Jake Skeets’s poems sometimes sound like gears grinding in an old pickup truck you’ve barely kept going for years, sometimes like a heavy pint glass being slammed down on a sticky bar moments before someone says something they’ll always regret, and sometimes like a tender, consoling whisper. This collection will take your breath away and give it back with something added.
— From Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers
Named a "Best Poetry Book of 2019" by Electric Literature, Entropy Mag, and Auburn AvenueNamed a "Favorite Book of 2019" by Lit HubNamed a "Best Queer Book of 2019" by BuzzFeed and Book Marks 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.