Joseph Beuys
Divine Phobia

Looking through cell bars,
he saw Aquarius on a clear night, 
and wondered if all eternity was spent in bondage.
The prison guards found spirit a treasure;
when in madness he tried to tear his chains from the wall
they laughed and beat him unconscious.

They brought him to fear the one thing he had in abundance.
Yet the temptations of his bed-sheets made him quiver
more than the mechanical swing of the stick.
He sat in his cage and fought off minutes like flies;
he cast his thoughts down a well
and imagined they made no ripples.
In his most terrible days 
he gave off hours in torrents,
sweat and tears and urine dripping
off and away, sprinkling the cold stone.
He knew he was four days short a week,
seven months short a year,
but losing time had become a religion.

Soon the guards' beatings made him
apportion screams as a clock does its seconds:
Yet he had no watch to press a pale band into his skin,
and laughter always preceded the stick
though his screams never did.
Had he lived he might have been a warrior;
he quenched his thirst using his hands for a cup, and
Gideon would not have passed him by, 
if only to make divine phobia a martyrdom.

Seth Abramson

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