“Later Days” poem by Katie Coopersmith

Later Days

poem by Katie Coopersmith

Valencia oranges had gotten crushed in my bag and soaked all the lace doilies,
so Jake and I had coffee instead of high tea.
It was an awkward forty-seven minutes.
He began by clearing his throat, considering me with a few angular, darting glances, and commenting that he’d never realized we lived so close together. I smiled because I didn’t know what to say.
And all I wanted in that moment was to be back on your dock, to hear the loons and wear the sunlight and scream when a sea snake poked its turpentine nose up through one of the cracks in the wood,
but I knew that wasn’t possible.
Jake and I constructed a fairly decent conversation – high school teachers in common, partially overlapping book taste, points of interest to fall back on later when the threat of silence loomed too menacingly in the background.
I had worn my blue canvas pantsuit, you know the one with the funny gold cuff links that look like they were made for somebody’s paunchy old British uncle? Just feeling it weigh against my sunburned calves I felt I missed you so much more than I had at any other time since I left.
Do you think that sometimes you can be in love with both a place and a person at once, so much so that you don’t even know how to separate the two in your mind anymore, so much so that the place and the person become one noun together, one warm, sticky dough-ball of an idea that you can press into the valley of your palm beneath the table and smile at the totally animate touch of that thing you love?
I asked Jake that very question.
He raised two clammy hands like he was showing a precious museum artifact, reached over to my side of the table, and took my fingers in his empty palms.
I tried to breathe deeply, but I was cut off in the middle of my inhalation by his next words.
Yes, he said solemnly, all traces of social apprehension aside. He looked me in the eye.
Yes, but if you love that thing so much, why are you here with me instead of there with it?
He sat back, smirking.
Guess that means you love me even more.