When I die

Desert Scene

By George Cunningham

Don’t pump me full of preservatives, so I will remain as pickled as a herring

Don’t stick me in a box and invite the neighbors over for one last look,

Or bury me deep beneath neatly mowed grass,

With a brass plaque announcing my name to all who pass by


Don’t burn me in a furnace and put my ashes on the mantle

In a little commemorative urn,

That somebody has to do something with,

Each time they move, or when they clean house.


No. Put my body in the back of an old pickup truck

And drive through the desert until you are hopelessly lost,

Then take out the shovel and dig a shallow grave,

Not too deep, and not too big, just wide and long enough

To wedge in my dead body

Then cover it up with a sprinkling of sand and gravel,


Leave no marker, no wooden cross or stack of rocks

Just get the hell out of there and find your way back to the road

And if somebody asks you, just say you left the son-of-a-bitch

Out in the middle of nowhere, just like he wanted.


And when the coyote digs up my bones and takes them back to her den

To feed her hungry pups, that’s OK, I don’t need them anymore.

And when the buzzards peck out my eyes and pull the rotting flesh off my carcass,

And when the maggots move in, and the worms hold a party

It will all be good, because maggots and worms have to live too.


Because none of it is me. It was just a thing I used for a while

To walk and talk and eat and love. To feel the warm sun on a cool autumn day,

To taste the steak, to smell the roses, to hear the birds call, one to the other.

But when I’m dead, it is nothing, just a hulk left over, like a dried up sunflower,

Brown and withered as the winter comes to call.


Keep me in your hearts, remember what I was.

Love me if you will, but hate me if you must.

It doesn’t matter, because I will be gone.

To wherever that is, to whatever it means.


But when the coyote howls on a moonlit night,

When the bee lands on the desert bloom

When the wind blows through the lonely sage

What I was will sing along.


To my friends and readers:

I have made my living as a writer for more than 45 years. I’ve written thousands of news stories, hundreds of analytical pieces, a history book and even a couple of novels. But in the last couple of years, I have begun to explore new ground as a writer. This latest effort takes me way out of my comfort zone. Let me know what you think.