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Smoke and Mirrors

by Kip Knott

It usually takes one match for my father to light his cigarette. But this morning it takes three matches and a loud “Goddamn!” before his shaking hand can get the tip to blaze to life. You’d think my father had never drawn smoke from a smoke before, the way he’s pulling it into his lungs. Or you’d think he needs the smoke to stay alive, like someone about to drown who sucks on a snorkel for one last breath of air before going under for good. I count six full Mississippis until he gets everything he can get from that Lucky and says with a smoky hoarseness, “Boss says I gotta let you go.” The tip of his cigarette glows like an ember, its heat shimmering like a mirror in the cold morning air between us. I stare into its center and see the reflection that shows me one more time the curse my father believes me to be for living a life built on the death of his wife, my mother. For growing into the man who chose to follow in his bootsteps and labor next to him underground with the dim hope of creating something akin to love between them. But when I look deeper into my reflection, I see my father staring at his feet just like he does in the cage every morning on the long rattle down to the bottom of the mine. Leaning into the heat that separates the two of us, I close my eyes and wait for my father to burn me to ashes with one last, long drag.


Kip Knott is a writer, teacher, photographer, and part-time art dealer living in Delaware, Ohio, who spends his spare time traveling the backroads of Appalachia and the Midwest taking photographs and searching for lost art treasures. His most recent book of poetry, The Misanthrope in Moonlight, is available from Bottlecap Press. You can follow him on Instagram at @kip.knott and access more of his writing at


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