Issue 5 / Poetry

Poetry by Jake Skeets

Child Born of Water

This is how I pleasure him,              Father.

Undo prayer,


Hands on neck,


Blister.             I bend

over              crescent



I bend again,                                 reach back;

a god on knees.



down pour on canyon wall.

We husk apart, machine                   pollen

and chaos.

Father, I’ve been afraid

of this lightning—                            the boy

    has me oceaned.



One Night Stand

Find heft in these hotel sheets     corrupt from knuckles to tongue

pale boy conquer this     run this skin beneath yours     rub against this

abdomen     this forearm     this soft cotton     scatter my vertebrae     sift

through my pores like corn kernels


Feel my body like an unattended blackness     a portal     a kept sake

not meant for keeping     settle me     remove the pillows and rupture me

I feel a lack of breath     a tightness my great grandmother felt     submerged

waist-deep in river     running from soldiers


Kneel like you would a shadow     an aching spine     note the territory

of blood     of hair     pale boy drink up the dark beer to soothe the venom white

of your throat     become mine     blossom through     ride the mantle

of my pelvis     uptake the conquering     feel it in your belly


Do not pardon the vanquish     the settling     heave over the whirlpool

at the bottom of the sink     shelter your ribs think of the shower

the next morning     a cold vessel to clean the sweat soak     small repayment

for pox blankets in a prairie winter



From Under His Cover

I tell them at noon in a damp hooghan. The sun whispers

in from the eastern door. My father keeps low in prayer.

Tobacco too vibrant in my teeth. The peyote root

hangs too heavy to stomach. The ground unsmooths


beneath me and I feel the confession swell like bile.

My older sister cries with me. I still smell the stove coffee

and dawn rain. My mother digs cold into the sand. Smoke

curls between my lips as I shudder through dry heaves.


Words come, searing my tongue. I tell them I’ve kissed

boys. I tell them about my boyfriend and how he’s Arizona,

Tsé Nitsaa Deez’áhí. His clan is Coyote Pass, born for Zuni

People, from Under His Cover and Black Sheep. He holds


his hair like Born of Water. I tell them about his singing

and how he ate dinner with us during the Navajo Fair.

My brother places his arm around my shoulder. “It means

you’re holy,” my aunt weeps. “It means you’re holy.”


My father hands me an eagle feather, puffy at the plume.

“For protection,” he hymns. The smell of ceremony

in my hair will never truly leave. I tell them at noon in a damp

hooghan. I tell them I am able to love without them.



Jake Skeets is Diné from the Navajo Nation. He holds two undergraduate degrees from the University of New Mexico. His poems have appeared in Red Ink Magazine and Teenage Sewage. Currently, he is pursuing an MFA in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Skeets was the 2014 Native Writer Award recipient for the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. Selected by Oliver de la Paz.

Image © Julia Lu via Flickr Creative Commons.