Kai Coggin :: “Night Blooming Cereus / Queen of the Night” and “Amber”

Night Blooming Cereus / Queen of the Night

(for Selenicereus grandiflorus)

We only ever had an apartment balcony, what my mother turned 
into a small flourishing garden of pots spilling over 
with what I didn’t care to know about as a child.

After her third work shift, I remember her out there at night 
bent over against the harsh moth-circled light, tending to quiet green 
bodies that reached for her, as she stared out past the rows of cheap housing, 
searching inside for her village horizon rice farm mother brothers sisters 
back home in the Philippines.

I remember she would wake us up, bleary-eyed children,
and usher us out onto the humid apartment balcony 
to show us the night-blooming cereus,
the wild bright opening,
a temporary queen bursting with fragrance,
a silent star stretched out heavy on a long pink neck.
            Look              she would say          it only blooms once—
fleeting beauty she served us with the weighted gravity 
of losing thick in night’s air.

We didn’t care much for plants then,
for the display of green she quietly tended
after her third work shift, with her lonely heart.
Children don’t care much for the toil, the ache,
the solitude of worry she must’ve desperately poured 
into tender growing things,

changing it all into growth, 
transmuting it all into night blooming,
into a balcony of flowering, into waking us up 
in the middle of sleep without language to explain a love like this—

how she tended to us
two tender flowering things,
the toil the light the soil 

between her tired
beautiful hands.



(for Ficus carica) 

It’s golden hour in our valley and I walk through 
late summer’s dry grass to our fig tree,
peek under yellowing leaves in search of
the heavy sweetness hanging purple and thick. 

Like the smallest leather punching bags, I find them 
one by one, ready, weighted with their honeyed song, 
rouged with the bruising of being made
ripe in the shortening days. 

There is no tug needed from my fingers
as I find each laden fruit—
each fig waits to fall into my hands. 

Through their soft skin bottoms, 
tiny amber droplets of candied nectar
harden in the crisp autumnal air, 
and when I hold one up against the backdrop
of the setting sunshine, a halo of amber light hugs 
the shadowed underbelly sticky and plump in my palm. 

Is anyone else noticing this level of intrinsic beauty right now?
Who else is holding a fig up to the sun,
caught in the amber droplets of decadence  
radiant with heliotropic breath?

                            I must name this sweetness as the world 
                            burns, must hold it in the memory of words.

I bring the supple handful up to my love, 
this bounty of palpable pleasure—three for her, three for me.

We bite into their supple dark flesh,
suck and crunch the tiny seeds, 
rush of honey, natural sugars, 
textures of collapsible summer rain, 
an earth of seasons held in a silken bag, 
like tasting each other 
for the first time. 


Kai Coggin (she/her) is the inaugural Poet Laureate of the City of Hot Springs, and author of five collections, most recently Mother of Other Kingdoms (Harbor Editions, 2024) and Mining for Stardust (FlowerSong Press, 2021). She is a Certified Master Naturalist, a K-12 Teaching Artist in poetry with the Arkansas Arts Council, a CATALYZE grant fellow from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, and host of the longest running consecutive weekly open mic series in the country—Wednesday Night Poetry. 

Recently awarded the Don Munro Leadership in the Arts Award, the 2021 Governor’s Arts Award, twice named “Best Poet in Arkansas” by the Arkansas Times, and nominated for Arkansas State Poet Laureate and Hot Springs Woman of the Year, her fierce and powerful poetry has been nominated six times for The Pushcart Prize, as well as Bettering American Poetry 2015, 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 or are forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Best of the Net, Cultural WeeklySOLSTICE, Bellevue Literary ReviewTABEntropy, About Place Journal, Sinister Wisdom, Lavender Review, Tupelo Press, and elsewhere. Coggin is Editor-at-Large at SWIMM, Associate Editor at The Rise Up Review, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. She lives with her wife and their two dogs in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas.