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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.

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