How to Write a "Smoker's Epitaph" Anti-Smoking Poem

by Bruce Lansky

When you visit Tombstone, Arizona, be careful not to get into a gunfight. There's a famous cemetery in Tombstone called Boot Hill, where cowpokes who lost gunfights are buried. Visiting Boot Hill, I noticed a gravestone with this epitaph:

Here lies Lester Moore.
Four slugs from a 44.
No Les.
No More.

Clever, but not the most elegant poem. But it does get the point across: Lester Moore isn't around any more. He was shot four times with a 44. Now he's dead and buried in this grave.

This morbid fact got me thinking about the challenge of writing epitaphs. What if someone named Sam Shay smoked six packs of cigarettes a day. (That's almost as stupid as visiting Tombstone and getting into a gunfight, isn't it?) And, what if Sam Shay's family asked your students to write a clever epitaph.

It's a lot easier than you think. Want your students to give it a try? OK, give them the unfinished epitaph below. Then, all they have to do is finish it off.

Smoker's Epitaph

Here lies Sam Shay
Smoked six packs a day.
He started smoking when he was (any number from 1-10).
Now _________________________________.

Here are two examples of how your students could end this poem:

He started smoking when he was five.
Now that fool is not alive.

He started smoking when he was ten.
Now he'll never smoke again.

Once your students have tried all the other numbers from one to ten, see if they can find a new way to end this poem. Here's what I came up with:

His last request was one more puff.
I guess he's finally smoked enough.

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