Gerry Dincher CC
The Old Shop
When I went back to the shop
That had been his before he died
And now was owned by someone else
Who worked behind the desk that he’d
Had carpenters make decades back,
In the chair where he had sat,
And in their lap, wrapped in towel,
Held and groomed a yellow nape
While sharing gossip on the phone,
And as I walked in looked at me
With a smile I knew before,
That same glance that shrewdly judged
If I was there to buy a bird
Or waste part of his afternoon
I thought how fully we unpack
When we travel out of life,
Leaving furniture and work,
Smile and gaze and attitude,
How we sit and what we think
For someone else to find and be
Until they leave it all and go,
And I wondered suddenly
Who had previously been me,
Used these gestures, known these thoughts,
Heirlooms handed down through time,
And before them, and before them,
Picked up and used and left behind
For the general human store
And for a minute I was there
With who was gone, in his no-more,
Traveling lightly, freed from all
That had made us travelers
And all there was, was traveling.
After every friend had died
I moved out from the building where
I’d known them all, to a new place
Up in the hills, a single life.
Days were pretty full in terms
Of occupation, though you’d think
It would be just the opposite--
Empty hours, empty life.
No. Crowded sadness all the time,
With no way to take a break.
One morning opening the blinds
I saw three stars shine side by side,
Recalled I’d always meant to learn
Something of the constellations
So bought a book about the stars.
That night I climbed four flights up
And came out on the roof. The sky
Was dim and dull, not as deep
As I’d always thought it was
And the stars were nothing much,
Crumbs of light dropped here and there.
But I saw the three I’d seen
And from there traced Orion out,
A mildly pleasing figure
A little like an hourglass.
As I had nothing else to do
I came out next night as well,
Brought a notebook so I could
Chart Orion for myself.
That was pleasant, to have him there
On the page and in the sky.
Later I wrote in the names
Of the stars that made him up--
Betelgeuse and Bellatrix,
Rigel in his lower corner.
And so, why not? Every night
I went out among the stars
Though couldn’t travel far at first.
Somehow that’s what I liked best,
Knowing they could not be reached
But going towards them anyway.
I was glad they all had names
That I could memorize and say--
Sirius and Procyon,
Deneb and Albireo--
Each star by itself, in silence,
But included in a picture,
A swan, a large and lesser dog,
Eagle carrying a boy.
I loved the way their stories had
Nothing to do with me, or grief
Or anyone I knew who’d died
Though when I charted Gemini
Whose twin stars stood beside the door
Of a longhouse I thought it would
Make a good safekeeping place.
What a joy to leave the earth
And simply go out there among
Giant people made of space
In stories that went on forever.
I loved the way they were alive
But also places I could be,
Perseus, the Pleiades,
The Hyades and Pegasus.
I bought a telescope and saw
Orion was made out of scenes
I didn’t have to understand
But watched astonished all night long.
The Praecepe in Cancer was
A hallway thronged with galaxies
And hidden back in Leo’s flanks
There was an empty room in which
Anyone could come and sit.
The constellations in their mild
And diamond light were graciously
Uninterested in human life,
Indifferent. They didn’t want
To know why everyone I loved
And took care of died at last,
Why I was always somewhere else
So that each one died alone.
They didn’t care, and let me roam
Deep as I wanted into vast
And mildly glowing space where I
Could be relieved of mattering,
Be witness to their stories which
Continued whether seen or not.
Lepus fled and Lyra flew,
Cassiopeia changed her clothes,
His two Dogs brought Orion down
But each night he was up again.
Each of them was everything.
Does that make sense? Expanding space
Was what they were between their stars
Where I ran out while they went on
To ends or else to endlessness
But either way too much to see,
To hold in mind, and so instead
They carried me. I got to rest,
For months and months, and be no one.
Meanwhile somewhere down below,
The ground slowly dissolved the dead
Turning them into the ground.
Perhaps this increased gravity,
And let it reassert its claim?
What I knew was that I’d learned
The constellations and their stars
And so returned to daytime life
Where, middle aged, I was a guy
Who’d been knocked down by stacked-up loss,
Now had to get upright again,
Find a road to what came next
And plod along it step by step
As we all do, who walk the earth.
Peter is a queer psychotherapist, previously working in community mental health and HIV/AIDS, now in private practice in Portland and Los Angeles. He is the author of two books, Gay Fairy Tales (HarperSanFranciso 1995) and Gay Folk and Fairy Tales (Faber and Faber, 1997). Recent work appears or is upcoming in Adelaide, Kestrel, Third Wednesday Quarterly, Syncroniciti, 1870 Journal and the Writers Study anthology. He has lived through addiction, multiple bereavements and the transitions from youth to midlife and midlife to old age and believes you can too.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.