Litany for My Father

by Jessica Abughattas

Because curfews
Because strip search at the checkpoint into
Because grandmother’s undergarments splayed on the
Because two men with guns on the way to
Because grandmother saves plastic Coke liters to store clean
Because the water could without notice be
Because my father learned to drive a tractor at 13
Because four families live in one stone home,
       carved from quartz from my grandfather’s quarry
Because after grandfather is buried, dad
Because my father brings back one brick,
       puts it in the garden of our stucco mansion
Because dad didn’t cry, he buried his face in his hands & howled
Because the cancer couldn’t be
Because home is too far to smell toasted oregano
Because where he was born is not his birthright
Because his word for Jerusalem is Al Quds
Because rosary beads hanging from a rear view mirror
Because my grandfather made a living carving crosses out of
Because my hands ache to make something of
Because my hands are raw from grasping my grandmother’s grave
Because I pried the lid off with my teeth
Because I’m sorry dad I’m sorry I didn’t mean to
Because checking the oven 14 times a day
Because turn the lights on/off/on/off turn them on turn them off
& the locks check the locks on the windows & the doors unlock the door
lock the door unlock it lock it & upturned shoes means you’re stepping
on God
Because this is penance
Because this is your fault all your fault all your fault
       all whining & backseat tantrums
Because of you & because of you
Because dad didn’t cry, he buried his face in his hands & howled
Because prozac didn’t xanax didn’t dope didn’t

Because I was a child
& they took him away

Jessica Abughattas is an American poet of Palestinian heritage. Her poems are published in BOAAT, Muzzle Magazine, The Journal, Tinderbox, Thrush Poetry Journal, at Literary Hub, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Antioch University. She is an editor for Write Bloody Publishing and lives in Los Angeles.