The Land of the Dead

I write things.

Poems and stories mostly. I don’t write as often as I would like, nor do I write as well as I would like. But I do write, and I tend to like what I write pretty well. I thought I’d share one of my favorite poems with you guys, and explain some of the imagery to you.

I don’t really have a final title for the poem, but it’s based on the question I’ve heard posed: “Why do you search for life in the land of the dead?”

The question isn’t about zombies, or a graveyard, as one might assume, it’s about looking for something.  Looking for meaning, for fulfillment, for answers to the questions of life, for happiness and, above all things, for what is real and true.  Something I’ve spent most of my life looking for, and I don’t think I’m alone in that at all.

There are so many experiences, there is so much stuff that is supposed to make us happy; supposed to fulfill us. From the mundane to the extreme. From normal things like a big house, a pretty girlfriend, or extreme prowess in World of Warcraft, to the more than slightly insane like dog fighting, skydiving, and collecting Magic: The Gathering cards.

Well, Magic cards aren’t that bad, I suppose.

Poem and explanation after the jump…

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“The Land of the Dead”

7.5.2010

Harsh sun cracks sky, a troubled dawn,

The thirsty man, he trudges on.

Through endless dusty streets he’s drawn,

His sense of sight has long since gone,

.

So dawn to him is rather dim;

The desert stole his eyes from him,

And left him slaved now, to fate’s whim.

Just as his life filled to the brim,

.

The world around him crumbled down

Into the dust, a dead king’s crown.

There’s nothing left but grey and brown,

Nowhere is green, it can’t be found

.

Grey, broken buildings, empty now,

And fields devoid of farmer’s plow,

To hide himself from heat, he’ll bow,

And seek to live, though knows not how

.

Tucked in his sleeve, a shred of lace,

But of his love, there is no trace.

He stumbles through this broken place,

Where silence thunders loud through space.

.

Now through these shelled out streets he’ll wind,

In search of something he might find;

An image burned into his mind

Of something which can heal the blind.

.

But he can’t see, he has no guide,

No helping hand, no blushing bride.

He cannot find, though hard he tried

The secret place where treasure hides

.

Knocked to and fro, hot gusts of wind,

His knees and elbows raw and skinned,

His once plump form, by desert thinned,

Towards whom, he wonders, has he sinned?

.

He yearns to grasp a helping hand,

To save him from heat’s reprimand.

But no one’s found, in all the land,

To help the thirsty man to stand.

.

The blind man falls, he hits the ground,

His form is a small crumpled mound.

It’s slowing down, familiar pound,

And then, his heart, it makes no sound.

.

Epilogue:

But not ten yards from blind man’s rest

A lone group shuts their eyes tight, lest

This harsh cold truth disturb their rest

And break the calm in their safe nest.

.

They think, “Call out!” But yet do not.

They see him fall, soul overwrought

And weary, down to dust he’s brought.

For they were scared, they felt they ought

.

Not run to stop falling man’s plight,

A risk too great, terrible fright

Strong grips the lonely crowd now, tight

As iron nails in soft wood bite.

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The man struggles honestly. He looks earnestly. He does not lie down and just accept death, he walks on. He wanders through a land destroyed; a place that once offered solace and fulfillment and comfort, now buffets him with hot winds and blistering sands. Searching as best he can for something substantial in a wasteland of dust and heat. The tragedy here is that the man searches in vain. Try as he might, he will not be able to find the oasis he searches for. And for a simpler reason than you might think. It’s not that this place of solace and rest is difficult to gain entry to; it is not that he is unable to solve a riddle: he merely cannot find it. He has no inkling of where it might be, and he has no one to show him direction.  And without a guide to lead him to water, the man will surely die of thirst, alone in the desert.

He has a chance to survive, he falls down in exhaustion in sight of  safe haven: a group of people who have found water, found sanctuary, and found how to live. All they have to do is leave their nest momentarily, and offer some compassion to the blind man dying of thirst and heat in the desert, but they don’t want him there. Maybe they don’t want the outsider in their midst, they don’t want their nice little haven of routine disturbed by the foreigner’s presence. Or maybe they’re afraid of the unknown, and scared of what will come with him. Either way, they have sentenced him to death by not extending themselves to him.

I remember the first 18 years of my life, I felt exactly like the man above. I flipped and paged through all that life had to offer, sampling and tasting everything, trying to find out what would weather the test of reality, and come out strong on the other side. As a little kid, I would spend my days in dreamlands, and build them from LEGOs. But LEGOs fell apart, and were, in the end, only inanimate objects. From there, I charted through all manner of waters trying to find out what would end up being real and true, and worthwhile. From video games to girls. (Some of my nerd friends would protest at my positioning of those two on the opposite ends of the spectrum, but I feel it’s accurate.)

I found my sanctuary. Or, more accurately, like the man in the desert, I stumbled blindly around until some kind soul shed compassion on me, and showed me the way. And that way was to come into a relationship with Christ, and begin to understand the life of Christ that is the gospel of life in a very primal, real way. God is real, and loving; he changed my life, and continues to do so when I decide to let him. Until I was shown the truth, I truly was among the walking dead. A difficult concept for some, but captured perfectly in this verse by songwriter/singer Lacey Nicole Mosley:

Had a dream that we were dead,

But we pretended that we still lived.

With no regrets we never bled,

And we took everything life could give


And came up broken, empty handed in the end.

In the hearts of the blind, something you’ll never find

Is a vision of light

With the voice of the dead, I’m screaming


That captures it for me. I still “lived.” I still walked around, I still did whatever I wanted as though I were a complete person, but on the inside, I was very much dead. I had nothing alive in the members of my body, and it was a cold, cold place to be.

So… what’s the point? Why talk about this? Where’s the take-home? The nugget of usefulness we can garner from this poetic exposition and tomfoolery?

I don’t know how to say this nicely, I don’t really think it can be done, but I’ve been convicted on this point recently, so I thought I’d share it. The truth is that I am firmly in the group who stares at the blind, wandering man as he burns alive and collapses in the desert. Every time I meet someone, or see someone, who has not heard the good news of the life of Jesus, and I do not make an attempt to reach out to them, I am doing exactly what the group in the epilogue of the poem is doing; I am sending that person to death.

For what is the command?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;” (Matthew 28:19-20)

And why?

“…that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

The good news of the message that is the life of Christ is life itself. His message is the water of life.

“Everyone who drinks this water (of the world) will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

I get the feeling that many others are in the same situation as I am; everyone we see is dying of thirst around us, and if we do not at least attempt to give them water, we condemn them to death. How is that reflecting the god we claim to serve?

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