Cover Photo: An illustration of a shrubland/desert scene in the American Southwest
Illustration by Sirin Thada for Catapult

A Man Called After Dark

the smoke of belt burn / and nectarines and me / — I will learn to love him


a green of wild antenna fireweed and shadscale

television static his name is After Dark

with the sounds of wet alligator juniper

with the beak break of a crow cocking its head to the south

long leadplant and saltbush circuits of root and stem gnarled from the mouth

in his name — his head sky thick not yet cloud or rain

for white candles an unlocked gun box

a late evening gnat sung sweet as dark soil and wolftail

the meadow sleepgrass as he carries into his pit

and nectarines and me — I will learn to love him

through canyons like pink water

when he turns key to engine — he tells me he dances

out the open windows of train cars in temples

at the hem sown with a sunken backroad

he drives off dusts the horizon

as if sunrise as if all of it — all its beauty

Jake Skeets is the author of Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, winner of the National Poetry Series. He is the recipient of a 92Y Discovery Prize, a Mellon Projecting All Voices Fellowship, an American Book Award, and a Whiting Award. He is from the Navajo Nation and teaches at Diné College.