Loser Makes Good

(Selected Poems 1994)

by Greg Gerding
Publication Date: July 2008
Trade Paper; 286 pages; 5-1/2″ x 8-1/4″

From the Introduction

A colossal voyage of self-exploration, inebriation, social deviation, and intimate relations. I’ve set sail five times now, and each journey takes me deeper than the one before. Greg Gerding takes a lot of risks with form, style, and content, and they all pay off. There is an unassuming quality to his written voice that takes the reader by the hand and guides them through discovery gently… interacting versus berating. There is a refreshing lack of pretense, and Gerding successfully manages to focus his work on himself without even a hint of self-indulgence or narcissism. We live in a vapid, trite, unforgiving world, and it’s so easy to give up and let it roll over you and pin you down. Loser Makes Good is a reminder that it’s much more fun to start dancing your own personal jig around the awful world and its awful people, to concentrate on your own music and keep hoping that eventually all the maddening Muzak outside you will fade away.

Selections from Loser Makes Good

Grill Me a Slice of Change and Hold the Onions

Grill Me a Slice of Change and Hold the Onions

My life is changing. And change is strange.

It is strange how the feeling of finally hitting a baseball over the
centerfield fence is now akin to the same feeling as marveling at
my own contribution to the ever-growing collection of empty
vodka bottles and empty beer cans and spent cigarette butts in
my apartment. It is starting to resemble a landscape I would feel
proud connecting a Lionel train set through.

Change is strange.

How Budweiser begot Light, and then the two became Dry. And
how, in my mind, this equation suddenly becomes all-
encompassing in illustrating the lifecycle of a relationship. I’ve
even used it in actual conversation, as if revealing some deeper

“Don’t you see? Budweiser begot Light, and then the two
became Dry. See?”

And how, when I order a sandwich without onions at the fast-
food joint, it suddenly becomes an abbreviation sent to God.

“I would like to order the Grand Ham sandwich with mustard and
no onions.”

It is repeated through a microphone from the order taker to the
maker, so loud that I can hear the amplification of his voice in the
kitchen behind him.

“One Grand H, with an M, and an L, and a T, but hold the O.”

And “hold the O” echoes through my mind until it produces a
thought which I didn’t think it could produce sober, which was,
And if you hold that “O” really straight, I might be able to nail it
with my erection.

And then I think about my limp dick.

And then I feel concern for my limp dick which does not like this
whole change thing and has obviously made this fact known by
displaying inactivity. Not even a stirring.

And then I become depressed about my strange change.

And I think about how bland my sandwich tastes without “O.”
And then I shrug and think, Well, you asked for it, you eat it.

15:45:33 – 15:53:12

15:45:33 – 15:53:12

(15:45 and 33 seconds.)

I’m sitting in my chair, bored. I’m staring at the cash register
which digitally flashes military time and has this crappy little
feature that torturously ticks off each and every second of each
and every day.

There is no business and nothing left to do but think that the
sandwich I just ate for lunch did not agree with me. I feel like I
ate a small dog. Fur and all. Fur and alive. Just held that small
dog’s head in one fist while the other clutched its rear end and I
took a large bite right into its side. Through hair, through skin,
through meat. And then, like I was some savage wild beast, I just
sat there and chewed while that small dog bled on my lap. That’s
what feels like is sitting in my stomach right now, a small, hairy,
gross dog.

Then, the strange man who tends after all the plants walks right
up to me, as he does often now, and asks me if I am bored yet,
and I reply that I have been bored for quite some time.

He says, “Well, I was just in the storage room reading and taking
a nap.”

I say, “I am so jealous.”

He says, “Why? Can’t you take a nap here?”

I take a quick look at my kiosk sitting naked in the middle of the
mall, laugh, and say, “No.”

He says, “That’s too bad, I have been taking naps for the past
four weeks.”

Then he shuffles away with his bucket in his hand. And I am filled
with jealousy. And I am left here filled with a small, hairy, gross
dog that is barking in my stomach. And I am left here feeling
trapped in military time, filling each goose-step with wishes that I
never had to eat, or sit here, or think…

Think, think…

Think, think…

(15:53 and 12 seconds.)

The Old Trout

The Old Trout

Women pass by wearing thin, short dresses with sandals or small
sneakers and flowers in their hair.
Women pass by wearing short, tight shorts which barely hold up
the bottom of their asses.
And women pass by….
And women pass by….
Reminding me of the coming of Spring and eventually Summer

And then the old man who works beside me covertly comes up
behind me and lurks, and then trails off in some strange direction
as he spins and almost falls over, but manages to move his feet
fast enough to catch up with his top-heavy body.

And this man scares me.
And this man stresses me out.
Because he is like an old, aimless trout.

