Daniel Ruiz

My Process

I had an idea to write
about something I’d never written about.
I chose the black swan that attacked me at Lake Eola
but I’d told too many people about it
so I chose the difference
between cardinals and blue jays,
who are bigger and apparently meaner,
but it was still about
birds and birds are all over
my poems so I chose my poems
and found I’d never not done it that way.
I’m no executive chef.
No one wants thumbprints on beef tips,
beard hairs in their French onion soup.
(4 hours it takes to caramelize an onion.
4 seconds to ruin it by itching your chin.)
So I did what a good son must do. I asked
my family permission to choose them
which they rejected. They think what makes
a movie makes a poem—not
the nothing that happens at home, not
that nothing happens at home.
My grandma’s favorite movie?
The Bourne Identity. My grandpa weeps watching
documentaries about Celia Cruz. What happens at home
should be private, he said to me. Write
about our country instead. But our country
belongs to another, I said. Then there’s still
time to be a priest like your uncle, he said,
which was a real dead end,
so I chose my friends, my favorite poets,
but instead of saying Johann wrestles tigers
Johann gets to be a tiger wrestling
with his emotions, roaring into his ruined
habitat of tall grass and trees.
This depressed me. My poem about it
never reached the Senate floor, my target
audience, even though Johann’s a lawyer.
I gave that up eventually
and chose game theory
because I wanted to explore the various
unintended side-effects of endless juxtaposition.
I wanted kaleidoscopes and bottlerockets and
philosophical texts and all the mistakes I ever made
measured together on an indiscriminate plane
where they could collaborate on my mind,
that ball of rubberbands.



Skyward Guillotine

To take a seed
for a shell of petals
ribboned by a stem.

To name an almond Flavor, a pan
Hot Hand.

To undo the table
and screw it back into the tree.

Who follows here knows
no drop-off: you can replace
the names of chemicals
in a bomb with the names of its victims.

You can swing on these linguistic tendrils
like vines through a jungle of monuments
and it becomes all the more obvious.

Pour water
on a wooden table
it becomes a sphere.

Are you looking for you reflection
inside of me somewhere?

I electrocute a candle in my windpipe.
Exhale and call it voice.

I entice the echo to shape up.



Daniel Ruiz was born in Puerto Rico. A finalist for the National Poetry Series, he is a recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and the Michener Center for Writers. His poems can be found in POETRY, Missouri Review, Denver Quarterly, The Journal, Meridian, and elsewhere.