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Ötzi the Iceman cometh once again: A human dilemma in verse

Written By | Jan 10, 2016

WASHINGTON, January 10, 2016 – The following disconcerting bit of Ice Age science trivia comes to us from the Wall Street Journal:

“Microbes that once troubled the stomach of a prehistoric hunter known as ‘Ötzi the Iceman,’ who died on an Alpine glacier 5,300 years ago, are offering researchers a rare insight into the early settlement of Europe.

“In findings reported Thursday in Science, an international research group analyzed remnants of ulcer-causing microbes called Helicobacter pylori exhumed from the well-preserved mummy of the Neolithic nomad. With modern DNA sequencing technology, they reconstructed the genetic structure of this ancient microbe—the oldest known pathogen sequenced so far.”

After reading the above I felt like finding the nearest crematorium and signing a contract, to insure that my mortal remains will not be available for these so-called scientists (ghouls is what I call ’em) to mess with.

You never know what might happen when you get buried in a coffin. What if it’s flooded with hard water and you wind up turned to stone? Or suppose some creepy bacteria invade your body after death, and, like in Ed Wood’s movie “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” you return to life again forever, like some horrid zombie. Or, as my ex is fond of reminding everyone, what if you stay so liquored up that the alcohol preserves you through the centuries?

I’m not taking any chances. I’m having my will stipulate that, at the time of my demise, my remains are to be buried in the nearest compost pile.

Should I be so unfortunate to ossify instead
of crumbling into dusty motes long after I am dead,
I hope that nosy scientists will leave my corpse alone
and not keep coming back for bits of skin and hair and bone.
Although my soul had long ago found its eternal rest,
I’d still resent the poking and the probing and the tests.
Worse—if they should exhibit my poor husk in some glass case
I’d hurl upon them curses. That will put them in their place!
Don’t let me be some shrunken head throughout eternity;
may I dissolve away in peace through nature’s chemistry.


Above image by Marion Sabourdy via Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0.

Terry Ponick

Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Senior Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17