Ode to Rob’s Closet
It’s not that the job market for White
Ethnic Studies majors was hit particularly
hard when I graduated. It just felt like it.
Rotting in the privilege I learned about.
Lost in the tiny matrix of my dad’s couch.
The chicken-shit son come home to roost
all over his earned retirement until
Rob called offering you: Rob’s closet!
You were my prison cell sized horizon.
Your guilt-free cheap rent, room enough
for what little self-respect I had left. I had
already slept a few months in an actual hole-
in-the-wall of another friend’s hallway—awkward.
That led to my dad’s couch, a.k.a. nowhere.
You had a sliding door that closed almost.
You were a poet’s dream-nest, closet.
Not a metaphor. ALL the metaphors!
For example: If Rob’s room was his
castle then I was his Moat Monster!
My job: to fart Rob out of nightmares!
Instead of failing to become my dad’s
dreams I just messed up Rob’s rest.
And I really think we got each other—
Rob and I had this two-way telepathy
where I could sort of see him, imagining
me—who I really was—jacking off to
when I was in you. Closet: where I told
shame to fuck itself while I fucked myself
discreetly as a Moat Monster! Closet
where my starving-artist swagger
rocked the least-bad moonwalk ever
across that little patch left bare…
I called that your midriff, remember?
Sexy Closet, I called you Babbling Nook,
rough drafts of a future in verse I bounced
off the Make-Love-To-The-Earth eco-sex-
poster I stuck you with…sorry if that hurt.
I hope my Cats-In-Hats calendar didn’t feel
tacky, piercing your already peeling skin—Sorry:
That was a pin pun. That wasn’t the worst one.
I mean…Is it cool I’m pretending we have some
sort of human connection? I’ve wanted to ask
every person I ever met that question
but never you, closet where I sobbed until
linoleum peeled, your floorboards waterlogged
with who I should be someday dissolving as
Rob sighed as if to say I’MTRYINGTOSLEEP!
Such peace in my Oakland cocoon until
the BART train screeched the grind through
Rob’s window. And with the chalkboard-scratch
of your door I opened to a new day knowing,
like you: I can’t carry a bedframe but I’m more
than just hanging clothes. I don’t make dollars;
I take what I’m afraid of and I make poems
that turn self-hate to more love every day since I moved out –
I’m in a room now with a window and doorknob
but I stay humble. I think about you: raised
ceiling, your gargantuan, jarring lightbulb
illuminating where nothing was worth seeing
before you showed me that home has to mean
hope, has to mean growth—wherever I find it:
a friend’s closet, my notepad, the road, alone –
Wherever I already am hiding is the only place
I have to go and try and live half
as much as I did
in Rob’s closet.
Bio: Abe Becker‘s poetry has appeared in After Happy Hour Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, Yellow Chair Review, Cal Literature and Arts Magazine, and numerous other journals and anthologies. He is a Grand Slam Champion of UC Berkeley and a four time finalist of CUPSI, twice as Cal Slam’s coach and twice as a poet. He also won Group Piece Finals at the National Poetry Slam as a member of the city of Berkeley’s team. Abe is the author of two plays and the chapbook Saturday’s Lunch Entrée. He works with quadriplegic people as a caretaker and lives in Oakland.
Artwork: Lorenzo Tianero