a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
great green decimator of tomatoes—
I come to the garden with a plan this morning
steely-eyed and ready to follow the skeletal remains
of once-blooming foliage and ripening red planets,
ready to come and pick you off with the gloved grabber fingers of this gardener I’ve become,
determined to put an end to your destructive hunger,
only to find you there in all of your bright emerald wonder,
your glowing body there on the vine, divine,
invisibly perfect in your chlorophyll camouflage,
bulbous and plump from engorging green, you fattened gorgeous thing.
oh glorious hornworm, munching manduca sexta,
I cannot pluck you from this desperate plant
without first acknowledging the glory of your stiff red horn tail,
backwards facing predator trickster unicorn,
your white stripes that parallel the lines of leaves,
the shape of your green curvature and swell,
you will devour and deflower an entire canopy of tomato leaves overnight,
you will scar fruiting dreams, break their tender skins,
shit tiny green grenades with tenacity,
grow and grow and grow.
I pluck you as the tomatoes weep and lay you in my glove,
here— let me carry you, just let me look at you
and your insatiable brothers squirming here in my palm,
squishy bodies plump with the pulsing green of life,
you latch your little succulent feet to the vines of my fingers,
and turn yourself sphinx, posture yourself ancient mystery,
lift your torso and head to see with all your eyes
this human disturbance to your photosynthetic meal,
to you becoming sunlight itself,
suctioned feet gripping me like velcro, as though mother nature is hugging me,
oh (not so) little hornworm of ample proportions,
you dance wild and sectional toward sky, inching toward the unknown
dear bright one—
how do you get away with such unabashed otherworldliness?
how do you actually become a whole other being?
how do you molt away instars, in stars?
how do you teach your bodies to fall away when they no longer fit your growth?
teach me this language of transformation,
teach me I can burrow into darkness and still come out
as hummingbird moth flower-drinker winged-egyptian almost-bird,
your verdant brothers,
all brilliant and brimming with the juices of earth in my hand—
I bow all my fingers toward you,
you-sized human reflections of thanks,
sphinx my knuckles in gratitude
and move you far far away from my tomatoes.
Kai Coggin (she/her) is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Hot Springs, AR, and author of four collections, most recently Mining for Stardust (FlowerSong Press 2021). She is a Certified Master Naturalist, a K-12 Teaching Artist in poetry with the Arkansas Arts Council, and host of the longest running consecutive weekly open mic series in the country—Wednesday Night Poetry. Recently awarded the 2021 Governor’s Arts Award, and twice named “Best Poet in Arkansas” by the Arkansas Times, her poetry has been nominated six times for The Pushcart Prize, and Best of the Net 2016, 2018, 2021— awarded in 2022. Ten of Kai’s poems are going to the moon with the Lunar Codex project, and on earth they have appeared in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Best of the Net, Cultural Weekly, SOLSTICE, SWWIM, Sinister Wisdom, and elsewhere. She lives with her wife and their dogs in Hot Springs National Park.