Needles and Thread

Needles and Thread

I don’t know his name, the young and handsome priest,

but for years I have watched him

nod to the soft-faced girl

who manages the alteration shop.


She, at five till eight, makes her way

a little closer to the window,

fixes her hair and her posture,

picks up her needle and thread.


He, glancing in as he walks

from Orchard Avenue to Meridian Street

toward Our Lady Church of God,

his bible tight beneath his arm.


Across the street, beyond the broken sidewalk,

I watch them through my stained glass window

feeling a little like God—

a little more like the devil.


Part of me wants to do a good deed,

deliver him from temptation

and tell him a shortcut to the church—

left on Vine Street, down the alley behind the butcher shop.


But I’d rather look up one morning

through the smooth and colored glass

to find him beating on her door with one hand,

waving a copy of McCullough’s “Thorn Birds” in the other.


I want to see all that humility, strength and resolve

break down into something recklessly human.

I want her to unlock her door.

I want her to let him in early.


I want to see her calm hands

rise to soothe his tortured brow.

I want to see the expression a face makes when years

of anticipation dissolve with a tender, longed-for touch.


So if her shop was vacant tomorrow,

if the closed sign was never turned to open—

if there were people lined up with pants and dresses

whispering and peering into the large dark windows


and if by eight o’clock the priest hadn’t passed,

crushing the autumn leaves beneath his polished black shoes

on his way to pray for the sins of others,

then I’d know it wasn’t sickness or coincidence,


but that they’d both found something like heaven

existing on an escapable street,

something so beautiful

it had to be imagined.


So I hope he’ll forgive me, the young and handsome priest,

if I give in to my temptation

to throw open my door, step into the scene—

“Go home!”  I want to yell. “Rip out some seams!”




DeMaris Gaunt





Backstage Before the Passion Play

It’s the kind of story one might tell
after some bad news on TV or in the newspaper:
an affirmation that things are getting bad,
going to hell, you might say,
in a hand basket.

Surely it’s been told many times,
circulated between the cast and their friends
and their families, at holiday gatherings
or over morning coffee in the café
across the street from the theater.

The costume was coming along beautifully,
sequin by tiny white sequin,
the dressmaker’s dummy
wearing it reverently, exquisitely,
displaying the dazzle and shine of a resurrection.

Days before the opening performance,
just a few more stitches needing to be tied,
it disappeared from the theater
and from the luminous spotlight
for which it was made.

The other side of the story,
equally abhorrent, is mine, is never told—
involves an even greater, unrecoverable  loss.
The day it disappeared,
A peace rally had just dismissed from the theater

And the pupils of hope were dispersed
into an afternoon of promise and positive thinking
and I decided to follow some friends down the wrong
dark corridor, an alternate exit
leading to the detour of souls.

We found an open room backstage and were impressed
by the sewing machines and colored threads
and miles of fabric and ribbons curled onto spools.
I remember the seam of the white shoulder,
pierced with a threaded needle, waiting for the return

of its creator, who would later find a missing shroud
in the same sun-bright room where I would learn a little something
about irony, while I confused peer pressure with democracy,
and realized how impossible it sometimes seems
to do anything but watch—in horror and in awe.

DeMaris Gaunt

Bad Dream

Bad Dream

You’d think the ceiling was fascinating

the way it held my attention at 4:03 a.m.


the half-empty moon casting shadows

on those tiny stalactites at 4:20.


No need for a poker face in your absence.

It’s 4:53 and I have two hours left


to share my pillow with this nightmare.

The silence outside reminds me at 4:55


that you won’t be coming home until Friday.

Hard to believe that when you call in a few hours


I’ll say everything is fine.

Even harder to believe it might be true.




DeMaris Gaunt




How easy it’s been

to fall in love

with words


or maybe just the way

they’ve floated between us

on the silent page,

or across the empty picnic table

that innocent afternoon.


What we wanted was to get it right:

the color red,

the correct and brightest

word for it:







and finally,



with so many ways to say good-bye,

the delicious word

rises in your palm

and into mine

you place a bag of sweet

red cherries.



DeMaris Gaunt


Speed Limit

Going the speed limit
it takes ten minutes
to get to the hospital
and in the car
with you on my lap
it felt like twenty
and the simple directions
on the side of the Epi-Pen
were written in English
which might as well
have been another language
as foreign as the doctor
who saw in my eyes
the universal fear
that transcends words
when a child is in peril
this time
after eating a peanut butter cookie
camouflaged in white chocolate
as thick as the conversation
at the Christmas party
where your father and I
were the only ones
who didn’t believe in god
and when we took you home
hours later
we put you to bed
and lay awake taking
about how grateful we were
to all those people who worked
to save your life
with all that
accumulated information
in their brains
and those inventions and machines
that took years to develop
and test
and then your father sighed deeply
before turning out the light
and said into the darkness
how amazed he was
that we got to the hospital
in three minutes.
Miracle, I said
and he agreed.






We Are the Lions

We mustn’t forget where we came from.
We’re as wild as the animals we hate to be compared to
and as interested in staying alive
as the gazelles grazing together
in the vulnerable openness of the plains.

We should be commended for our attempts
to nurture our morality, that byproduct of cooperation
that has given humans the slight advantage
in accumulating a population
which relies on numbers.

And though our competitive nature
has given birth to wars and gods we only imagine
are on our side, we can still feel sorry
for those outside our in-group,
who work for peanuts to make the clothes we like to wear

and the ones who clear the dishes after dinner,
make our beds and clean the floors.
We convince ourselves they have a choice, that captivity
isn’t the right name for it, that it is our right and privilege
to be hungry, or to devour.

DeMaris Gaunt



It isn’t a word I’ve given much thought to,

and I can’t recall the last time I spoke it—


For so long, I’ve been the mother of boys

who crack baseballs and jump off roofs


and never once did their joy become

a wheel of limbs and banner of hair.


Today is my mother’s birthday, and my son’s.

Outside the pizza parlor


two teenage girls without an audience of boys

did cartwheels in the parking lot


and I smiled as I said the word out loud

to myself – only the pizza as my audience


in the passenger seat; a carryout order

destine to be devoured back at home,


like this life, like these years that have spun me

upside down as I gained momentum.


Finally slowing down, slow motion now,

I watch the girls and become myself again,


remembering how good it tasted

to feel capable of anything,


sure in this inspired moment, that I still am.





DeMaris Gaunt