In spite of your social anxiety
you go out there for your daughter,
show her that you belong and therefore
she belongs. This neighborhood is hers.
This country is hers. No matter what
the president has said, what the wall
threatens, the accusations of sexual
assault that do nothing but hurt
the victims even more.
You push the stroller, your wife
plodding by your side,
on the kind of road that has no sidewalks,
no street lamps, to keep the undesirable
(like yourself) away.
You turn right and see what you fear.
Men in baseball hats and Patriots jerseys
throwing footballs, tossing rings into cones,
grilling burgers and gulping down beer.
Some of the women play with the kids,
others watch the men, talking quietly.
You feel their eyes watching you
brown skin and prahouk breath
but no one walks over,
introduces your family
to the neighborhood.
Your wife takes your daughter
to the tree swing.
Feeling naked and raw, your hands
you walk up to the food table,
put your egg rolls and fruit
next to the chips and dips,
hot dogs and burger patties,
and smile uncomfortably
at the guys around the grill.
The soundtrack of your youth
comes on, The Smiths singing
So you go and you stand on your own
and you leave on your own
and you go home and you cry
and you want to die.
You are a father now
but still you want to scream,
I am human and I need to be loved
just like everybody else does.
The sky turns grey, the ground
trembles. Hard rain pelts,
cools your burning cheeks.
Bunkong Tuon is a Cambodian-American writer, critic, and teacher. He is the author of three poetry collections: Gruel (NYQ Books, 2015), And So I Was Blessed (NYQ Books, 2017), and The Doctor Will Fix It (Shabda Press, 2019). His poetry won the 2019 Nasiona Nonfiction Poetry Prize. He teaches at Union College in Schenectady, NY.