Poem: Mouth Guard by Constance Mello


Full transcript is below.
Mouth Guard 
by Constance Mello
Eldest daughter of an only daughter 
My mother is the only one who calls my grandmother
I’m the interpreter between my family members
Answer calls like I’m a therapist  – “How are we doing this week?” 
My brother accused me of running away 
And I did – ran to the United States, like deep down
I always knew I would, someday, 
Watching reruns of Friends, unrolling my R’s
People tell me I don’t have an accent 
My jaw locks into place and I feel pride and sorrow
For the accent I ground out of myself 
Like the teeth I grind down into pebbles at night 
People can’t tell where I’m from 
but they know I’m not from here
“Maybe like, the east coast?”
Sure, I say, 
The lines between real and fake are blurry 
So I can be from Kansas, an imaginary location 
That I have never visited, but that feels generic 
Enough to match my fit, wide enough to fit me
I can be from states that people don’t know 
The capital of, like Iowa (Des Moines) 
But I learned all the capitals ahead of time 
In line at the John F. Kennedy border patrol 
“Maybe like, New England?” 
Sure, I say, 

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