something rotten

i came home from a summer of writing on the west coast feeling like a late blooming novelist, centered in what i am here to do. i opened a cabinet in my kitchen that i immediately had to close again. there was something terrifying and alive and putrid in the cabinet, something that had been growing in my absence. i didn’t want to ever look again, to know what was inside, to smell it….no. no no no.

but i live alone and there isn’t really a service to do this kind of thing for you. so an hour later i had on rubber gloves, a face mask, and half a tube of clorox bleach wipes to scrape the bag of rotten and transformed potatoes and maggots and flies out of the cabinet and out of my home.

i did it. i neither fainted nor threw up. and i can’t stop thinking about it.

it feels exactly like the emotional work i have been up to for some time. going past what the world sees, opening up all these doors down deep in my psyche, in my memory, in my choices, in my heart. finding the places that i want to slam shut and run away from, and instead reaching my hand, my attention, in.

it what i feel when i walk around my neighborhood now in Detroit. there are fences and strangers everywhere, people smiling as they get their cars valet parked, patrols every other block. there is so much rot under these new developments. i miss the place i moved to. but when i open the cabinet, i have to really think a lot about being a gentrifier, dipping in and out of this place as it’s face changes – how am i perpetuating this? how do i divest from the erasure and displacement of Detroit?

‘you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land’
warsan shire

rotten is how it feels looking at the picture of aylan, the syrian baby that washed up on turkey’s shore. i could imagine how he felt in his parents’ arms. i sat with the picture of him and wept, overwhelmed. in this case, opening the cabinet and reaching into the rotten place doesn’t just mean pointing at europe…it’s sitting with my role in this – how long have i been skimming over news from syria? why did it take this image to make me pay more attention? what can i do? i signed the petitions, but what else?

there is so much that is rotten in this world right now, so much we don’t turn and face. i mostly focus on the miraculous, beautiful, evolutionary…but it’s not for lack of seeing. it’s out of desperation, out of a need to grow something good in this violent and unfair world.

and then as always i wonder: what can we do to manage all of this simultaneous crisis and trauma?

i don’t know. to a humbling and quieting degree, i don’t know. i am learning to heal, learning to write the rotten honestly, learning to see myself in the dark.

but also, i have only just gotten the cabinet open, i am only just looking inside.

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