I wrote this a long time ago, based on Cavafy’s “Waiting for the Barbarians”. It’s very out of date in a lot of topical detail but not in other ways.
after Cavafy; 2001
Something’s going on here at the Eurostar terminal.
What’s it all about?
Didn’t you hear? It’s a welcoming party for the refugees.
Is that Jack Straw over there? And Anne Widdecombe,
hovering close to those canapés?
Yes. They really felt they should make an effort.
The House of Commons is all down here today,
they could use a break, and the refugees are really more important.
And Her Majesty, nice headscarf.
Yes, very Balkan, isn’t it.
She’s brought some Balmoral tartan ones to give out as presents.
Look at Tony and Cherie, absolutely dazzling –
is that Vivienne Westwood they’re wearing?
Yes, they thought they’d push the boat out,
show off the best of British.
Is he going to make a speech about how glad he is to welcome them?
No, he’s realised no one takes any notice,
least of all the ones you mean to impress.
What’s up? People are murmuring.
Someone’s already started the Bulgarian Merlot
and Anne Widdecombe’s got stuck in to the butterfly prawns.
Shouldn’t they have waited for the refugees?
We’ve just heard that the train’s in
and everyone’s papers were in order.
Nobody clinging to the axles, it’s all rather a let-down.
Maybe they’ve just stopped coming.
And they’ve only just built a new reception centre
on the Greenwich peninsular. Now what do they do with it?
Who do they blame?