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Pascal’s Carriage

by Peter Abbs

On November 23rd 1654, the two front horses of Pascal’s carriage dashed over the parapet of the bridge at Neuilly.

After that – the fission of a moment, horses rearing up
and plunging over, and the man hanging there,
suspended above the running black and blank of water –

how the celebrity aged, stared at the rent in his coat,
railed against the tinsel of knowledge, tarnish of office,
glittering evasions that bore the appellation of fame

and excellence. The first to strap a watch to his wrist,
in Paris he’d become a name. Even in his teens,
illustrious designer of the calculating machine

(to add and subtract his father’s taxes). Then hot news:
arithmetical triangles, binomial coefficients,
engines of perpetual motion. Cool matrix and market

of numbers. Banks of data… But after Neuilly –
terror under the stars, scribbling late into the night:
whatever reason may proclaim, if there’s a precipice

imagination reigns. He was gazing at the mirror of water,
in his wrists and legs ache of interminable falling,
in the vortex the horses neighing.

© Peter Abbs 2020

Sadly, Peter Abbs passed away in December 2020. He died as he lived, having spent his final day walking beside the sea, writing his last poem, exchanging texts on the subject of philosophy, and enjoying a glass of red wine.

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