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Kai Coggin​

The First Kiss I Don’t Count


it’s one I’ve never

written about

don’t count

or even consider legitimate

there were no

shooting stars

weak knees

or butterflies

his mouth

a stranger


the taste of metal

blood maybe


smoke of swisher sweets


is an in between state

consciousness of a woman-too-soon

in the body 

of a child


he was a stranger

who knocked on the door

and asked for a glass of water

and it was hot and it was July

and I let him inside 

the house

his skin glistened like a night of stars

we sat on the couch

his name was Leroy

and he put my hands around

his hard flesh

and Gilligan’s Island was on TV 

skipper the professor too

and see

it’s funny what memories do

remembers these flashes

but I can still taste

the mouth

of a stranger

and I tried to wash



off my Winnie the Pooh bedsheets

and I ran the bathwater


my thighs

and something

something was broken

and it was hot and it was July


and I did not have a name for this





and I did not have a name for this

but this would be a silence

that would hold my tongue for years


and I don’t really ever count it

as my first kiss

because so much more was taken

and he was a stranger

and it was hot and it was July

and Gilligan’s Island was on TV


and I could not

stop crying

I just could not stop crying








my loss 

In Search of Salt



in the Amazon 

drink the tears 

of turtles. 


This only happens 

in the Amazon, 

the butterflies 

flutter by 

in search of salt,

the turtles


with watering eyes, 

open domes of sodium for the taking, 

move slowly 

across logs


to the mouths of rivers, 

leathery wet skin dark shells

glisten in the amazon sun, 

signal flash dinner bell 

to floating color swarms, thirsty with need. 


If you have never

seen a turtle wear a bright crown of flame

in orange and yellow butterflies, 

you have perhaps

missed more in your life than you know. 


There are miracles of nature 

right outside your doorstep, 

symbiotic relationships of hands being held 

that might look like paws 

or hooves, 

or wings, 

because nature has a way 

of working together,

trees drop seeds

that feed the wild creature who

wanders the forest and squats to plant that seed 

in new fertilized ground, steaming.


The beaver dams the stream 

and the salmon gather by the wall

offering their cold-slick bodies

to the black bear hungry in spring.


And outside my window a cardinal sings, 

bright red flight against green, 

his metallic shrill

a song from the other worlds.


The seasons revolve around an axis 

that pulls us all in,

we are closer than you think, 

the oneness pulses


and you could hear it if you tried, 

you could feel it in the movement of the air connecting us,

our breath all mingling in this unseen space, 

I breathe you in, 

and you, me,

you me we,

if you watch for the migration of hummingbirds,

if you stay silent when the wolf howls his vibration to the fields of night,

and if you simply opened your eyes

like the turtles…


you would see.


If I knew a butterfly needed my salt 

in order to produce an egg, 

in order to create another colorful airy winged being, 

I would sit outside 

and think of 

all the saddest things, 

or perhaps stare directly at the sun, 

until I could nourish

every thirsty thing with my tears, 

my face

           an open flower, 

my heart

           the nectar I offer back to the earth.





a mountaintop

misses the sea so much

she dives into the blue kiss dark abyss

without even holding her 



landslides are this wanting 

this gravity 

and reforming

and falling 




reshaping the land

to join mountaintop with sea


my darling… landslide into me 

-from Incandescent (Sibling Rivalry Press 2019) selected by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum

Kai Coggin is the author of three full-length poetry collections PERISCOPE HEART (Swimming with Elephants 2014), WINGSPAN (Golden Dragonfly Press 2016), and INCANDESCENT (Sibling Rivalry Press 2019), as well as a spoken word album SILHOUETTE (2017). She is a queer woman of color who thinks Black lives matter, a teaching artist in poetry with the Arkansas Arts Council, and the host of the longest running consecutive weekly open mic series in the country—Wednesday Night Poetry. Recently named “Best Poet in Arkansas” by the Arkansas Times, her fierce and powerful poetry has been nominated three times for The Pushcart Prize, as well as Bettering American Poetry 2015, and Best of the Net 2016 and 2018. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Cultural Weekly, Entropy, NELLE, Sinister Wisdom, Calamus Journal, Lavender Review, Luna Luna, Blue Heron Review, Yes, Poetry and elsewhere. Coggin is Associate Editor at The Rise Up Review. She lives with her wife and their two adorable dogs in the valley of a small mountain in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas.

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