It was a chilly evening in November
We walked through Greenwich street, my mum and me,
Our toes and fingers frozen, I remember.
The Cutty Sark is what we’d been to see.
It was quite a day as I recall.
We’d stood, one foot in East and one in West
And seen the standard measures on the wall,
And so many telescopes impressed.
We looked out from the hill across the river,
Passed through dwindling crowds as we descended.
The icy wind caught crinkled leaves together,
Now and then to fade, its force expended.
Our coats pulled tightly round our back,
Arms linked in unity, we strode
To chance upon a brazier, glowing black
Beside a scruffy trader of the road.
Pink digits poking from his woolly mitts,
He raked the embers on their bed of slag,
His voice directed to the empty street,
“Hot chestnuts? Six pennyworth a bag!”
Our eyes glowed bright, mouths leaking inward willing.
A stiffnecked, halfglanced smile we gave to us.
“Two bags, please!” she said, extending shilling.
Hot chestnuts, handrolled, gave in with no fuss
And warmed us, waiting homeward for the bus.
A text arrived and didn’t wave its own importance
and I waived its significance in my ignorance.
Geoff – ‘so sorry to be out of touch’
A normal text. I didn’t have to think about it much
I know Geoff and how he is – few words on mobile screens
Not sartorially elegant, just a jumper and old jeans
An afterthought-sign-off comment added, litotes laden
‘Waiting ECG, etc’ didn’t scare – no iron maiden
So I waited, too, for our normal pint and literary chat
chewing a late breakfast as we used to chew poetic fat,
at table sixteen in The Bellwether supping a trial brew
of real ale that I probably didn’t but he usually knew.
Creations in the head of Geoff surprise, provoke, cheer and delight
Advice he gave to poets always leading them into the light
Rejections to Purple Patch’s poets kindly written to assist
Hours spent on dingy evenings, every word fresh-kissed.
Regularity of issues of Purple Patch for thirty five long years
Honed an editorial skill second to none of his erstwhile peers
His gossip columns, ‘bests of year’ in Purple Patch had stood
the test of time. To Geoff they were as islands in the blood.
December brought me illness. I coughed the month away
assuming meanwhile Geoff was quiet at home with family
barely on my urban landscape in his purple patch
plotting his purple year ahead as eggs of publications hatch.
But the poet clock had stopped, too soon, before his grandest year,
sinking his ship in still waters as that island dream grew near.
At long, long last his latest book arrived, without fanfare,
and sang his life of darkened rooms and troubled dreams and care.
Spouting forth in the village pubs, and rooms that weren’t so choice,
memories of readings in the timbre of Geoff’s Black Country voice
and in a thousand magazines published all around the globe
a thousand Geoff Stevens poems sit just waiting to disrobe
A thousand thousand gentle thoughts of poetry and purple prose
simmer sights and sizzle sounds and breakfast aromas to the nose
are conjured by Geoff Stevens infiltrating, in their frying pan,
to poetribes who came across this giant-of-the-small-press gentleman.