Chocolate Cake

Not even a year
since you’ve been gone,
and though I have no right
to weigh my loss
against your wife’s or your son’s—
or anyone else who knew you,
the weight was lifted a little
when just this afternoon
I saw a mutual friend
who knew you even longer
and better than me,
and she told me a story
about you and your favorite
curse word, and how you’d
be saying it now if you knew
that your art was featured
on a black T-shirt promoting
a local gallery, and we laughed,
and I said, “I loved him”—
and I said it as if I were saying
something as benign as
“I love chocolate cake”—
and she didn’t know I meant it
or how much, but saying those words
out loud for the first time
made me hope
(even though I know better)
you might have heard me.


DeMaris Gaunt



The Ending

Today would be
your 59th birthday
and I’m not sure
how I feel or what
I’m allowed to feel
which is exactly
how I felt when
you were alive
and I knew it was
wrong to love you
but there didn’t
seem to be a way
to stop and now
that you’ve ended
I can’t help but
wonder why it’s
so hard to put a
period at the end
of this sentence.

DeMaris Gaunt

Eulogy for the Unknown Poet

There will be no mention
of the poems on the day
the poet is covered by the earth
because no one will know
they exist until the
house is entered and the discovery
is made of a thousand poems
scribbled in notebooks
and on scraps of paper stuffed
into the bottom dresser drawer.
The service will include no recitation of
poem or verse, just a pitiful reading
of Psalm 23, so trite
and meaningless to the living
and also to the dead,
who feared nothing – not even god,
and who will not be remembered
as a poet
or for brave experimentation with words.
The unknown poet, whose joy
in this life was merely translation—
(converting every feeling into words)
thought it best to be absent
in a permanent way
before friends and family opened
the notebooks and the drawers
and found the paper mirrors
which reflected an honesty so startling,
even the ugly, wrinkled world
seemed almost beautiful.

DeMaris Gaunt


I thought everyone wanted to fly—

weightless, wingless,

pressed against the blueness of gravity

if only to look down just once,

like a bird, wondering what it’s like

to be human—

grounded so hard against the earth.

Which is why,

whenever I see a helicopter,

I always remember

those two boys, back in 2003,

weightless and wingless

as they studied the sidewalk—

neither one bothering to look up, as I did,

in absolute awe

when the sky filled with the sound of steel

and artificial wings,

which weren’t nearly as amazing to them

as the baby robin, alive,

and the blue egg broken

in the green grass.



DeMaris Gaunt



Small Suffering

Small suffering

is for the page only—

for this white rectangle

flecked with black letters

that spell out the complaints

of the lucky,

the fortunate,

the fed,

the ones like me who know

that no voice should ever

carry the sound of our tiny


which are, compared

to the real pain of others—

nothing more

than a water stain

which will evaporate, dry,

and tomorrow,

barely exist.




DeMaris Gaunt



Such a common name you had—

and still, every time I hear it,

it belongs to you, and those three letters

pull me, no kicking or screaming,

back to that street where you lived,

where every morning you said hello—

and I said hello, and we smiled and

wished, and were silent, which was all

that was allowed in this life, and now

that you’re in the next one, it’s hard

to believe I never once, in a fit of truth,

revealed to you my secret, which also,

I am sure, was yours.



DeMaris Gaunt


Shovels (A poem for a friend with a broken heart)

They dig.

And then they dig

deeper and deeper.

Their only wish

is to seek and reveal—

and in the process

there will be scuffs

that fill with

mud and harden

and chip off again

and finally, when they

find their treasure

they go back

to work—

a little shinier now—

and fill in all those

empty holes.




DeMaris Gaunt