“Speaking in Tongues” by Abril Chavez Bustos

Appalachia Bare is proud and honored to feature the Write the World contest winners for fiction and poetry, hosted by East Tennessee’s Pellissippi State Community College. The contest centers on an international-focused theme or topic.

The college’s participants were encouraged to reflect upon and write about experiences living or traveling in a country outside the United States. This event was co-hosted by Pellissippi State’s International Education Committee, the Student Engagement and Leadership club, as well as the college’s Strawberry Plains Creative Writing Club.

Today, Appalachia Bare honors Write the World poetry winner, Abril Chavez Bustos, for her entry “Speaking in Tongues.”

We offer our heartfelt congratulations to these talented young writers!


Speaking in Tongues

An officer asked for my name
On that snow-crusted day
but my tongue was not the same shape as his
it was so foreign to him
his hair was the color of freedom
his eyes star-spangled

In that school like the ones I’d seen
back home on channel three
my new aw-me-goes asked my name
but their tongues didn’t know how to navigate
the twisting paths of my vowels and consonants
that language so foreign to them
and so familiar to me

at the supermarket there’s boxes
with letters in strange codes
I don’t recognize them
the ones I did are so far away
at the till the clerk speaks to my mother
she faces me so I can twist her letters
into the correct codes

a year passed and I no longer had to decode
the kids at school grew bored of learning the maps
of the vowels and propellers of my name
instead they tore an interstate through the winding paths
leaving me unable to find my way back
this is my name now
the other too foreign for this land


Abril Chavez Bustos was born in Northern Mexico and immigrated to the United States with her family as a young child. She is a Pellissippi State Community College student and will major in International and Comparative Studies at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, spring semester 2024. She has been writing poems since she learned what a poem was and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.


**Featured image: Belle Deesse, WallpaperUp

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