By Ottavia Paluch
Concise. Concentrated. BWO wanted pieces like these submitted for its latest feature, pieces small enough to fit between your “fingertips.” The fingers, so to speak, of the accepted micro-poems, micro-stories, and micro-creations pointed at the perspectives and thoughts of teenage writers who said so much while taking up as little of the page as possible.
There are different ways to look at the theme of the feature and the messages and themes hidden in the published pieces. Samia Menon’s “To those I will leave” opens with a literal mention of a finger: “If I squeeze your fingers / tightly—like I could never feel again.” It’s a direct point towards a backstabber. The act of squeezing a finger signals affection and soothes the person whose finger is getting squeezed, but it’s also unnerving, a good and bad thing. You can assume that the impact in this poem is more negative, lasting longer than the squeeze itself. I love these first two lines. Much like a backstabber, they grasp hold of your attention and the theme of Astha Singh’s piece is a single paragraph, drenched in sincere and almost resilient metaphor and simile that’s sensitive, intimate, and passionate. In it, the narrator wonders what will become of her when her friend leaves. She then (finger)points at the truth that has been ripping off her fingernails: that “it's not just about the truth being unsettling, it's your silence that comes after.” Statements like these pull a huge weight on the reader’s heart and are what make the prose ring out with honesty and ache. Then the narrator continues to depict her inner pain, mentioning that there are “thunderstorms inside me…because you only want to see my sunshine.” In a more figurative sense, what’s easier to relish, to point at? Daylight? Or darkness?
Much like BWO’s Editor-in-Chief, Courtney, I too loved a line that comes in the second half of the piece: “When I told you that, for me, the glass is always half empty, I wanted you to know that I was drowning in it and that the glass was also me.” When Courtney asked in her interview with Singh how she takes dated imagery, such as a half-empty cup, and recreates it into something new and more profound than the actual old adage, she stated that during periods of gloom and doom, “we're ultimately forced to think about how empty we feel on the inside,” and that the emptiness is a feeling that she experiences whenever she’s blue, leading her to fall further and further into a “cup,” so to speak, of negativity. Even without context, phrases like these tell a story many teenagers can point at with quivered fingers and relate to, and this quality is another thing I admire in this piece.
Derek Chen’s “My eyes open, and I’m aware that I’m awake again” is a story that draws you in with a minimalistic aura, connecting mundane activates to a larger picture of the narrator’s mind and thoughts. Chen manages to move the story forward with the help of strong imagery that persists throughout. By the end of the piece, the meaning of that imagery grown as the story develops, When I first read it and noticed the vague but vital shift in the figurative language, it surprised me and opened my eyes as to what the piece’s message was. (Ironically, the piece begins and ends with the opening of the narrator’s eyes.) The slight revisions made to the imagery make the story feel as if things have changed and that time has passed, while still managing to leave the overall message of the story up for interpretation.
The story revolves around a narrator, perhaps Chen himself, who is very self-aware of his bad habits (“I’m never asleep for long enough.”) and the things he needs but doesn’t want, like a doctor. He fights internal battles against not only what’s in him, but also what’s around him, things that can be both discernible and concealed. He battles the passage of time, knowing that it is inevitable, that the hands of the clock will never stop ticking. He marks the more critical events in the piece down to the minute. The next time the narrator checks the time, it is nearly four in the morning. He finds time “fractured but alive, suspended in all of its shattered glory.” And though he’s writing a college essay, he finds himself constantly fighting his own thoughts, which is understandable, as he’s been staying up for so long. His head is almost in a different place. It’s throbbing. Not much later in the piece, he describes himself as “a sluggish mass.” As if he’s someone floating in zero gravity above the Earth, a place with oxygen; something he doesn’t have yet desperately needs.
“Everything,” he writes, “screams in stifled silence.”
The ending is formidable. When time “breaks,” that’s when his words “became thoughts,” and we can infer that he’s fallen asleep and has begun dreaming. The final sentence is a fitting end that leaves you to wonder what will happen when he wakes up: “One of these days, I will open my eyes, and I will be out of time.” It’s a revelation of sorts, one where he realizes that soon, time will be much harder to keep between his fingertips.
I want to congratulate all the writers whose work has been published as part of Fingertips! Please keep writing—we need more beautiful and raw pieces like yours to point fingers at what matters to you, at what your mind points to, because there’s so much to point at. For now, I’ll be pointing mine at the stars and wondering where they’ll lead me to.