SPINOZA SAYS | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

A statue of Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza in The Hague, Netherlands. Courtesy of Elvin/flickr.

He who loves God
cannot endeavor that God
loves him in return.

Do you know,
I think the cool silver
of this is hard to live by.

When there is anything
you want very much,
you are making up a story

all of the time,
of how you will get it
and how it will be.

You want the love of God
and the human sort. A big treasure
and a little treasure.

I wonder if you’re like me,
a touch affronted by your own
underlying avidity.

For now, it is pleasant to lie
on one’s bed, chronicling
everything in ice.

Though the hyenas in the room
and the real flowers, these things take
some of the innocence out of the day.

Want in a person
is like hunger in a dog, Spinoza
probably would not say.

His wakeful, solitary
reasoning plainly outstrips
my wildest intuition.

Yet insofar as my heart
is a boot with a hole in it, I think
this is what writing could be

—what he calls Nature,
an existence no longer borne
as means or ends.

Sandra Lim is an associate professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Her new book of poems, The Curious Thing, is forthcoming from W.W. Norton in 2021.
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