By Elizabeth Hazen


The hallway to your father’s closet lengthens

like the hallway in a horror flick, and already

breathless at the threshold, you inhale the musky-

raw smells of tweed and leather that will settle

in your hair, so hours later you will think

of the closet, of the photos in the magazines

hidden on his sweater shelf—of the lighting

in these pictures, orangey-pink, suggesting flesh

and places deep inside the body that you

have not yet found. The women—spreading wide,

splaying endless legs across the page

like fleshy insects, turning themselves inside out,

bodies spilling like secrets—compel you

to flip to less distressing images of breasts

and hands, flicking tongues. You skim their interests:

Vanessa likes kung fu. Brandi studies

the stars. You want eyes that prowl like that, dreams

worthy of print, and lingerie that serves no purpose

but to accentuate the perfect nakedness

you still believe all girls grow into— Now

space closes in around you—breath quickens—

fingers frantic— undoing—undone—verging on—

in your father’s closet time suspends itself,

extends beyond the shut door, promising escape.

The women do not see you, just as you

do not see them, do not see yourself: your eyes

are closed. You disappear behind your father’s

flannel suits, and when you emerge from the closet,

flushed and reeling, no one has noticed you

were gone; the world remains unchanged, though lingering

on the tip of your tongue, a word taking shape

like the answer to a question no one has asked you yet.

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ELIZABETH HAZEN is a poet and essayist whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Poetry, American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. Her first book, Chaos Theories, was published in 2016. Her second book, Girls Like Us, is out now. She lives in Baltimore.

8 responses to “Closet”

  1. Irene Zion says:


    This is a wonderful poem.
    It takes the reader right into the closet with you,
    and makes him young as you were.
    Good job.

  2. BRAVO! I love this. It left me breathless!

    “Fleshy insects. . . ” AMAZING!

  3. Please don’t look into MY closet!

  4. james magruder says:

    I love this poem.

  5. Fantastic and wonderfully timed with April being Poetry month! Thanks for this.

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