Five Rounds in a Laurel Crown and I Shouldn’t’ve Stood a Chance

after Frank Stanford & Tennessee Ernie Ford

I went to the river. Saw myself.
In our lives, we all gone down
some river or another. My past’s flask’s
somethin I can’t not see through. This
ain’t exactly bout you or his ’41 Ford.
It ain’t that he let go or you couldn’t.
I didn’t mean to win you. Maybe I did.
How’s a pink slip honor what mattered
so much then? What’s done is. Was. Was.
I stood in Amsterdam years ago
and Van Gogh’s brushstrokes reached out
thick as the life I wanted. I saw
the knife to his ear. I was in his place.

The knife to my ear, I’m in my place.
You aren’t as many as you were,
I say to my brain’s mirrored walls.
I’ve walked all kinds a halls.
Once I took a long hall to a shower
mornin after absinthe’n’I pissed in a girl’s boots.
Tennessee Ernie Ford’s 16 Tons played
in my ears. Knew better than three absinthes.
Son of a bitch, I said, get over yourself.
The mirror said it right back to me.
If you press a minnow’s head,
the eyes come out like stars, but
lookin a minnow in the eye’s got
nothin on the mirror.

Lookin a minnow in the eye’s got nothing on the mirror.
On my way to the levee. Got two slicks rimmed up.
He wants his Business back. Don’t blame’im.
We’re ready to roll when you come home.
Read Dante on the deck, some Stevens.
Can’t stop this beside-myself-for-you. Us.
How you asked me this mornin if I could rest
cause you felt it too. Can’t tell if I’m in slow
motion or the rest a the world. I keep
seein the Sistine Chapel’s ceilin. I shouldn’t’ve
been there. I see our fingers touchin.
Something in me’s always in repair.
I heard a great horned this mornin. Errant
and Hungry. Its hunger ain’t nocturnal.

Errant and hungry. My hunger ain’t nocturnal.
It’s not that I’m watchin you walk
down the strip, but seein you come back—
a new minute where we’re always
in each sense markin the quarter-mile,
figurin fireflies a millionfold forth in
our eyes makin goodbye a foreign word, like
a night when we don’t somehow kiss.
Before in our lives, we’ve all gone down
to some river or another. This used to be his
’41 Ford Business Coupe. Sometimes I give thanks
for the John Hancock on this pink. Without it,
you wouldn’t say mine and mean me, as if
you’d just sipped holy water, said an answered prayer.

As if I’d just sipped holy water, said an answered prayer.
Maybe the difference ain’t nothin but how he said,
How’s a pink slip payback a pain that mattered?
I’ve said I was raised in the canebrake by an ol’ mama lion,
You see me comin better step aside. Lotta men didn’t.
Lotta men died. You load sixteen tons. What do you get?
Put to bed my circle-shaped thinkin, my laurel-crown
I wear, ask you to bear cause we get sideways sometimes.
Put to bed my bitten nails, my fear forever won’t happen,
that you’ll go where you needed then. What was doin then?
Goin. Hammer down. Where I needed then and then.
Luckies in my sleeve. Knife in my boot.
I went back to the river. Son of a bitch, I said.
I had the knife like night. I slit my thinkin’s throat.

Christian Gerard-Black Background.jpg

Christian Anton Gerard is the author of Holdfast (C&R Press-Fall 2017) and Wilmot Here, Collect for Stella (WordTech Press-2014). He's received Pushcart Prize nominations, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference scholarships, an Academy of American Poets Prize, and was a 2017 Best of the Net finalist. Gerard is a woodworker and an Associate Professor of English, Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. Gerard is available for readings and speaking engagements and he’d love to make something for you. Contact Christian on the web at and follow him on Facebook @Christianantongerard and @Poetmadewoodworksandbooks and on Twitter @CAGerardPoet.