The first of a series of poems that I am calling PENZANCE EN PLEIN AIR. The Newlyn School painter Stanhope Forbes (whose painting of Penzance Station is above) was an exponent of en plein air painting (painting in the open air). I would like to replicate the idea with poetry. This first of the series is a collection of thoughts that were collated whilst arriving in Penzance.


Arriving at Penzance on God’s Wonderful Railway;
Mounts Bay waves a welcome at the old Marazion station,
Whose buildings stand gap-toothed in the ghost of a goods yard
Where daffodils, once picked, were packed off to another garden.
Inland catch a glimpse of Gulval’s Golden Mile, now engulfed
By pre-fabs ‘r’ us and supermarkets that send ‘upcountry’
For the fresh farm produce and fish that is gathered in
On our doorstep and sent to distribution centres far away.
Passers-by heading into town are once more puzzled
By that optical illusion whereby the passing train
That towered above their heads a few minutes back;
Now lies below them at the bottom of an ominous wall.
They gaze upon the train, a Hornby OO now, its back end,
A smutty hopeless limb that lolls out of the Hellmouth;
The great gaping maw that awaits you at the end of the line.
Passengers pass that nervous stopping second before
Doors open like remembered days on a child’s Advent calendar
Travellers alight looking for long lost and loving open arms
And hands to help with their bothersome but oh-so-necessary luggage
Reunited they trundle together and spare barely a thought
For the tin-plate adverts…no longer Bovril, Hovis and Lipton’s Tea
But Kurt Jackson’s halcyon visions of the far west.
Out in the seagull-spun salty air…“Pensans a’gas dynnergh”
Says the sign and means it…most bilingually.
The town is now the darling of the quality press
It’s the place to be, says the NYT!
But the empty shops and the pawnbrokers beg to differ
Part gentrified and part feral, it remains what it always was
A town on the edge of the world and at the end of the line.
It may be home to chocolatiers and the purveyors of posh nosh
But a well-filled roll and battle-ready tea from Sullivans
Will always…always take some beating.


© gray lightfoot