Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers

Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers

by Jake Skeets


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Selected by Kathy Fagan as a winner of the 2018 National Poetry Series, Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers is a debut collection of poems by a dazzling geologist of queer eros.

Drunktown, New Mexico, is a place where men “only touch when they fuck in a backseat.” Its landscape is scarred by violence: done to it, done on it, done for it. Under the cover of deepest night, sleeping men are run over by trucks. Navajo bodies are deserted in fields. Resources are extracted. Lines are crossed. Men communicate through beatings, and football, and sex. In this place, “the closest men become is when they are covered in blood / or nothing at all.”

But if Jake Skeets’s collection is an unflinching portrait of the actual west, it is also a fierce reclamation of a living place—full of beauty as well as brutality, whose shadows are equally capable of protecting encounters between boys learning to become, and to love, men. Its landscapes are ravaged, but they are also startlingly lush with cacti, yarrow, larkspur, sagebrush. And even their scars are made newly tender when mapped onto the lover’s body: A spine becomes a railroad. “Veins burst oil, elk black.” And “becoming a man / means knowing how to become charcoal.” Rooted in Navajo history and thought, these poems show what has been brewing in an often forgotten part of the American literary landscape, an important language, beautiful and bone dense.

Sculptural, ambitious, and defiantly vulnerable, the poems of Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers are coal that remains coal, despite the forces that conspire for diamond, for electricity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781571315205
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publication date: 09/10/2019
Series: National Poetry Series
Pages: 96
Sales rank: 181,916
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Jake Skeets is Black Streak Wood, born for Water’s Edge. He is Diné from Vanderwagen, New Mexico. He holds an MFA in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Skeets is a winner of the 2018 Discovery/ Boston Review Poetry Contest and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Skeets edits an online publication called Cloudthroat and organizes a poetry salon and reading series called Pollentongue, based in the Southwest. He is a member of Saad Bee Hózhǫ́: A Diné Writers’ Collective and currently teaches at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona.

Read an Excerpt


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.



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.

Table of Contents




− −

In the Fields

Truck Effigy


Let There Be Coal


Gasoline Ceremony



Swallowing Kept Secrets

Dust Storm

− −


Dear Brother

Child Born of Water

Thieving Ceremony


How to Become the Moon

Love Poem

In the Fields



− −

In the Fields


The Body A Bottle

Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers



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

− −


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