Nearly entirely bald, with teeth like he has had deconstructive
surgery done on his skull. These teeth tell histories of tooth
decay and cigarette smoking. And the skin on his face resembles
that of a burn victim.

He comes up to me with a bag of Sun Chips in his hand and is
so proud of his “meal” which he explains only cost him “69 cents,
or 72 cents with tax.” And he also calls a coffee and a muffin a
“meal” at only “$1.25, or $1.31 with tax.”

And… and… and… swim away, Old Trout! I don’t care about
your trivial triumphs. You stress me out and I can’t figure out why.

And maybe it’s because I didn’t like the way you stroked that
child’s hair and looked at him with a grin while his mother’s
attention was diverted elsewhere. Or maybe it’s because you
pass out little bookmarks which say “God Bless You” and “Jesus
Loves You” and, “For the price of a postage stamp you can have
the maker of these bookmarks send you thousands,” so you can
distribute them to all who need a clue and are in search of the
righteous direction and must have help finding salvation, so they
can be saved.

Swim away, Old Trout! You stress me out. The way you swim up
behind and lurk… or the way you swim up beside and lurk. And
swim away, because you are making me look bad as all I want to
do is look at dresses and short shorts and think about Spring and
Summer, not look at your burn-victim face, bald head, and bestial
mouth because it stresses me out.

Conversation with you is painful as all I can do is think about the
possibility of a piece of Sun Chip being propelled from your
mouth and landing anywhere on my face and… ewwwww! Swim
away, swim away, you old trout! Now you’re really freaking me
out! With your coffee and your cigarettes and your Sun Chips
flavored sour cream and onion and the extra skin extending from
the bottom of your chin and your trivial triumphs: cheap
cigarettes… cheap food… cheap drink… cheap cheap, cheap
cheap, cheap cheap. And all you have is this – work and cheap
things, and me being a considerate and polite ear, nodding my
head in fear, and I can’t wait to get the hell out of here! Away
from the man who licks his sour cream and onion “meal” from
between his greasy fingers with a loud “SMACK! SMACK
SMACK! SMACK SMACK!” and then swims over and wants to
shake my hand for some trivial triumph.

Swim away, swim away, Old Trout! Please. You really, really
freak me out.

Not For Sale

Not For Sale

I lie in the cold grass, breathing.
Clouds pass quickly before the moon, like a dream.

We stand in line waiting for tickets to pass through the turnstile
and be allowed a room for privacy. This is a world run by a
government that molds societies into Pavlovian routines.

Like a prisoner, I pass my days awaiting the next time I will get to
see my lover.
Like prisoners, we pass our days at work awaiting the next time
we get to see our lovers.

There is no talking in this dream, just motion and sight.

The day arrives, and with my lover, arm in arm, we move
towards the ticket master, and we move towards the slow moving

Once through, we feel free, a free not felt until we are through
the turnstile.

We wander, arm in arm, and there is a structure to our left. It is
dug and built into the ground and a window reveals to us a view
from up above. We move a curtain aside from the outside and
look through the window and down into an emptiness the size of
an arena.

The outward appearance of the structure is deceiving. It appears
much smaller than it actually is.

Down below pulse hundreds of lovers in various positions of
disposition. Men savagely working from behind their women on
all fours. Women with their heads thrown back and their arms
thrown back as they ride their lovers’ cocks. Circles of lovers
connected in a massive display of oral sex. A wave of sexual
motion in the vast well-lit emptiness of the arena.

We watch for a while and soon retreat to the privacy of a room
where upon the floor we carefully lay a canvas and undress. We
kiss and dance about naked and soon begin to work on the
canvas. We create beautiful art, swirling colors, divine figures,
and emotions embodied on the lifeless fabric.

Hours pass and we soon collapse against a wall and smoke. We
look at our art now propped up against the opposite wall. We
look at each other and both nod.

I pack up some stuff, and our art, and I leave my lover naked
against the wall of our rented room. I sneak into a gallery across
the grounds. I look around and scope out empty spaces for our

I scale a scaffold and sit high above and begin to take our art out
of my pack, but I am discovered by the man appointed to the
care of the gallery and he begs me to come down. I climb down,
upset. He motions me to show him our love. I show him and his
face becomes serious… and then soft. A tear appears, and he
agrees to show our love in a space high and above.

Words are finally spoken in this dream…

He asks, “What is the price of this painted canvas?”

I reply, “There is no price. It is not for sale.”

I quietly escape out the door alone, with a knowledge in my brain
and a great weight resting on my heart, as I move back towards
routine; thoughts of future days with my lover make my mind

The gallery keeper places our love high up on the wall. It is the
only piece in the gallery on display without a price tag. Simply
entitled, “NOT FOR SALE.”


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