Exit Wound

It is final—her death.
Her short life is over.
An accumulation
of her 40 years
was enough to produce
a kind of life which—
when ended—
shot bullets of grief
through her family
and friends,
and even those of us
who know her now
only by the stories
she left behind.
If only the last one
could be erased—
the story of her ending—
the story of the bullet
that isn’t a metaphor
for pain or death
or the kind of speed
with which sorrow
can pierce the day
with its cold metallic
indifference, and leave
the living on the ground
bleeding from
the exit wound.

DeMaris Gaunt


Somewhere else
churches are burning
and the humans
here in my house
grit their teeth and
shake their heads
and close their eyes
and listen to reports
of what it means
to live in fear
and what it feels like
to be knocked down
by history rising up
on the backs of cowards
who strike a match
which might ignite
but will never consume
the glow of unity
or the light of peace.

DeMaris Gaunt

Another Day

You are alive
next to me
without difficulty
and I smile at you
all those times
I’ve pondered
your death
and how I’d live
without you
if I forgot your
Epipen or your
inhaler if we
went for a walk
or visited the zoo
or were stuck
in traffic twenty
minutes away
from home
or the nearest
and you ate
the wrong
granola bar
or got stung
by a honey bee
or a wasp or
mauled by lions
who escaped
their cages
or hit by a bullet
meant for a beast
or fell into the
sinkhole I am
always imagining
will open its mouth
to swallow you

DeMaris Gaunt


We don’t take them
like we used to
like we planned to
like we promised ourselves
we would when we were
young and brave
and much more beautiful
than we thought we were.
Risks were never quite
as life or death
as they are now in this
losable house that is paid for,
in this blue room
with darker blue curtains
which keep out the sun
and its daily promise
of bright happy endings.
I cannot write the letter
that I’ve meant to write
for twenty years
because I don’t know
what kind of audience
will be standing around
in the kitchen
when the mail is dumped
onto the table, or who might
follow you with curiosity
when you exit the room
holding the envelope
with both our names
handwritten on the front.
Wouldn’t I risk upsetting
your contentment
with an account of our love
and our losses?
I fear
it’s my own contentment
at risk if I find myself
waiting for a reply
that may never come.

DeMaris Gaunt


My two children are laughing in the back seat
and I’m behind the wheel of this small enclosure
driving 70 miles an hour about to cry
because the orangutans were supposed to be
the highlight of this summer day—
this guilty pleasure of visiting the zoo.

Last summer, we peeked through the fence
and marveled at the new construction
which promised to be a state of the art exhibit
for the special creatures who were displayed
already on a temporary bulletin board
with photos and names and personality traits.

But the grand façade, it seemed, was a grand façade.
The large enclosure was industrial and colorless
without a single tree or boulder or cushion of earth.
And the transparent walls of windows allowed us
to put our hands together, to lock eyes,
to imagine what it would be like on the other side.

DeMaris Gaunt