“I wonder what it’s like to move at the speed of thirst; if it’s as fast as lying on the kitchen floor with all the lights off.” -Ocean Vuong
This sentence is, I think, incredibly striking. It is only one in a long poem full of striking statements. I have now watched this poem 3 times all the way through, and several times more than that- listened to just this bit. The sentence itself, playing with literal and figurative meanings, forcing us inside the poet’s head, is beautiful. But it is how it catches you by the teeth, sandwiched between more beautiful lines, and in Ocean Vuong’s delivery he does not pause to let you regain your breath. He hits you with many striking sentences, enveloping you with his soft measured tone.
This sentence is strikingly good. It first surprises you with a twist on a conventional phrase. We do not expect the word “thirst”. Then it takes metaphor to a new level, artfully displaying movement in stillness. It reveals such an intense anxiety, an instability clinging to normalcy. It is something that I believe many people have felt, but have never been able to put into words. The core concept is familiar: “my mind’s racing”, but Vuong moves past this simplicity and creates one sentence that conveys pages worth of emotion.
Watch the full poem here and try to pick your own favorite striking sentence: