The steady beat of a huge scarlet drum,
Wending through the streets of old Jericho,
Loosed a sharp pulse through the sunlit buildings
Ahead of the withy coffin, banked high
And heady with flowers, love and blessings
Entwined on manilla luggage-labels.
A procession like none other it was
For this traveller with one more journey
Onwards each sad step, heavy in the wake
Of a defiantly joyous lifetime.
Above the throng with a bright sunflower,
We came to pause in St Barnabas Street;
Since Heathcote, always ahead of his time,
Passing away too soon for him and us,
Was even early for his own funeral.
‘Annoying’ old Death, spoiling the party,
That he always rued he would ‘have to leave’.
We waited on the corner for the clock,
In the campanile he so admired,
To put on its face and chime charmingly.
Then, within the gloomth of St Barnabas,
Family and friends and kindred spirits,
Still-bright flowers of the 1960s,
And perhaps the hide of an elephant,
And dorsal fin of a blue whale were glimpsed,
As all listened rapt when one last time
Heathcote’s own disembodied voice lit up,
Its cadences rang out clear and present
To welcome all his loved and loving ones,
While apple trees stood kindly sentinel.
‘Jerusalem’ echoed gloriously
On high through Blomfield’s elegant rafters,
Before such rich tributes to one of the
‘Most remarkable of English anarchists’,
And ‘Greatest poets of his generation’,
This ‘charming, naughty man’ with revels done
A perfect and most wonderful grand-dad
Ending his ‘standing up for what’s right’ life
This magical spinner of brilliant verse
(and awful jokes): All absolutely true.
Although even the trusty friars’ balsam
Could not save our friend on this occasion,
A hundred conversations soon flew up
In a great chattering murmuration,
Kindling anew a shapeshifting lifeforce.
Each remembers their own intimate bard,
Writer, lover, boxer, squatter, firestarter,
Cucumber-sandwich raconteur, actor
Making a many-sided Cubist man:
One delightfully Heathcotey Heathcote.
Stephen E. Hunt, July 2017