Kai Coggin (Colours of Love and Barriers)

Kai Coggin
Kai Coggin (she/her) is the author of four collections, most recently MINING FOR STARDUST (FlowerSong Press 2021). She is 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. Her widely published poems have appeared in POETRY, Cultural Weekly, SWWIM, Lavender Review, and elsewhere. She lives with her wife in Hot Springs National Park, AR.

⌘ Making Memories with Auntie Kai and Auntie Joann

I Facetimed my sister and little nephew 
as I stood beside a giant snowman
I had just rolled into life,
my scarf from Paris draped 
around her frosty bulbous neck, 
a flowered top-hat tilted toward the sun,
leftover long stem valentine roses for arms, 
radishes for eyes, nose, three buttons, 
the perfect carrot nose, and it seems she became 
some kind of harbinger of spirit
or perhaps it was my wife
slalom-sledding in the background whizzing down 
our white washed hillside wonderland, 
because the next thing I knew, 
my sister and nephew
were in the car driving six and a half hours
from Houston to come and catch the last hours 
of our snow-kissed valley.

Xander is 5 now, little prince of smiles
who we haven’t seen since before the world changed, 
and Auntie Kai and Auntie Joann’s house has been 
a wilderness of love and warmth for him since he was a baby, 
first splashes in a spring-fed lake and little pebbles filling his pockets, 
paths of glow stones with overtones of green beauty and bird song,
picking blackberries and loading them 
into the caboose of his toy trains, 
so many vivid images remain imprinted into the earth here, 
his small footprints that lingered through the years, 
such richness in the small things, 
and this is just a taste of the language of his discovery
in my mouth, a sip of his developing soul
dipped in the north star of our wild Auntie hearts, 
making impressions on the soft belly of wonder
that was baby, then again at 3, and now little nephew
is his own whole person at 5, standing tall like the sapling of an oak
reaching to the middle of my chest, and maybe this visit is the best
that he will remember so far, because there is so much snow
and everywhere we go, there is a new memory waiting to be shaped
out of filament and season, out of the texture of land and water in his growing hands. 

Xander, sledding behind my sister’s exuberant rope,
the screams of joy and laughter echoing through our winter trees
and bouncing off the hills, the snow blankets these two city birds 
in a newfound joy, mother and son, playing like kids with equal wonder, 
two snow angels flapping wildly in the melting landscape, 
another snowman rolled into life and the most epic snowball fights,
our valley held on to the snow longer as the city around us melted, 
just so they could play all day and into the night, 
the moonlight turned the patches of snow luminescent
and our four hearts glowed as one.

The snow melt gave way to rushing streams 
the next day and another season shaped
memories out of the air and water, 
we floated a tiny red berry in an acorn hat boat
softly through the moss and rocks
and I gave him a lesson on the infinite, 
the smallest among us, we watched as the little berry tipped over
into the moving water, and his fingers dove in to save it.

At our lake, we made ripples throwing stones, 
and found a goldfinch bright as morning laying on the shore
succumbed to the freeze. I showed him
that even this fallen life should have a place to rest, 
carried it with twigs to a spot of thick moss
and we made a mandala of Flower Song leaves 
around the flightless golden thing, 
a memory of compassion.

Around the lake now, we took off our galoshes and together
we squished our toes in the sandy wet mud, 
his city fear of being dirty getting caked in fun with Auntie Kai, 
and Auntie Joann slipped the kayak into the opposite shoreline, 
and he paddled his own ship of selfhood for the first time, 
a spaghetti picnic outside that afternoon
leading to a fire-pit outside 
and glowing balloon dance into night two
there was still a little moonlight sledding to do, 
and so many firsts unfolded before his eyes, 
so many ways in which the shape of our land 
shaped his boyhood blooming into who he will become. 

I fell in love with watching my wife 
facilitate so much wonder, 
the muse who always makes my poems sing 
now singing into the hearts of our sudden visitors, 
her arm around Xander’s small shoulders
showing him, he is limitless and brave,
and when they go home tomorrow, 
when the last of the snow becomes nourish of spring,
when the season finally settles into neon green blooming, 
I know I will still hear their laughter in the trees 
feel their footprints and hands 
shaping memories from our land. 
this precious carve of earth,
this home in the wild, 
this loving wonderland of
Auntie Joann and Auntie Kai. 

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