calais i

One day walking back from camp
I met a man whose name I have forgotten.
He asked if I could help him get to the UK.

From Calais beach on a good day
they say you can see all the way to Dover.
It’s a short crossing, ninety minutes
from one port to the other.
Ninety minutes to hot running water
and toilets you don’t have to squat over,
where no-one has to wash their clothes in puddles
or scrub the tear gas from the walls
of their homes.

One day walking back from camp
I met a man whose name I have forgotten,
and he asked me if I could help
him get to the UK.

I still hear myself telling him that I
am only a student, only a volunteer,
what help can I be?

When the time comes for me to leave
I breeze through the six-foot fences,
the sniffer dogs, the two borders
in quick succession –
as easy as breathing
and as hard as stone.

A robot with a jolly face hangs on the school walls.
The children made his arms and legs
out of old tear gas canisters.

One day walking back from camp
I met a man whose name I have forgotten.
I gave him some cigarettes, and he told me,
“You can say good luck;
It’s okay to say
good luck.”


Recently I volunteered with the charity Help Refugees for a month; they support the 10,000 people currently living in the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais, France. You can donate to their kitchens here, and to their non-food item fundraiser here. Please donate – we can feed a refugee for as little as 30p per day.

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