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First Lines

A found poem

All this happened, more or less.

Call me Ishmael. Mother died today.

I begin with writing the first sentence—

and trusting almighty God for the second.

Whether I shall turn out to be

the hero of my own life,

or whether that station will be held

by someone else,

these pages must show.

I am an American, Chicago born—

Chicago, that somber city

and go at things as I have taught myself.

Happy families are all alike,

every unhappy family is unhappy

in its own way.

It was like so, but it wasn’t.

The past is a foreign country,

they do things differently there.

In my younger and more vulnerable years,

my father gave me some advice

that I’ve been turning over in my head

ever since.

One never knows when the blow may fall.

The sun shone,

having no alternative ,

on the nothing new.

In the beginning,


I left messages in the street.

You’d better not never tell nobody but God.

The most common disaster,

I’ve come to learn,

is women.

A single man in possession of a good fortune,

must be in search of a wife

Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty

which seems to be thrown into relief

by poor dress.

It was a wrong number that started it.

It’s hard being left behind.

Where now? Who now? When now?

(Quotes taken in order from:

Slaughter-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Stern

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartly

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Third Man by Graham Greene

Murphy by Samuel Beckett

Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson

Middle Passage by Charles R. Johnson

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Middlemarch by George Eliot

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

City of Glass by Douglas Coupland

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Unnameable by Samuel Beckett)

surreal poetry
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Darlene Franklin
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