Punctuation

Emma Cinocca

CAS for Database

Summer Contest 2021

Tulsa, OK

Jenks High School

Hybrid

I cannot ever find the words needed to mold myself into grammatical convention, sometimes it is the short-circuiting of sentence fragments in my mouth, other times it is the words exploding in run-on sentences like the fever of my Honda in summer’s precipice; now, I check my phone, the banner across the overheating screen reads a sweltering 110-degrees-fahrenheit, which must have been the temperature of my words as I wrote back when, hands raw over parchment and the heavy stench of my leather steering wheel, surface so hot it fuses into the flesh of dry palms, runs into my veins, like dark ink onto a page, stained by my unsweetened green tea; I recite syntax rules as I pass a stop sign, veering, then stilling, still humming against the seat, engulfed by the paradox of comfort and enraging immobility, like plucking lashes in compulsion, like a pen scrawling an etymology of all the things you did wrong: first numbered by eraser marks, then learning permanence with ink that is neither washable nor non-toxic, now running on in lines constructed in haphazard verse, bleeding bitter poison out burning fingertips; I am driving past the school now, where I birthed sentences that left my hands cramped, perspiration beaded on my fuzzed hairline, resisting restless the urge to tug, for some semblance of control, gummed in the discomfort of sitting unstirring, fingers tapping, eyes flicking; late spring air leaking through the cracked fire escape window, a smog of thick humidity creeping past oaks on the school lawn, now past rolled car windows and into my eyes, because cities never change; they only grow dense with unborn adulthood; it is suffocating, in here, the Honda a second metal skin too-tight over me, blood rushing down vital arteries to my hands; you taught with a mug of honeyed tea long-tepid in one, palm splayed against ceramic, back there, where you stood a mentor across the room and named me perfect, words more like art than letters; I listened and punctuated my sentences with a dot to end careful lines, attempting your accusation of flawlessness; never once did I believe it, knowing you were blind to the discomposure under a surface unspoiled, but always did I try to keep my penmanship steady and contort to match; I didn’t tell you that I had not written a period, but had pierced the page, trembling hands still warm against the pen you gave me, blistering heat forming welts on skin, slick with sweat, my forehead banging against the steering wheel, GPS rerouting endlessly, but for only this once I cannot follow instruction, induction; go nowhere, know better; that I am only worthy when I am writing; that I did love it once, with clear eyes and cool hands not-yet burned, but now it is damage, I realize, I’d rather cause, for nothing else than that you should be burning like me, through prep-books and expectation, like me, when the nib tears a gash in the page, the catharsis of ruination cleansing me of melted leather and heat; I cannot help but mock, what lovely punctuation


EDITORIAL PRAISE

The piece has a wonderful flow, rolling on and on and on and pulling us along, gently at first and then faster and faster until we couldn't escape if we wanted to. The emotions are vivid and absolutely punch through the page; the emotions, as one, are aggressive and angry and entirely captivating.

Emma Cinocca is a junior in high school who finds herself enamored with writing both poetry and prose. She is, when not reading and writing, likely to be found dancing ballet or studying for her many AP classes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

3rd Place