A Man of Letters

by John Lindley

In every sense.
Not merely as one who etches
to others in ink on parchment
beneath the irregular orbiting feather,
but in the way each nervous tic shakes
the very alpha, the beta from his being.

As a boy he scrawps the sodden street
on hands and knees, strains to detect the ditch
beneath b for blindness,
breathes out the s for scrofula,
hears the d drone of deafness
on the left side of his head
and begins to sense an order to it all.

As a man the o of his hunger,
the v of the crooked arm he writes with,
the unpronounceable hieroglyphics of a facial scar
all become
grist: n. grain for grinding
to the
mill: n. building containing machinery which grinds.

From Samuel Johnson’s candy floss wig,
from his coat, boots, flesh, bone and marrow
tumble more than just the letter of law, instead
a scattered alphabet of architecture, literature and religion,
science and medicine, chemistry, trade,
poetry and politic falls free.

In glory or in grief,
in play and in prayer, words scarcely fail him
and at the close,
not as mad as necessary to brave life’s last adventure,
he braves it just the same: dilutes the prescribed opium
and ceases to be extraordinary,
finds as we all have, or will,
the resolution to death’s great mystery
in one defining moment.


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J LindleyFormer ‘Cheshire Poet Laureate’ and ‘Manchester Cathedral Poet of the Year’, John Lindley is a freelance poet, songwriter and creative writing tutor. An experienced performer, he has read at Ledbury Poetry Festival and at the Buxton and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals. He runs poetry workshops for writers’ groups, festivals and in prisons, schools, universities, youth clubs and day care centres, as well as for those with learning difficulties. Widely published and a prizewinner in a number of international competitions, his poetry has also been broadcast on radio. His ninth and latest collection, Dylan Thomas: Embers & Sparks was published in February 2014. –