Emphysema

Emphysema

n., shortness of breath caused by lung tissue decay

At twenty, my grandfather tried a cigarette,
Twirling it between his fingers, watching it
Paint its temporary dance. He tells me of
The nights that followed, where he lay prostrate,
Fantasizing for another, wanting nothing more
Than to fill his lungs over and over until
Nothing remained. Nicotine numbs the palate,
He warns, you are left unable to discern
Between delicious and disgusting, to taste
Anything but rich, heavy, fragrant smoke.

Every breath in will leave you restless, every
Breath out will reek. Nothing else feels
Quite as good, even years after leaving. People
Can be the same way, he muses, they creep in
And pollute you, stealing flavor from the vape
Of others after— cinnamon, menthol, pineapple.

Cilia are meant to keep poison out, he mutters,
But smoke will wear them thin. Smoke paralyzes,
Tantalizing; he pulls another drag, fiddles with
His wedding ring. Breathing out, he points,
Now isn’t that just lovely? He asks. He waves
His hand, and look— it’s gone again.

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