feeling, this poem came to me in a series of snapshot memories taken when I was there.

When I travel, I feel as though I am given a third eye - the traveler's eye - which notes the odd little things I normally take for granted. While the price of this third eye is sometimes a strange feeling of disjointedness bordering on loneliness, its reward is an acuity, a brightening of the senses.

Perhaps that is why the fog is an apt central image for this poem. Fog is elusive and odd; it makes me feel strangely observant and attentive, makes me peer rather than glance, even strain to see - in the same way that traveling does. Like travel, fog can stir in me a sense of aloneness, it can make me feel my separateness, my edges. It presents objects to me for inspection.

I am aware that these comments can only illuminate rather than explain the interiors of this poem. The invisible body of feeling behind the poem has more to do with magic than logic, and I can only notice retrospectively what I have done. The choices I have made seem mysterious to me, and it seems important to leave them that way.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.