Leveler Poetry Journal
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Spinoza, Irene, Lenses


My friend Irene Lust had a real fur blanket,

big enough to cover both of us when we

pushed our cots together

decades ago at summer camp.

It was rescued from Berlin by her parents,

forced to flee in ’38.

Feeling cold on this winter day

despite a pile of quilts

cold as the snow where many years ago

I lost a silver bracelet

when sledding in Central Park with Irene,

I think of Spinoza the Lens-Grinder

expunged in 1656 by the Amsterdam rabbis

for favoring reason over faith,

a daring break from Jewish tradition,

which might upset the good Burghers

who welcomed Jews forced to flee

Portugal and Spain,

doctors, philosophers, financiers,

as long as they enriched the banks’ coffers

and kept their distance.

Bento, the name Spinoza preferred,

continued to celebrate reason

all the while grinding

the finest of lenses. Sharp enough

in my mind to find Irene, her fur blanket,

the bracelet, at least to hone

memory’s blunt edges.

Barbara Lefcowitz