Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers

Jake Skeets. Milkweed, $16 (96p) ISBN 978-1-57131-520-5
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.)
Reviewed on : 08/14/2019
Release date: 09/01/2019
Genre: Poetry
Ebook - 978-1-57131-992-0
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