An Intruder

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,

let every house feel my anguish, my storm.

Nghiem Tran was born in Vietnam and raised in Kansas. His writing can be seen in the Indiana Review, where he received the 2015 1/2k Prize, Gulf Coast Online, The Offing, Nepantla, and elsewhere. He is a University Fellow in Syracuse’s MFA program, and a Kundiman Fellow.