Grandpa has a painting with a bullet hole. It has survived three wars, yet to this day tells the story of a quiet, Yugoslavian side street. Loud in a quiet way, loving people it shouldn’t love but fighting back with softer songs. I am that painting. The only difference is that I don’t have a flesh wound in the shape of a country that doesn’t exist anymore.


WAR I:

          They say I am the obedient child, stomach twisting in knots during conferences even though I know my teachers will say the same thing: “Sara is a B average wallpaper.”
I am not obedient, I am quiet.

          This is why I start skipping class to write stories under the stairs, hiding like a fresh painting--insecure.

          Shakespeare writes plays and I am in love with Hamlet. My dad thinks I mean the character. Even though I’m not supposed to think about girls like that, if I were in love with anyone it would be Ophelia. I like the way she sings so loud in my head but the words on the page are silent. 

          When I am asked to speak in class, I drown. My Spanish teacher tells me that I am one of his best students and then I end the year with a C. I briefly go mad and think it must be a C for Coffee. Muslim Bosniaks are supposed to drink coffee all the time. I try not to think about how I speak two languages and failed at my third. I hate coffee, I’ll never drink it. I have to tell my parents. I forget to breathe. I don’t come home that day. 


WAR II: 

          Sometimes I wish my tongue could just stay in my mouth for once, because I argue too much and kiss boys to forget that I like girls. Dad says that I’m just a hysterical woman. He also says that he has gay friends but they shouldn’t voice it, and I make the theater-yell part of me drown out the reading-whisper part of me by echoing my dad.

          Jordan teaches me an echo is called a delay in music--he plays his Hamlet-guitar and I write the Ophelia-lyrics.

          We will never finish a song but that’s not the point. The point is driving his mom’s red Jeep with all the windows down and making sure the last Autumn we spend together is a power-ballad delay of growing up.

          “I don’t like the sound of that,” I say.
          “You don’t have to,” he replies.

          This is the year I think so much about warm colors exams until I start getting nose bleeds and throwing up from stress. How do you say stomach ulcer in Spanish? How do you say that you are fascinated by everything even though it hurts?


WAR III:

          I find out that the Bosnian word for poem is the same word for song. I wonder why mine don’t sound beautiful on display in front of a small crowd singing about the way my aunt drank coffee. Her teeth fell out of her gums like I fell in love with Anne. She wasn’t anything like Ophelia--she was a swimmer.

          Wow, I think, I don’t have to yell anymore. I set up an open-mic night which means I can be as hysterical as Ophelia, if I want. I even buy myself flowers.

          When I move to Ecuador, I talk to a Colombian in Spanish about world literature while he teaches me how to brew real coffee and I teach him about my home country. I don’t think he cares about the C. He just cares what I have to say about Shakespeare.


F O R M E R   Y U G O S L A V I A, 

​            F O R M E R   Y O U


​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

B Y   S A R A H   B A R A Ć

Sara Barač is a walking wildfire trapped in a queer Bosnian-American's body, born in Šibenik, Croatia and raised in Boise, Idaho. After graduating from high school this year, she now lives in Ecuador where she is working with a foundation focused on community empowerment. Her work has been published in Voicemail Poems.