Indian Eden. Open tooth. Bone bruise. This town split in two.
Clocks ring out as train horns, each hour hand drags into a screech—
iron, steel, iron. The minute hand runs its fingers
through the outcrops.
Drunktown. Drunk is the punch. Town a gasp.
In between the letters are boots crushing tumbleweeds,
a tractor tire backing over a man’s skull.
Men around here 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 a liquor store
A bar called Eddie’s sits at the end of the world. By the tracks,
drunk men get some sleep. My father’s uncle tries to get some
under a long-bed truck. The truck backs up to go home.
I arrange my father’s boarding school soap bones on white space
and call it a poem. With my father, I come up on death
staggering into the house with beer on the breath.
Mule deer splintered in barbed tendon. Gray highway
veins narrow—push, pull under teal and red hills.
A man is drunk-staggering into northbound lanes,
dollar bills for his index and ring fingers. Sands glitter
with broken bottles—greens, deep blues, clears, and golds.
This place is White Cone, Greasewood, Sanders,
White Water, Bread Springs, Crystal, Chinle, Nazlini,
Indian Wells, and all muddy roads lead from Gallup.
The sky places an arm on the near hills.
On the shoulder, dark gray—almost blue—bleeds
turquoise into hazy blue
no gray or gold
or oil black seeped through.
If I stare long enough, I see my uncle in a mirror. The bottle caps we use for eyes.
An owl has a skeleton of three letters
o twists into l
the burrowing owl burrows
under dead cactus
feathers fall on horseweed
and skull bone blown open
Film by Monte Nickles and James B. Joyce.
Part of Songs at the Confluence: Indigenous Poets on Place, a digital event produced by Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation and Tippet Rise in collaboration with In-Na-Po (Indigenous Nations’ Poets).
Jake Skeets, “Drunktown” from Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers. Copyright © 2019 by Jake Skeets. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Milkweed Editions, www.milkweed.org.