THREE KINDS OF LAUGHTER
1. if you renounce all words near a midnight sea where rocks shiver and cry in a cloud of gulls you’ll hear the laughter of fishes pulling toward the net, stars rowing their way to dawn. 2. women laugh more than men because Eve on their first night laughed at her husband big with need, the tree of his loneliness. 3. if you listen to any graveyard you’ll hear beneath earth’s heaving weight the lipless grin of those who found, at last, a lover bound to last forever.
that first Spring Cain fashioned stone into fence and with his oxen trampled the earth until it bled honey and grain but his brother, whose scent Cain couldn’t abide rearranged the fence into stone because his lambs couldn’t understand it and reddened their fleece with the lack of understanding so Cain shattered his brother and sowed him over the fields and scattered his sheep and tried to wash his hands but the scent was in his hair and deep in his skin and when, at harvest, Cain fired his first fruit God flew down into his head and shouted, “listen, when you burn your fruit to do me honor the stench of your brother wafts through heaven like angry singing — why is that?” and Cain couldn’t answer and walked out over the earth with God’s tiny thumbprint on his head to look for lost sheep and topple fences and try to flee the din behind his eyes and to this day when something burns the smell of his brother covers heaven and God hasn’t let him die and God hasn’t stopped shouting.
JANUARY 17: ANTHONY, PATRON OF GRAVEDIGGERS
No, we must not . . . grieve as though we were perishing.
Anthony went to the desert and dug a hole so small his head was always near his knees, his curved spine a bow of pain to catapult his soul to the clouds where it would almost be alone. every other night he’d swallow three times for bread, water and salt and in the dark he’d wrestle with memory and flying asp and troll and full-lipped, pouting girls who floated in (it seemed) with every prayer. lice and spiders lived their lonely lives on him but he knew flame only when Satan made him hard or when at prayer the fiery words sputtered on his tongue. soon Egypt’s desert miles were numbered by the cells of hermits, flesh pulled taut as a drum’s, toothless ones, hard as raisins, who grew to love and hate themselves and dance at starlight, who smiled and moaned and shook with dawn.
tonight it is nearly too cold to love. the rigor of time distinguishes us, ushers us in to separate rooms. in the morning two tattered penitents sick to death of poverty and plague, ice and flame and hands beneath their clothing labor on their knees over sharded rock wet with red and regret toward the tomb of some cold saint or other, a house of stone aged smooth by pilgrimage, the rollicking cadence of gnarled limbs, kiss of winter lovers’ lips.