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I KEEP GOING by Kai Coggin

(Editors note: It is National Suicide Prevention Week. The poems we feature this week are meant to contribute to raising awareness toward this cause. All are welcome to participate)

To keep going is sometimes both the hardest and easiest step to take out of darkness...

It may not look like a promise to smile, or to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and conquer the world today it is just a gentle nudge of Spirit, it is holding your head just above water for one more moment, one more hour, one more day, until there is no longer the struggle to keep going, you just unshakably ARE. 

Suicide was a lying shadow of escape that lingered in my life for years. Today, I am thankful to be able to say that I no longer have those thoughts of permanent escape. I no longer lend myself to the darkness in that way, but so many creative souls out there still do. So many young people, queer people, veterans, men, women, teens, even children see suicide as the easy fix when the world is much too painful for them. 

There is still such a stigma against suicide and mental illness that people who are struggling alone in that dark world usually feel they cannot turn to anyone for fear of rejection or misunderstanding. WE MUST BREAK THAT CYCLE. We must welcome the broken into our arms. We must have open conversations. We must ask with our eyes and listen with our hearts. There are too many secrets still wrapped in shadows. Listen to someone. Be a light. 

Writing this poem was a difficult, cathartic, and healing process for me. It gave tangibility and voice to all that I had suffered through. It was almost surreal to see all these secrets, all this shame written into a poem, but once it was written, it was released from my heart. I could let it all go. So many people suffer through so much worse than I have. I only hope this poem can be a light in someone's dark world.

Just keep going. 

I Keep Going
by Kai Coggin

I almost didn’t make it to this moment. 
When I was young, 
about 11, 
elementary school, 
I had a macabre view
on life and death,
wished for my small life to end,
wished to defeat the fire in me 
that had barely started to burn. 
When I would get to school,
I would take a pen
and draw a dashed line 
with a pair of open-mouthed scissors
eating the dashes like pac-man
on the inside of my left wrist,

Next to it, 
I would write “cut on dotted line”
please, someone bleed me out, 
let the red of this young body paint the playground, 
instructions for self harm, 
directions to my own eager destruction, 
obviously, I wanted attention, 
I wanted someone to ask me why?
I wanted someone to look into my sad eyes and
not dismiss my strangely penned plea.
I needed a friend,
someone to notice. 

I kept going. 

Depression held my hand for a long time,
she was a woman, and
I might have loved her once. 
She came over me like a cloak
when I realized I was different, when I 
noticed myself wanting to be close to the pretty girls,
how I wanted to kiss lips that were more like mine, 
especially after my body was stolen from me at 13,
how his black hands led to the inescapable night of my soul,
how I was trained to believe that was I wrong for letting it happen, 
an alien in my own body, 
a criminal in the jail of adolescent fear, 
my own silence covered everything like a dense fog,
and I knew the flavor of sadness, 
of reaching for the unreachable, 
of being in the closet 
with God. 

I kept going. 

The last time
I attempted suicide 
was when I was kicked out of the 
Corps of Cadets, 
a radically republican conservative military institution
that I joined in college, 
in an effort to impress my father,
to become more like him, proud marine. 
I was kicked out my junior year 
for fraternizing with a woman in my outfit, 
for falling in love with a girl,
violating the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, 
and I really thought she loved me, 
she let me take the fallout from the officers,
she let me take the harassment and the hazing,
she let me get expelled from the organization, 
kicked out of my dorm, left alone with no one, 
and how was I going to tell my mom?
I stayed with that girl for six more years, 
because people who don’t care about their lives, 
don’t care about their happiness. 

I kept going. 

Depression looks like drugs sometimes, 
looks like stretching out for ecstasy 
by swallowing pretty pills, 
looks like a cloud of smoke
that never dissipates, 
looks like the white rail of a train,
looks like opiate-induced blackness,
like falling, falling, falling into the darkest dark, 
drug abuse was an escape 
from everything that hurt, 
was comfortable numbness
and almost death,
was two years of my twenties
that I don’t remember as my life, 
out of body, out of mind, out of soul, desperately aching. 

I kept going. 

Finally found my passion in teaching, 
found a little solace in writing, 
found the secrets that I held didn’t have to be secrets forever.

My life has been 
mostly shards formed back into whole,
light rising up and through stained glass windows,
painting everything with slants of color. 
All that was dark 
became the steps to my own illumination, 
processing the pain
was the only way out and through it all, 
writing it, 
crying through it, 
fighting through the masks that I desperately held onto, 
punching at my shadows until they broke through to light.

My life has been mostly dark 
because only those who walk in the dark see the stars, 
I had to be able to recognize a star
when I saw her, my love, 
when my soul woke up and said
“oh! she is here!”
when she walked through the threshold
of my collarbones and became one with me, 
held a mirror up to my body 
and named me eternal
and all of my shadows were given wings, 
and all of my shadows were given wings. 

I keep going.

(This poem was originally published in WingspanGolden Dragonfly Press 2016)  

Kai Coggin is a former Teacher of the Year turned poet and author living on the side of a small mountain in Hot Springs National Park, AR. She holds a BA in Poetry and Creative Writing from Texas A & M University, and writes poems on love, spiritual striving, body image, injustice, metaphysics and beauty. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Blue Heron Review, Lavender Review, Broad!, The Tattooed BuddhaSplit This Rock, Yellow Chair Review, SunStruck Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, Snapdragon, Women’s Spiritual Poetry, Elephant Journal, and many other literary journals and anthologies. Kai is the author of two full-length collections, PERISCOPE HEART.(Swimming with Elephants Publications, 2014) and WINGSPAN (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2016). Her poetry has recently been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Bettering American Poetry 2015.  She teaches an adult creative writing class called Words & Wine, and is also a Teaching Artist with the Arkansas Arts Council, specializing in bringing poetry and creative writing to youth. For signed copies of her books, please visit 

~If you are interested in seeing your poetry appear in this blog, or submitting a poem by a woman that has inspired you, please click here for submission guidelines. I greatly look forward to hearing from you!~ 


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