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Out of the Pulver and the Polished Lens

A.M. Klein
From:   A.M. Klein: Complete Poems (I & 2). ed. Zailig Pollock. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990. 2.673-678.


I

The paunchy sons of Abraham
Spit on the maculate streets of Amsterdam,
Showing Spinoza, Baruch alias Benedict,
He and his God are under interdict.

Ah, what theology there is in spatted spittle,
And in anathema what sacred prose
Winnowing the fact from the suppose!
Indeed, what better than these two things can whittle
The scabrous heresies of Yahweh's foes,
Informing the breast where Satan gloats and crows
That saving it leave false doctrine, jot and tittle,
No vigilant thumb will leave its orthodox nose?
What better than ram's horn blown,
And candles blown out by maledictory breath,
Can bring the wanderer back to his very own,
The infidel back to his faith?

Nothing, unless it be that from the ghetto
A soldier of God advance to teach the creed,
Using as rod the irrefutable stiletto.

II

Uriel da Costa
Flightily ranted
Heresies one day,
Next day recanted.

Rabbi and bishop
Each vies to smuggle
Soul of da Costa
Out of its struggle.

Confessional hears his
Glib paternoster;
Synagogue sees his
Penitent posture.

What is the end of
This catechism?
Bullet brings dogma
That suffers no schism.

III

Malevolent scorpions befoul thy chambers,
O my heart; they scurry across its floor,
Leaving the slimy vestiges of doubt.

Banish memento of the vermin; let
No scripture on the wall affright you; no
Ghost of da Costa; no, nor any threat.
Ignore, O heart, even as didst ignore
The bribe of florins jingling in the purse.

IV

Jehovah is factotum of the rabbis;
And Christ endures diurnal Calvary;
Polyglot God is exiled to the churches;
Synods tell God to be or not to be.

The Lord within his vacuum of heaven
Discourses his domestic policies,
With angels who break off their loud hosannas
To help him phrase infallible decrees.

Soul of Spinoza, Baruch Spinoza bids you
Forsake the god suspended in mid-air,
Seek you that other Law, and let Jehovah
Play his game of celestial solitaire.

V

   Reducing providence to theorems, the horrible atheist
compiled such lore that proved, like proving two and two
make four, that in the crown of God we all are gems.
From glass and dust of glass he brought to light, out of the
pulver and the polished lens, the prism and the flying mote;
and hence the infinitesimal and infinite.
  Is it a marvel, then, that he forsook the abracadabra of
the synagogue, and holding with timelessness a duologue,
deciphered a new scripture in the book? Is it a marvel that
he left old fraud for passion intellectual of God?

VI

Unto the crown of bone cry Suzerain!
Do genuflect before the jewelled brain!
Lavish the homage of the vassal; let
The blood grow heady with strong epithet;
O cirque of the Cabbalist! O proud skull!
Of alchemy O crucible!
Sanctum sanctorum; grottoed hermitage
Where sits the bearded sage!
O golden bowl of Koheleth! and of fate
0 hourglass within the pate!
Circling, O planet in the occiput!
O Macrocosm, sinew-shut!

Yea, and having uttered this loud Te Deum
Ye have been singularly dumb.

VII

I am weak before the wind; before the sun
  I faint; I lose my strength;
I am utterly vanquished by a star;
  I go to my knees, at length

Before the song of a bird; before
  The breath of spring or fall
I am lost; before these miracles
  I am nothing at all.

VIII

  Lord, accept my hallelujahs; look not askance at these my
petty words; unto perfection a fragment makes its prayer.
  For thou art the world, and I am part thereof; thou art the
blossom and I its fluttering petal.
  I behold thee in all things, and in all things: lo, it is myself;
I look into the pupil of thine eye, it is my very countenance
I see.
  Thy glory fills the earth; it is the earth; the noise of the
deep, the moving of many waters, is it not thy voice aloud,
O Lord, aloud that all may hear?
  The wind through the almond-trees spreads the fragrance of
thy robes; the turtle-dove twittering utters diminutives of
thy love; at the rising of the sun I behold thy countenance.
  Yea, and in the crescent moon, thy little finger's finger-nail.
  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; If I make my bed
in hell, behold thou art there.
  Thou art everywhere; a pillar to thy sanctuary is every blade
of grass.
  Wherefore I said to the wicked, Go to the ant, thou sluggard,
seek thou an audience with God.
  On the swift wings of a star, even on the numb legs of a
snail, thou dost move, O Lord.
  A babe in swaddling clothes laughs at the sunbeams on the
door's lintel; the sucklings play with thee; with thee
Kopernik holds communion through a lens.
  I am thy son, O Lord, and brother to all that lives am I.
   The flowers of the field, they are kith and kin to me; the lily
my sister, the rose is my blood and flesh.
   Even as the stars in the firmament move, so does my inward
heart, and even as the moon draws the tides in the bay, so
does it the blood in my veins.
  For thou art the world, and I am part thereof;
  Howbeit, even in dust I am resurrected; and even in decay
I live again.

IX

Think of Spinoza, then, not as you think
Of Shabbathai Zvi who for a time of life
Took to himself the Torah for a wife,
And underneath the silken canopy
Made public: Thou art hallowed unto me.

Think of Spinoza, rather, plucking tulips
Within the garden of Mynheer, forgetting
Dutchmen and Rabbins, and consumptive fretting,
Plucking his tulips in the Holland sun,
Remembering the thought of the Adored,
Spinoza, gathering flowers for the One,
The ever-unwedded lover of the Lord.



A.M. Klein's works copyright © to the A.M. Klein Estate.


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