First Lines Second Thoughts is a look at the first lines of well known literary works.
On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? Today we revisit The Violent Bear It Away. Written by Flannery O'Connor. Published in 1960.
Francis Marion Tarwater's uncle
had been dead for only half a day
when the boy got too drunk
to finish digging his grave
and a Negro named Buford Munson,
who had come to get a jug filled,
had to finish it and drag the body
from the breakfast table
where it was still sitting
and bury it in a decent and Christian way,
with the sign of its Saviour
at the head of the grave
and enough dirt on top
to keep the dogs
from digging it up.
— Flannery O'Connor
The Southern Gothic classic, The Violent Bear It Away, was the second of two novels published by the Georgia-born Mary Flannery O'Connor (1925–1964). Lines, themes and references from O'Connor's first novel, 1952's Wise Blood, have turned up in the music of Gang of Four, Bob Dylan, U2 and Ministry to name a few.
A collection of short stories — A Good Man Is Hard to Find — was published in 1955. A second volume of short stories — Everything That Rises Must Converge — was published posthumously in 1965. The Habit of Being, a selection of her letters, was published in 1979.
UPDATE: On November 3, 2014 Flannery O'Connor was inducted into the American Poets' Corner.