Eyes bottle dark with a mouthful of flowers Poems

Jake Skeets

Book - 2019

"There is so much bottle-dark beauty here. Jake Skeets is a new, essential voice in poetry, in literature." --TOMMY ORANGE.

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Minneapolis, Minnesota : Milkweed Editions 2019.
Main Author
Jake Skeets (author)
First edition
Physical Description
83 pages ; 23 cm
  • Drunktown
  • Afterparty
  • In the Fields
  • Truck Effigy
  • Tácheeh
  • Let There Be Coal
  • Siphoning
  • Gasoline Ceremony
  • Virginity
  • Maar
  • Swallowing Kept Secrets
  • Dust Storm
  • DL N8V 4 3SOME
  • Dear Brother
  • Child Born of Water
  • Thieving Ceremony
  • Buffalograss
  • How to Become the Moon
  • Love Poem
  • In the Fields
  • Naked
  • Comma
  • Drift(er)
  • In the Fields
  • The Body a Bottle
  • Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers
  • Glory
  • Sleepers
  • A List of Celebrities Who've Stayed at the El Rancho Hotel
  • The Indian Capital of the World
  • American Bar
  • Red Running Into Water
  • Love Letter to a Dead Body
  • In the Fields
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
Review by Booklist Review

A winner of the 2018 National Poetry Series, Skeets' darkly resonant debut book of poetry indulges readers in the dangerous eroticism experienced by its Dine speaker, for whom desire and violence intermingle at every turn: You kissed a man the way I do / but with a handgun. Throughout the book, Skeets experiments with shape and typography, with a few short poems spanning several pages, their lyrics eclipsed by white space on the page. Another poem, The Indian Capital of the World, catalogs a list of men and women killed or discovered deceased, with a man found dead in a field printed in jagged, overlapping lines. Elsewhere in the collection, two poems share the same title, In the Fields, and provide meta-commentary on the function of white space in poetry. In contrast, Skeets plays with the sonic pops of nature's colors ( a snake contorts spackled / dark puddle lilac / licked by heavy sun / off smog soot ) and the hard facts of deadly industry: We bring in the coal that dyes our hands black not like ash / but like the thing that makes a black sheep black. Skeets' scintillating collection joins the work of other excellent Native American writers, such as Dg Okpik, Natalie Diaz, and Sherwin Bitsui.--Diego Báez Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Winner of the 2018 National Poetry Series, Skeets's searing debut is set in Gallup, N.Mex., the so-called "Indian Capital of the World," plagued by alcoholism and violence, where the poet came of age as a young queer man. Skeets's imagery is luminous and dark in turns, his short, heavily punctuated phrases generating a staccato rhythm ("Drunktown. Drunk is the punch. Town a gasp"). Sex and violence are intrinsically linked in Gallup, at least for men, who "only touch when they fuck in a backseat/ go for the foul with thirty seconds left/ hug their son after high school graduation/ open a keg/ stab my uncle forty-seven times behind the liquor store." The poet's sexual awakening is described with a predatory tinge, as a series of brief and clandestine encounters in backseats and bushes: "He bodies into me/ half cosmos, half coyote." Gallup's topography of train tracks and coal mines is depicted with bleak realism through Skeets's trademark brevity: "Men/ spit/ coal/ tracks rise/ like a spine." Skeets subtly rebukes the hypermasculinity that breeds homophobia and violence and excoriates the centuries of oppression that have caused the scourge of alcohol abuse in Native American communities (the poem "The Indian Capital of the World" enumerates a series of alcohol-related deaths drawn from Gallup newspaper headlines). Skeets's raw debut offers beautiful imagery and memorable emotional honesty. (Sept.)

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Virginity Clouds in his throat, six months' worth. He bodies into me half cosmos, half coyote. We become night on Bread Springs road. Shirts off, jeans halfway down, parked by an abandoned trailer. "No one lives here," he whispers. We become porch light curtained by moth wings, powdered into ash. *** Swallowing Kept Secrets Mornings turn out green thread. Alder and safflower--wilds of this ilk-- bloom in bloodstream. His chin soaks in lactic acid, chlorine, and zinc. Untwist from blankets into aftersmoke. Hill sage cusp in his eye. He mouths oxeye and antelope sage. Pinioned, he removes his shirt again to unveil wood rose and feather cindered black. He calls for the fires as he undresses into nightjars. *** Buffalograss Barely-morning pink curtains drape an open window. Roaches scatter, the letter t vibrating in cottonwoods. His hair horsetail and snakeweed. I siphon doubt from his throat for the buffalograss. Seep willow antler press against the memory of the first man I saw naked. His tongue a mosquito whispering its name a hymn on mesquite, my cheek. The things we see the other do collapse words into yucca bone. The Navajo word for eye hardens into the word for war . *** Love Poem You stand by your car, man in meadow now deep white--slow teeth, slow ice. Fallow-night footprints follow through stiff with each crunch in the snow. Frost crystals on my tongue. Your cheek bone cold against my face, a whirring rock marrow deep. − I open the word and crawl inside its spine, barbed wire, turbine with dark belly, coil hierarchy. What word , you ask. Your body a cloud flattened in my hand. Your body coiled with mine. Air snakes over ribcage, cracks into powder. I say thorn . I say mouth . − Desire is criminal. You being here is criminal. You sip from the delta near my tongue. Ossuary deepens at the clavicle. Eyes stutter open. Limbs crepuscular over the bedframe. I watch you shower after. Tributaries, confluence, mineral stains. You rub the holy off your skin. Your fingers in after-soap jaw white. − Bent wasp hums behind your throat. In the iris, orange whispers into deep yellow slather. Uranium corrodes to spalling black, speckles on hyoid horn. Your shoulder blades gawk open, wings sylphlike. Torso woven with sweat chalks down to bone. Skin can be too loud sometimes. − You have the night's bristle--yolk noose from penumbra. I lick the railroad down your back-- admire black water in your hair. Before you go, I unbury the jaw. You swallow frozen sand. I say you can go now, you can go now. Excerpted from Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers: Poems by Jake Skeets All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.