Three Kinds Of Laughter
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.

women laugh more than men
because Eve
on their first night 
laughed at her husband 
big with need, the tree 
of his loneliness.

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.
The Sentence
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.