“Shit are we lost?” begins Debora Lidov’s poem “The Drama of the Gifted Hansel,” which appeared in the Threepenny Review in 2002. I found it again, years after remembering the first line as simply the forehead-slapping “Shit.” And though the wonderful poem enticingly continues—“Should I tell her we’re lost? / If we had some pot . . .”—it is the very first moment of the poem, wired directly into the sparking realization that bread crumbs tank as trail markers, which remained more than a decade as a directive. If the phrase “Once upon a time” marks the front door on which the reader politely knocks, “Shit are we lost?” boosts her through a loft window from which she sees the burning rooms.
Download and listen to the discussion between Curtis Fox and Jessica Greenbaum: How Should I Begin? Looking at memorable first lines of poems