Sarah Xerta

Wired: 29 Short Stories

1. Which abusive relationship do I write about first? is what I’ve been asking myself these days. I’ve been asking myself these days Is there anything that belongs to you?

2. I think about my father and my ex-fiancé and ask Which one was worse? as if abuse is quantifiable. I know it’s not but I ask anyway, not because I’m looking for an answer but because I don’t have anything else to say. I could tell you my stories but that won’t undo them. The opposite: to tell you my stories is to solidify them. To think the unthinkable. Make real my reality. Tongue it. Tangible. And here I could insert a metaphor about mountains and climbing. Upward motion. Fist in the air like a warrior. But I’m tired of that. In my poems I say things like “I want to kick in my father’s teeth” because it’s true. I round-house kick a boxing bag and pretend I am kicking in my father’s teeth. If I had the chance I would kick in my father’s teeth. Afterwards I would shatter. And I want to say It’s not possible to shatter any more than I already have but I’ve learned that’s not true. It’s always possible to shatter more. Pain is an abyss. We know this.

3. It was early September and I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but something in particular found me.

4. I don’t know how to fuck without ferocity. I don’t know if I care to.

5. Sometimes I get the urge to break down and tell the truth. In all the words I’ve written I haven’t really told you much of anything. Not really, no. Not at all, actually. Nothing.

6. Every day I think about what might be the most painless yet efficient way to commit suicide.

7. I know how I would do it.

8. I don’t know if I could go through with it, but often I feel I would like to.

9. The feeling comes and goes, like all feelings do, and most often my suicidal thoughts are replaced with thoughts about how ugly of a mother I am for even thinking about thinking about leaving my daughter.

10. Dear Daughter: I won’t leave you, I promise.

11. I am a daughter. Does this make me a woman? I don’t feel like a woman. I don’t feel like anything. Gender: Fluid. Gender: Water. Gender: Living. Gender: Movement. Gender: Never neutral. Gender: Never. Gender: Open your mouth, child, you weren’t born this way/ you are.

12. I was born into a language different than the one I am writing in now. For four years I spoke fluent German like my mother, shaped my reality with a tongue I am no longer able to fit in my mouth. What happened is my American father didn’t like us speaking in a tongue that wasn’t his. What happened is my American father didn’t like that I wasn’t his. What happened is that my American father tried to make me his. Tried to make her his.

13. It worked for a very long time.

14. What happened after that is my American father had to come back to America and we were his so we went with him. Of course we didn’t know we were his. Not yet. If someone swings a hammer at your head you don’t feel the pain upon impact but after impact. There is a register that needs to take place. A translation. Sometimes you go into shock. Sometimes you pass out and don’t feel the pain until after you’ve been in a coma. Sometimes even after the coma you still can’t believe someone hit you in the head with a hammer. How could someone do that to you? But you know you were hit. Why else would you be talking about someone hitting you in the head with a hammer? It’s not like you can really make a career out of that.

15. There is one person on Earth I could hit in the head with a hammer. It is not my father.

16. I used to think my father used to care about me. He bought me my first pair of sneakers. They had to be Nikes. He insisted. Always he insisted on his idea of the best. I deserved the best/ translation: had to be the best/ his idea.

17. Somewhere there is a photo of us at a park in Europe. He is young, slender, radiating with what I always saw as a blue light springing up from behind his eyes. Mischievous. Playful. In the photo I am a toddler, chubby but valuable in my pink Nikes. I am bubbling up out of his arms. Some happiness.

18. November happened. An ocean.

19. It was November when I woke up naked on a towel on a patch of carpet between the bed and the wall. An almost-cave. A raft on an ocean. Already I’d begun to drift away from myself towards some marriage. Already he’d begun stripping away whatever sense of self my father hadn’t. Remember: always keep away from the closet. It is very important to keep the clothes clean. I agreed it was important to keep the clothes clean. I agreed to be careful. Sometimes women agree with the men they love. It’s a phenomenon.

20. Sometimes there is disagreement.

21. One night in our American home I was not careful enough with something during dinner and my father yelled at me. My mother interrupted him. She disagreed.

22. My father was very angry at my mother, angry that she was angry about his anger towards me. Angry that she moved towards me. Angry towards me. When he exploded it was suddenly because it’s scarier that way. My father is an expert. He made a career out of war.

23. The blood on my mother’s face is the brightest red inside me.

24. How do I transition into sentences that tell stories of things that have no place in a place called home? All the care I put into their carelessness. All the shattered pieces I am still gathering up in my arms. All the pieces I want to shatter.

25. Kill it. All of it. That’s what you do with an illness. That’s what you do with the hammers that people lodge in your skull. There’s no sense in keeping a little bit of cancer around. You keep it and it will grow. You keep it and it will kill you.

26. There isn’t enough room for us together.

27. The first time we were together he didn’t touch me. He didn’t flirt with me. It was a platonic intellectual connection. As if I didn’t have a cunt. As if I wasn’t fuckable. As if I was. As if he didn’t care one way or another. As if I was a person: that’s how he talked to me. That’s how I knew I could kiss him.

28. It’s amazing how quickly you learn what not to do in the path of a predator, how to move from one room to the next without touching anything, how to hide in the shadows, hold your breath, pretend you are asleep, pretend you are okay, bow down without acting like you are forced to bow down, effortless, how easy we learn to make it look, for years and years and years, we could make a career out of it, expert mine sweepers, quick fingers dismantle bombs by a dim night light as if we were wired to live.

29. We are wired to live.


Sarah Xerta is the author of Nothing To Do With Me (University of Hell Press, 2015) & several chapbooks. She lives in Minnesota. Find more online at and Twitter: @sarahxerta