I. The tongue, and salt, and onion, leek, celery, carrot and a tub of tomato paste all go into the big
round enamel blue pot. The tongue of the domesticated animal peeled but still human like and
right in front of me, right next to her. We sit at the border and patrol the population, but we are
the population. I cook lengua because língua isn’t as known, at least not in the United States. Even
within the immigrant logic there is an immigrant that is more accepted, and a Brazilian immigrant
is not of the latinidad. Not like the latinos who are woven into the story of the land, who are the
landowners. She sits in front of me, cross legged, masticating the raw meat of her own tongue, and
instructs me to do the same.
II. I make up a story in my mind and refine my tongue inside my mouth to make sure that I will
sound properly American, with the nasal flare and the throat-y R. When I cross, I lose things, and
this crossing is one I first made long ago. I locate my driver’s license; how quick I can reach it. I
wonder if I will look pale enough, if I will be assumed to be something else. Produce is not allowed
in or out of California. I think about whether I have grapes in the backseat.
III. At the airport security, I wipe my hands against my jeans, but even the thick fabric is now
damp. The broody eyes behind the bulletproof glass analyze me, investigate me. My friend is
already on the other side, a time before my time. My time is the time after the towers. Now I am
interwoven with narratives of destruction and anti-imperialist sentiment, but I feel like a child
between sleep and day. The entry stamp sounds like the relief of a gunshot, delivering on the
promised violence. I bite my tongue and draw blood, because blood is what comes after a wound.
Constance Mello (she/her) is a Brazilian writer living in California. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Ilanot Review, Brave Voices, Latinx Lit Mag, The Literary Canteen, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Sonora Review, bullshit lit, and her debut chapbook Swallow the Pit (Bottlecap 2022). She’s trying hard to turn all the sad things in her life into beautiful things.