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The Stages of Rot

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A haunting exploration of grief, The Stages of Rot gives an intimate glimpse into the dark and visceral pain of losing a loved one.

Synopsis

Dedicated to the authors suicided partner of 4 years, The Stages of Rot is an intimate storybook recounting of obsession and loss, fear and catharsis, all candidly communicated through hand-developed film photography and dreamlike prose. The piece was thoughtfully created throughout the course of a year by artist Eden Tijerina and photographer Celina Odeh. Several editions of this book have been sold out on the website and in the Manhattan art bookstore- Dashwood Books

The book vulnerably delves into the authors vivid and painful stages of grief after losing her long time partner, all of the authors profits go to the American foundation for suicide prevention

The Stages of Rot is a poetry collection that is rooted in grief. Eden Tijerina gives us an intimate glimpse into the mind of someone still in love with someone who has died, inspired by her own experience losing her partner to suicide. The collection is divided into eight sections of poetry interspersed with photographs by Celina Odeh; eight stages of rot.


The fact that this poetry collection stems from the lived experience of the poet adds a real weight to this collection, and enhances the experience of reading it. The poetry is dark and cloying; Tijerina’s grief is visceral and bodily.


I like the idea of dividing the collection into Stages of Rot, especially because it plays on the Five Stages of Grief, but think it could have benefited from a clearer separation between the stages. They tended to blend together, and I wish they were more distinct. I will also say that some poems and photographs did not seem as strong as the others in the collection and it might have benefitted from some pairing down. Specifically, stages 1, 2 and 6 stood out to me as particularly beautiful, while stages 3 and 4 – and just in general the poems featuring invented characters (Static King, Rat Prince, etc.) – were a bit too peculiar and not to my taste. Similarly, some of the photographs were really beautiful and artistic, while others came across to me as a little contrived, and I wish the photographs had been edited down to just the really powerful ones. I really liked how the collection ended, and I thought the final poems and photographs really brought the collection to a satisfying conclusion.


Overall this collection is a gorgeous and haunting exploration of grief. While I think some of the less impactful poems and photographs could have been taken out, there is some truly beautiful language and imagery in this collection that will stick with me, and the essence of this collection stands out as a powerful and raw expression of excruciating loss.

Reviewed by

My name is Georgia Ashworth and I have always believed in the power of an excellent book. I read a real mix of genres, but I love epic worlds, unique concepts, beautiful language and satisfying endings.

Synopsis

Dedicated to the authors suicided partner of 4 years, The Stages of Rot is an intimate storybook recounting of obsession and loss, fear and catharsis, all candidly communicated through hand-developed film photography and dreamlike prose. The piece was thoughtfully created throughout the course of a year by artist Eden Tijerina and photographer Celina Odeh. Several editions of this book have been sold out on the website and in the Manhattan art bookstore- Dashwood Books

The book vulnerably delves into the authors vivid and painful stages of grief after losing her long time partner, all of the authors profits go to the American foundation for suicide prevention

Stage 1

Night is drawn across the winter sky like a cerement, starless and uncanny. 

I cannot tell if the yawning void before me is an insurmountable weight or some kind of mercy bestowed by a faraway entity. It is something that I could sink into, something that caresses my body and recognizes my voice while madness digs hooks into my soft places. It doesn’t know how to let me go, and I’m not sure who I’d be if it ever did.


In this embrace, at least there is familiarity. I know the shape of it: the way the cathedral ceiling sky arches overhead, seeming both endless yet not nearly far enough to escape the pull of you. In the vacuum of this passage between unknowable places, endless hallways and highways sprawl, all of it collapsing into the void like a dying star. Beyond an infinite tessellation of doors and angular shapes lie a catalogue of memories ever-enfolding into themselves. Razor sharp clutches of barbs, ceaselessly shrinking, yet never completely disappearing.


Is this what happens? A force bending perception to allow me a view of myself being split apart? I see it when I close my eyes: the spiraling nothing that surmounts all else. It mocks me, calls to me, a primordial mother that speaks of skin and bone, and blood and sacrifice. Always sacrifice.


I know this scene is dreamstuff, but the magnitude of what unfolds before me extends beyond dreams, devouring my reality and drawing me inside. 


The spirit that guards this place—the one that wears your face—touches me with your fingers and whispers guiding directives when my waking mind has nothing but silence to lay claim to. 


I am standing at the immense maw of a great and terrible machine. A mindless, rapacious thing, gorging itself on the substance of the actual world. I realize this is a vast incarnation of death beckoning to me, and I know that you are there too, somehow.


Across these dreams, you take different forms. Fallen blackbird, great mechanical serpent, misshapen infant, always waiting for me to invite you in, my handsome harbinger of dead and dying things. 


And I always do. 


My hands are nervous birds, they play the notes to a lullaby for this place of lost souls. This world, shrouded in shadow, too dark for God to see.


Blackbird, blackbird

Silver, seething serpent.

Broken babe, dressed in red with a ribbon of flies wrapped round’...


 


You are a changeling, a chameleon with an iron heart. Often, you are formless.

 


Still…I guard my memories of us. Each one a bitter and final gift, of which I am the sole keeper.


I think of you.


You, buried beneath the earth, in the silent diorama of a cemetery.


You, smiling at me in the reflection of our bathroom mirror, as I watch your face through steam and shaveswipes. The slight tremor of the razor as it‘s drawn up from your neck to your jaw line.


You, in various stages of rot.

About the author

I write on two occasions. When I’m in love, and when I’m not. view profile

Published on December 04, 2020

2000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Poetry

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