On your nightly walk you see a german shepherd
lying outside a restaurant, leashed to a lamppost.
As you pass him, he crouches, bears his fangs.
You tense up the way you did as a child, late at night,
when you heard your father twisting the door knob
of your bedroom. “It’s me,” he said, “Open up.” You’re always locked
in some solitude of your own making. You’re prepared
to keep everything out. Even pain. Even gentleness,
especially gentleness. Who knows when people will shed the skin
used to fool you into thinking they aren’t capable of harm.
The disappointment hurts more than the violence: Your father
promising life in America will be better,
leaving you and your mother in Vietnam
with only that small, feathery hope. How you dreamed
of reunion. How reunion led to that door knob,
rattling in the night. “You’re your mother’s son,” he says,
“and she’s turned you against me. She’s turned you into hail,
denting the roof.” Good, you think, let me fall then,