Terry Tempest William’s “An Unspoken Hunger” was the first poem I read in my freshman creative writing class that actually made me nauseous. And by nauseous, I mean it was incredible–when I finished reading it, I wanted nothing more than to pass out or vomit or sit very still for a very long time. I think that poems should create some sort of physical reaction within a reader (even if it is just imagined). The poems I have loved the most, or that have stuck with me the most even if I didn’t particularly like them, are the ones that made me feel so ill that I wanted to empty my skull for a little bit. The poems that make us feel something beyond an “oh, that was nice” are the ones that are (in my opinion) successful. For me, An Unspoken Hunger has absolutely nothing to do with avocados, and yet the poem (or maybe it’s just a hunk of words, who knows) in its simplicity and clarity of image was able to convey so much. I encourage everyone to pay closer attention to the way poems can manifest themselves physically. and to embrace poems as something to be read as such.
“It is an unspoken hunger we deflect with knives-one avocado between us, cut neatly in half, twisted then separated from the large wooden pit. With the green fleshy boats in hand, we slice vertical strips from one end to the other. Vegetable planks. We smother the avocado with salsa, hot chiles at noon in the desert. We look at each other and smile, eating avocados with sharp silver blades, risking the blood of our tongues repeatedly.” – Terry Tempest Williams