because she has just finished telling the story of our escape
and needs to draw a comparison, return us safely to the present,
December 2015, we’re back at my sister’s childproofed house,
keeping warm by winter sun, central heating, and our sweatpants;
because some do: “Ghaith joyfully snapped selfies, the Aegean
glimmering in the background. He looked much like a tourist,”
suggests the reporter at large in the New Yorker article I read
about one refugee’s epic escape from Syria, and think of again
when my mother can’t make room in our story for more people;
because my mother never quite has the right words in English,
though to be fair, she said “travelers,” and seemed anxious after;
because she’s not callous, you must understand, just protective . . .
Hai-Dang Phan is a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow and author of a chapbook, Small Wars (Convulsive, 2016). Born in Vietnam, he grew up in Wisconsin and currently teaches at Grinnell College.