Shoebox

Shoebox

Since you’d be gone

on business that weekend

 

I decided to clean out our closet

and organize the shelves.

 

It was in a large plastic bin

with your yearbooks

 

and old newspaper clippings

yellowed with the sorrow of time.

 

I’m glad I didn’t find it

in our first or second year

 

or I might have thrown it out

behind your back

 

or made you burn it

like the clothes of a leper.

 

Inside it were faces and bodies

so beautiful and young,

 

captured in time and waiting

in photographs for you to remember.

 

I’m sorry, but I took my time

and read their letters—

 

so sincere I had to wipe

their tears from my own eyes.

 

I found it easy to smile

at your smile next to their smiles

 

and I was relieved that I hadn’t

tossed my own secret shoebox

 

like I’d considered

more than once

 

because I didn’t want to explain

how much these tokens meant to me

 

or lie, and tell you how easily

I could throw it away

 

if only just to prove

our love means more than all those others.

 

But the truth is that

we just loved these people differently

 

and maybe even more—

or so we thought back then

 

when there was no test,

like this one

 

to prove otherwise.

 

 

 

DeMaris Gaunt

5-25-14

 

Countdown

Countdown

We carved our pumpkins

that dreadful night

we learned how long

we could expect you to exist

in your current and only form.

Inoperable was the word

we didn’t want to hear

and as we scooped out handfuls

of that stringy pulp,

we tried to focus on your joy

instead of that small round patch of hair

starting to grow back

above your ear.

You were looking forward

to Halloween,

which would be your last,

and the costume you chose a month ago

before we were sure

the countdown was on

happened to be a skeleton

with glowing bones

and a plastic skull mask

with blinking red eyes.

Only now does it seem

a sobering choice.

We lit the Jack-O-Lanterns

and roasted the seeds

and tried to carve happy smiles

into our own faces

because we weren’t sure yet

how to tell you

or if we should,

and I hated those pumpkins

for their bright grins

and removable lids

that could so easily be replaced

after we lifted out what

wasn’t needed,

and because I knew your light

wouldn’t fade so gracefully

when it was your turn to enter

that eternal night.

 

 

DeMaris Gaunt

10-27-13

Change

Change

It’s come to this:

you want it more than money.

 

It isn’t the bed sheets

or the scenery out the kitchen window

 

that need to be replaced

or improved

 

it’s the tired way the mornings begin

before the need for coffee

 

is great enough to pull you to that view

that spreads out like art

 

on a giant canvas.

That gap between the mountains

 

feels like a vacancy

only you can fill,

 

but there it is—

the clock on the wall

 

a reminder

that time doesn’t belong to you

 

that you belong to someone

else’s landscape.

 

Your good health

gives you no excuse to call in sick

 

instead of hiking into the mountains

where the gray stones are as dull and valuable

 

as those nickels that accumulate

in your deepest pockets.

 

DeMaris Gaunt

8-18-12

What You Will Pay For

Months in advance
you put in for the time off.
You book the flight, hotel
the rental car.
It doesn’t have to be Europe
or exotic
it can be Vegas
or that Grand Canyon
that many have fallen into
by accident or on purpose.
All you want is to stand on that edge
of anticipation
for as long as you can.
It doesn’t matter that the beach
won’t look like the pictures,
or that the accommodations you can afford
will fail to overwhelm.
You already know that absolute happiness
is impossible wherever you stand,
that you are the wrong end of a magnet
unable to make a connection—
joy is an achievement of your mind
as it hovers above the pillow
before you go to sleep.
It isn’t the view from the mountaintop
or the taste of fresh lobster
that will make your trip worth the exchange
of a paycheck or two.
The sweet pleasure of longing is the prize.
The delicious expectation,
prolonged and satisfying—
this is what you wanted.
For this, you would pay
almost anything.

 

 

DeMaris
9-9-12

Before You Sit Down

Before You Sit Down

If you knew you’d not get lost

would you explore

those exquisite caves that

begin as small dark circles

in the distance?

 

If you climbed upward

toward the rocky threshold

and passed through the tunnels

with your curiosity and

temporary light,

would you turn around

if you found that another

had arrived before you—

built a fire?

 

Would you follow the source

of this unexpected warmth

or back away

not wishing to disturb?

 

And if outside

the familiar sky began to darken

as you were invited to stay,

how many questions

would need to be answered

before you sat down,

switched off your own pale light—

added another log to the fire?

 

DeMaris Gaunt

9-12-11

 

Anything.

Anything

It has been your answer

so many times.

 

It is what you would do

say

sacrifice

trade

give

give up.

 

Any one thing.

 

If any one thing

could bring back

cause

prevent

erase

or change,

 

you would hand it over

willingly

joyfully

 

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

9-18-11

July 9, 2014

July 9, 2014

There are blueberry muffins

and strawberries for breakfast

waiting peacefully on the oak table

in our brick house on our safe street

often noisy with happy children

like my little boy, six,

who just woke up from a fearless

night’s sleep, unaware that

in the Gaza Strip, nine children

were murdered while he slept,

their families killed too, about thirty in all,

said the guest on the Diane Rehm show.

And with a thick white milk mustache,

my son goes still and doesn’t move

while the news sinks in,

and I wish I’d turned off the radio

before he sat down, before he could look

at me and ask, “Why?”

ready to understand what I wasn’t sure

could ever be explained.

 

 

DeMaris Gaunt

7-9-14