Two Poems by Michaela Miller

The Time I Lost My Lungs

When I took a deep breath

of Virginia Slims in the 
front seat of Pauline’s Impala
I was seven, I didn’t cough.  

When I untied my father’s boots 
after he finished 
blowing up a mountain, 
coal sneezed in my face
and I inhaled it.

When I bought a pack
of pink Diva’s 
at sixteen, I flung 
butts and buried them
under a garden shed.

When I crawled 
inside of a coal mine,
I dug up a portrait 
of myself.

My lungs stained 
black, I left them 
with the rest– 

with my great-grandfather’s 
in Harlan County, 1961.

I don’t think 
I’ll ever get them back,

they all breathe
for the rest of us. 

How to lick an ashtray

sweep the porch till she starts to look put-together 
they say if your parents were smokers 
then you will never be a smoker 
scrub the skillet till you taste the grime 
the guilt of starting at 40 but you
tell yourself 
the tar is necessary 
swallow the sink water till it doesn’t yellow
remember the taste 
from your childhood curtains 
the delicate lace 
                in your lungs
slit the screen so the air can breathe
there are some things 
that won’t come clean. 

Michaela Miller is a graduate of Western Kentucky University where she studied Creative Writing and Photojournalism. She is a native of Barbourville, Kentucky where she currently resides. Her poetry has been published in Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel and Zephyrus. She was the 2016 winner of the Jim Wayne Miller Celebration of Writing contest for fiction.

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