love from the past
can fully exist in the present—
in parallel to the book on the shelf
that has survived a number
of household liquidations
for the annual neighborhood
garage sale.

It was given to you years ago
as a reminder of a certain day—
its thin green spine
stands up straight,
pinned between
“Exploring Europe” and
“Majestic Island Worlds,”
content to be a splash
of your favorite color
in the paltry travel section
of your modest library.

But when you’re alone
you slide it out,
open it slowly across your lap
because it still makes you smile
and cry.

The pictures of “Gooseberry Falls”
and the trails covered with snow
remind you of the long white drive
up from Duluth
where you spent a few rented nights
pressed to a warmth
that is now a small glow
that lights your past—
part of the necessary melancholy that
makes your happiness


DeMaris Gaunt


You wonder sometimes
how you make it this far
into the day
after the rejection letters
arrive in your mailbox
because the New Yorker
didn’t want your poetry,
and neither did the
American Poetry Review—
and it feels as if rejection
is your life sentence
because you could paper
a cell with these envelopes—
heck, you could paper it
with the stamps you buy
instead of that whiskey,
which you decide will
be your next purchase—
and the perfect consolation


DeMaris Gaunt


Lunch with my Parents

We greet with hugs
and kisses and smiles
even though it’s only been a week
since we dined together
at another restaurant
in another part of town.
I dress for the occasion
in something like church clothes
because that’s what you do
when your parents are rich—
and they want to make sure
everyone knows who’s in control.
And you mustn’t forget
how much I love them—
though they’re on another team
who wants to build a wall
between abundance and need.
They struggle to understand
the equality of my love for others
while I remind them of a world
that doesn’t exist on Fox News.
Funny how well we get along
since we agree on nothing
except for the excellence
of the julep, the berry salad
and the turkey club
made divine by the avocados
which entered the country legally
and without the scrutiny
that my father gives the bill
when it arrives on the silver tray.
I’ll offer to pay my fair share
but my mother will refuse
and wrap her right wing tightly
around me as if she still believes
that angels are keeping track
of all her good deeds—
which are always sincere,
even if they are limited to
a world so small she believes
it can still contain me.




DeMaris Gaunt


Poetry is not your thing
the way music is your thing—
and it doesn’t seem as exciting
as the symphony
or the flexible pink lady
who dances into the naked arms
of the young man onstage,
whose body resembles a slingshot
as he lifts her into flight.

Poetry isn’t my thing,
you say to yourself
in the absence of music
as you wander onto the stage
of your imaginary life
where you’d trade anything
to feel that high, that moved—
especially the poem in your hand
which is somehow beginning to sing.


DeMaris Gaunt


Independence Day

Independence Day, 2015 

Even though the lawn needs mowed
I’ll stay in the house until evening
because there are things to celebrate indoors,
like air conditioning and running water
and the kind of freedom
that allows me to choose what book to read
and what kind of flag to criticize
on social media if I want to—

but today, my flag is the one that represents
the sacrifice made by Jack,
my neighbor down the street,
whose time in a distant battlefield
has preserved our enthusiasm
for tonight’s display of fireworks,
while they remind him of similar explosions
he’ll do his best not to think about after dark.


DeMaris Gaunt