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Litany for My Father

By Jessica Abughattas

Because curfews of
Because strip search at the checkpoint into
Because grandmother’s undergarments splayed on
Because two men with guns on the way to
Because grandmother saves plastic Coke liters to
Because the water could without notice be
Because my father learned to drive a tractor at age
Because four families live in one stone    
Because quartz bricks from my grandfather’s
Because after grandfather is buried, dad
Because dad didn’t cry, he buried his face in his hands &
Because the cancer couldn’t be
Because home is too far for the scent of
Because rosary beads hang from
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
Because I pried the lid off with my
Because checking the oven fourteen times every
Because sorry dad I’m sorry I
Because penance is for
& upturned shoes means you’re stepping on God




Listen as Jessica Abughattas reads Litany for My Father.

Added: Friday, February 9, 2024  /  Used with permission. This poem first appeared in Redivider Journal.
Jessica Abughattas
Photo by Christine Donlon.

Jessica Abughattas is the author of Strip (University of Arkansas), winner of the 2020 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize selected by Fady Joudah and Hayan Charara. Her poems appear in Guernica, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. Her short poetry film Dinner Party premiered at Mizna Twin Cities Film Festival in 2021, was a finalist for Palette Poetry’s Brush and Lyre Prize, and appeared at RAWI Fest. From 2020 to 2022, she was the Poet Laureate of Altadena, California and editor of Altadena Poetry Review. She received an MFA from Antioch University in Los Angeles and serves as Co-Chair for Kundiman’s Southern California regional group. 

Image Description: Jessica Abughattas stands in front of green cactus with arms stretched over her head. She is wearing white pants and a white shirt and has long black hair with bangs. She is looking toward the sun.

Other poems by this author