Every Night I Pray for My Father to Live Forever
Bertha Isabel Crombet
Or, at least, a very, very long time.
At 88, he already has. I have no memory of him
as a young man, just the yellowed photos
shuffled recklessly through the roughed hands of time.
There he is, wearing a navy suit with his baseball team,
his ears long and prominent, drooping like
the jowls of an animal. And one of him as a child,
no older than eight— a true vintage gem from the ‘30s—
his white button-down shirt crisp, his gaze
only a veil of sternness, as if someone has just warned him
against laughing. But this year, he has forgotten
my sister’s birthday. And always, the keys in the door.
And he’s begun using antiquated words
from his youth in Cuba that I’d never heard before.
Carro morphed into pisicorre. Tenis became popis.
Chancletas, now, cutaras. Language was leaving him
like a dream upon waking, words dissolving
like the steam of a train hissing through snow.
I think of Methuselah, white beard down to his navel,
his skin etched and translucent, as he kneeled
before his neighbors, supplicating them
to return to holiness before the flood.
How tired he must have been, nearly a millennium
of stifling desire. I think of the Greenland shark
and its soft, oily bones, lonely, swimming for centuries
beneath the ice, water black as a pupil.
This is not what I want for him, my father,
already ancient and mysterious, every year
of his life coiled inside him like the numinous rings
of a Great Basin bristlecone pine. God nods.
Bertha Isabel Crombet was born in a tiny town on a hill about 15 miles from Santiago, Cuba, but lived in Miami for twenty-one years, where she received her MFA in Poetry from Florida International University. She’s been published in Jai-Alai Magazine, Black Warrior Review, New Delta Review, and others. Her chapbook, Paleotempestology, was the Winter Soup Bowl Selection Winner for C&R Press in 2018. She’s currently pursuing her PhD at Florida State University.