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Spinoza’s Work

by Peter Abbs

Half-light and the calm hands
of a man polishing glass,
though outside the day is harsh
with persecution, words that damn
for the smallest deviation.
In the synagogue they recite the cherem,
denouncing a heretic
to be deported from the House of Israel.

Yet here in this alcove of instruments,
of curvatures plotted to decimal points,
there’s clarity of intellect.
Nothing’s opaque. Through the clean eye
of a telescope, an objective world
with objective grace.
There’s no rush for eminence –
he rejects honours as one declines
bruised fruit
or last night’s beer.
On his signet ring
(below the hermetic rose)
there’s a Latin word:
caute – with caution, taking care.

He hides his writing for fear
of being burnt alive.

As shadows stain the cobbled streets
he jots down:
Focal length, refractive index,
magnifying power
bringing closer the grammar of blood,
the Euclidian matrix of the stars.

© Peter Abbs 2016

Peter Abbs is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Sussex. Books include The Flowering of Flint: New and Selected Poems (Salt) and Against the Flow: Education, the Arts and Postmodern Culture (Routledge). Please visit www.peterabbs.net.

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