Passing Light

Passing Light

Whatever I took from it,

that poem I heard on the radio

as I drove toward Albany,

long vertical sheets

of New York bedrock

framing every word,

it could not mean so much again.


The unfamiliar landscape

disappearing beyond my periphery

must have lent to its power

to its meaning

to the way I wanted, then,

to stop before I reached my destination

and look for you,

some copy of myself

speaking to my imagination

whispering things

that only I would ever say.



DeMaris Gaunt




Flat is the table between us,

we who have been neighbors for years,

who have spoken often

of recipes and the attitudes of our children

who play together in the other room.


It’s easy to eat together,

or complain about the lack of rain,

the yellow lawns,

the way the generous summer

pushes its heat so hard against the houses

on our street.


But many times

I’ve pointed out an astonishing sunset

before I’ve left the table to step outside, unjoined,

unconnected to whatever invisible anchor

could keep her in her chair,

which is only one of the reasons

we’ll never truly be friends.


DeMaris Gaunt





The gallon of milk was almost empty,

but so was the box of cereal.

Unrolling the noise of the transparent plastic bag,

I could see there were only a few small biscuits of wheat

above a layer of dusty white frosting

that had been knocked off with

every motion of lift and shake and pour.


Over a week,

I witnessed each diminishing increment of milk

and cereal and never once wondered

if they’d make it to the same last day,

but here they are, saying goodbye to the bowl and spoon

and to each other, as we soon will,

unprepared for the last bite of residual sweetness

that will make it almost impossible

to swallow.



DeMaris Gaunt


Hotel Bible

This is the first poem I wrote after I began to lose my faith in the religion of my upbringing – Christianity.  I’m now a 7 on the Richard Dawkins scale of atheism.  (Full blown atheist!)

Hotel Bible

A jagged orange stripe
divides the heavens and the earth
over Phoenix, Arizona.
Seventeen hundred eighty two miles
is the distance from point A to point B
and somehow the key
that opens the door to room 1209
isn’t cold or hard or made of metal,
but flat and smooth and flexible.

Details matter.

They create the roads on the map of your life.

The drawer below the yellow light is empty
and though I wouldn’t have touched it,
lifted it, or read a single page
of the hotel bible,
it feels like something important is missing.

Reverently, I fill the vacancy with two books
by Stephen Dunn and close the drawer.

Later, while hanging my clothes in the closet,
I noticed it.  High.  Not inaccessible
but inconvenient
which was another detail
that must have meant something.

All I could believe when I took it down
was the red cover, its weight,
and what I felt
when I returned it to the shelf—

which was almost nothing.


DeMaris Gaunt





No question why you hate it.

At least your own opinion

of the divide you’re told is growing

at the speed of sound.

Word of mouth, after all

is what you blindly trust.

It’s how you rely on the weather nowadays.

No need to step outside…

and when you do

who can blame you for loving it

at the garage sale or the Goodwill store

when the treasure in your hand is just a dollar?

And would you care to put a price

on your restful nights

while your lover is away on business?

No telling from what it has saved you.


DeMaris Gaunt



It would be
to know how many
for a single purchase
of condoms
have been discarded
in the trash
outside of drug stores
in unfamiliar cities
by married men
whose wives
have made the need
for such items
but it would be
more interesting
to know how many
of these receipts
have failed to
disappear into the dark
convenient receptacles
due to the urgent nature
of the event
that required
such a purchase—
and ended up
in the unchecked pockets
of the laundry
in the luggage
now safely home
in the hands
of a dutiful wife.

DeMaris Gaunt


Lies We Tell

Lies We Tell

Believe me…

I never lied through my teeth

except about your chili.

“Delicious,” I said, comparing it silently

to something served to the starving

in another world—

a small improvement over cold beans or rice.


And I wasn’t high on life

like I said I was when I came home

from the party smelling like incense

smiling as wide as a field of orange poppies

in Afghanistan.


Believe me…


I’ve never told a lie

that wasn’t first a courtesy,

like oil for a back door prone to squeak

in the middle of the night.


And let me be completely honest

this time—


I may not want you to answer with your truth

if it would hurt or change

the way I love you.


I’d rather believe that seeing her again

in the coffee shop

wasn’t the reason for your pause—

that it was the choice you were making

between the French roast and the Columbian

that slowed you down,

caught your tongue when you said,

“This shouldn’t be so hard.”


DeMaris Gaunt