Speed Limit

Going the speed limit
it takes ten minutes
to get to the hospital
and in the car
with you on my lap
it felt like twenty
and the simple directions
on the side of the Epi-Pen
were written in English
which might as well
have been another language
as foreign as the doctor
who saw in my eyes
the universal fear
that transcends words
when a child is in peril
this time
after eating a peanut butter cookie
camouflaged in white chocolate
as thick as the conversation
at the Christmas party
where your father and I
were the only ones
who didn’t believe in god
and when we took you home
hours later
we put you to bed
and lay awake talking
about how grateful we were
to all those people who worked
to save your life
with all that
accumulated information
in their brains
and those inventions and machines
that took years to develop
and test
and then your father sighed deeply
before turning out the light
and said into the darkness
how amazed he was
that we got to the hospital
in three minutes.
Miracle, I said
and he agreed.






We Are the Lions

We mustn’t forget where we came from.
We’re as wild as the animals we hate to be compared to
and as interested in staying alive
as the gazelles grazing together
in the vulnerable openness of the plains.

We should be commended for our attempts
to nurture our morality, that byproduct of cooperation
that has given humans the slight advantage
in accumulating a population
which relies on numbers.

And though our competitive nature
has given birth to wars and gods we only imagine
are on our side, we can still feel sorry
for those outside our in-group,
who work for peanuts to make the clothes we like to wear

and the ones who clear the dishes after dinner,
make our beds and clean the floors.
We convince ourselves they have a choice, that captivity
isn’t the right name for it, that it is our right and privilege
to be hungry, or to devour.

DeMaris Gaunt



It isn’t a word I’ve given much thought to,

and I can’t recall the last time I spoke it—


For so long, I’ve been the mother of boys

who crack baseballs and jump off roofs


and never once did their joy become

a wheel of limbs and banner of hair.


Today is my mother’s birthday, and my son’s.

Outside the pizza parlor


two teenage girls without an audience of boys

did cartwheels in the parking lot


and I smiled as I said the word out loud

to myself – only the pizza as my audience


in the passenger seat; a carryout order

destine to be devoured back at home,


like this life, like these years that have spun me

upside down as I gained momentum.


Finally slowing down, slow motion now,

I watch the girls and become myself again,


remembering how good it tasted

to feel capable of anything,


sure in this inspired moment, that I still am.





DeMaris Gaunt



Location of the Heart

Location of the Heart

You don’t know

(or do you?)

how often I’ve taken advantage

of your existence

and pretended that miles and years

are somehow going to evaporate

into the night

when I walk outside

to watch the moon with you beside me

even though you aren’t here.


You’re never here.


But here you are


as dependable as I hope I am to you

when you wake up beside me

in your bed

both of us smiling

but not really present

in the same space at the same time,

just filling in every little gap

and every gaping hole.




DeMaris Gaunt


Night Poem

Night Poem

Stop reading if it isn’t late at night.


And if there is any light,

let it be the glow of a half burned candle.


You must be alone to understand

this tale of disappointment:

that the number of people in a room

can be too large and too quiet

and too drunk to understand your poetry,

even if it’s the only thing you’ve ever said

worth saying out loud

or remembering.


Morning will burst in other houses

and like the wine and the weed,

your words have gone up in smoke—

for a moment filled a hollow space,

stirred the air with transparent wings

then disappeared.




DeMaris Gaunt





Sometimes it’s rain

or the swimming pool

in your neighbors backyard.

Most often it’s beside your bed

in the clear glass

which you accidentally knock over in the night

as you adjust your pillow.


Without any evidence of a mind,

you know it wants you back,

luring you to the warm ocean of a bathtub

where it could drown you dead,

if you slipped under

and agreed to recycle yourself

and return to its possession

most of what you are.




DeMaris Gaunt




Grandma Goes Away

Grandma Goes Away

Her unexpected death

came at an inconvenient time

and all you could think about

was the large order she had placed

for the school fundraiser.


The order form

was pressed to the refrigerator

with a single magnet,

and you stood in front of it,

nearly as blank—

its lack of animation

parallel to yours.


If it wasn’t due on Monday

you might have cried a little.

You may have even wept.




DeMaris Gaunt