Daniel Ruiz


There’s no such thing as flight—
at least not Superman-style,
pointing a finger then floating
after it, his abs and muscles useless
missiles against ghosts. We pretend
the end is behind us, or ahead,
but never around, where the ether
hardens to a crumble and ten billion
steps turn grass to gravel. Salt
statues melt into a boiling ocean,
its steam triggering sweat under
the wingpits of seagulls, forced
to squint at upturned fish. You try
flapping your arms and getting
anywhere, or rubbing your temples
like Aladdin’s lamp, meanwhile
someone you’re thinking about fondly
rolls their eyes at you and a hummingbird’s
heart skips 1500 beats. We think the sky,
like the ocean over the scalp of sand,
weighs down the earth, that just by standing
we can touch both, that just by thinking
we can levitate, but I don’t want to relinquish
myself to some mystical energy which cuts
through denial, the ten-thousand layer cake,
then lifts me like an arrow into some bushes.
Ever hold a beach ball underwater? It tips
you over, then blasts off to break the surface,
so I must overthrow the government of my thoughts.


Now that the living outnumber the dead,
it’s time to raise the ocean floor, but first
I must test my courage by digging
through ozones of water, sifting through
hairstyles of garbage and carcasses, deep
deserts where sand is usurped by volcanic rock.
I lied: the dead outnumber the living 15:1.
In my flashlight, the ocean floor
is a mausoleum of clean bones. For centuries
they hovered in a hydro-abyss, but now
that the light has reached them, they’re beginning
to float back up, so we don’t have much time.

Catalejo means spyglass in English.
It’s a kaleidoscope’s dream to become one.
Look through its lens and you may illuminate
the spider string tied to every object, or you may
opt for the direct route, which is more painful,
because the road forks open, but no matter which trail
you take you return to that divergence, only to learn
you are the infinitesimal dot that closes the loop.



Reality Checkmate

I thought we were all harkening
back to tell Don Quixote
Foucault said he invented

humans, and now all of us are
eternally punished with proving
literature is about literature

after all—after all
those years of not even
needing to write it down,

then writing it to praise
someone with way more
power than you, then

writing about a flower
to piss off someone
with way more power than you,

who feels entitled to praise.
I guess I was wrong
about the battleships

we boasted atop: a shepherd
makes a great captain
because his sailors know

they won’t survive the sea.
Meanwhile, a lost sheep
finds grass to eat

anywhere it wants,
and does not mind,
like Lorca, letting its hair

grow long. This sea
we worship is for worship
only. In it float sheep.

What about me?



Daniel Ruiz is a Puerto Rican poet and translator. He is a recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and the Michener Center for Writers. A finalist for the National Poetry Series, his poems can or will be found in POETRY, Crazyhorse, Missouri Review, Bennington Review, Meridian, and elsewhere.