It has been your answer
so many times.

It is what you would do
give up.

Any one thing.

If any one thing
could bring back
or change,

you would hand it over

But you have never found scales
sturdy enough to measure
your need
against your hope or
your regret,

and you are still searching
for the powerful hands
that are wide enough
to receive your precious exchange,
compassionate enough
to give it back,

divine enough
not to need it.


DeMaris Gaunt


You have one.
So does he.
All it means
is that a line’s been drawn
and crossed
and this, it seems,
is how you learn about
just  after you mastered
of all those things
you decided you didn’t like
or couldn’t stand
or didn’t have the endurance
to survive.
But before you ignite
the flimsy bridge
that stretches loosely now
between your hearts
you contemplate
the damage
if you dial a certain number
on your phone.
He has one too—
an equal and opposite number,
which would be
answered eagerly
with calm compassion
and an offer to do anything at all.
You dial.
You go.
You know this fix won’t last,
and you don’t want it to.


DeMaris Gaunt


you pull a book off the shelves
to help you with the waiting.
Anthologies allow you
to open the book somewhere
in the middle and glimpse
an entire universe of sensation
without starting from the beginning
or missing out on the ending
because you don’t have time
to complete anything right now.
You have plans,
and just need to kill five minutes
so your heart won’t implode
and burst into a pink super nova.
And all you can do while you’re waiting
is fail to be surprised that the poem
burning you was written by Anne Sexton,
her familiar name below the last lines
like a flame you suddenly need to feed.
And when you learn that she died
the year after you were born,
you’re dazed, and it feels
like you’ve been cheated,
like you’re the first to bear the news.
Maybe you’ll even cancel
all your plans.


DeMaris Gaunt


You like to think you have it
most of the time—
that it’s one of your possessions,
saved for and bought
with experience and time.
Does it really matter
(you wonder to yourself)
if you leave it at home when
you know you’ll be seeing her again?
And all you want
is for her to know everything
she’s meant to you
all these years – even now—
and in this public café
you’ll get the chance
to apologize for the ending scene
you caused the last time you spoke—
when control was something
you only knew how to lose.


DeMaris Gaunt



This is it.
It’s enough.
This bathtub
this music
this time I have left
to feel something warm
and pleasant
surrounding me
before I become lost
in the watery ambiguity
of what is dry and cold
and eternal.

Water is the bridge
between life and death—
it’s in the womb
before the light appears
and it’s the sloshing
after it fades.

Faced with death,
it isn’t the end
that makes me sad
as much as the desperate way
believers beg for an extension
and pray in earnest
to gods who know nothing
of warmth or music
or mercy
or what it’s like
to have laughed and loved
or existed at all.


DeMaris Gaunt

O Negative

The email says
“Urgent: Your Negative is a Positive!”

and has been sent out en masse
with the impersonal
“Dear Donor”
at the top of the page.

I’m reminded that my blood
is in great need today,
and 30 is the number of orders
that couldn’t be filled
over the weekend.

is the gift of my blood
because it can go to almost anyone
safely and without rejection
if there’s no time, say,
in the case of trauma,
to test for a patient’s type.

At my earliest convenience
it’s requested that I be heroic
and raise my sleeve
and offer my rare juice
to the injured and the dying—
and I will.

But as with all proper superhero’s,
there’s a kryptonite story.
An ironic Achilles heel.

When this rich red liquid
pumps through the hearts of women
who carry a baby in their womb,
there is trouble.

If the blood of baby and mother
mix together, there will be a war
and the child will suffer
and lose.

When my three children
were waiting to be born
the doctors had to save them
from my blood—

which is fiercely territorial
yet willing to explore.


DeMaris Gaunt

Life Support

Tempting to ask
what were you thinking
out there on the open road
without a helmet

but everyone already knows
the answer to questions like that

and if we who ask
want the correct answer
instead of the right answer
it might be a good idea

to rewind the tape
and watch your life in reverse

and it does no good now
for your family to tell you how sorry they are
that they didn’t let you live in peace
with the one you loved

because they didn’t understand
that love could transcend gender

or that love could stretch and bend
only so far before it turned into
something reckless
and worth dying for.


DeMaris Gaunt