Did You Miss Your Saturn Return

There is a spectrum of brightness. You might not have realized
that gleam is stronger than glimmer. The latter suggests movement,
like when sunlight hits an unstill surface and we call it dancing.
Similarly, I know water isn’t blue, it just reflects the colors
around it. And I know it isn’t solid—it just invites being touched.
Yes, I’m talking about hope again, and you are in your bed all day.
I’m googling the concept of a Saturn return because, thematically,
I like the idea of reaching an age where it’s acceptable to change
my mind. You don’t believe in astrology. I’m not sure you believe
in anything, and I worry you missed the chance to see it all fresh.
I’m worried it’s easier to try to fix your problems instead
of sitting and feeling mine. I’m not a good swimmer because
I struggle to breathe through my panic. I struggle to let my chest
loosen when I walk down the street. My chest, surely it was tight
any time you touched me and we pretended water was solid, blue.




Welcoming Our New Poetry and Fiction Editors!

We are thrilled to welcome to our new Poetry and Fiction Editors! Read more about them and their work below.

Rochelle Hurt (Poetry Editor) is a poet and essayist. She is the author of three poetry collections: The J Girls: A Reality Show (Indiana University Press, 2022), which won the Blue Light Books Prize from Indiana Review; In Which I Play the Runaway (Barrow Street, 2016), which won the Barrow Street Poetry Prize; and The Rusted City: A Novel in Poems (White Pine, 2014). Her work has been included in Poetry magazine and the Best New Poets anthology. She’s been awarded prizes and fellowships from Arts & Letters, Poetry International, Vermont Studio Center, and Yaddo. Originally from the Ohio Rust Belt, Hurt now lives in Orlando and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Florida.

Brandon Amico (Poetry Editor) is the author of a collection of poetry, Disappearing, Inc (Gold Wake Press, 2019), and the recipient of a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship. His poetry can be found in journals and anthologies including The Best American Poetry 2020, The Adroit Journal, Blackbird, Booth, Copper Nickel, The Cincinnati Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Hunger Mountain, Kenyon Review, New Ohio Review, New South, Slice, and Waxwing.

Blake Sanz (Fiction Editor) is the author of The Boundaries of Their Dwelling, a collection of short stories that won the 2021 Iowa Short Fiction Award. His short fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, Joyland, EcotonePuerto del Sol, and other literary magazines. He and his writing have been featured in Poets & Writers, Electric Literature, and other national forums. Originally from Louisiana, he teaches fiction at the University of Central Florida.

Submissions to our 2023 Editor’s Prizes in Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Nonfiction are now open! The winner in each genre will receive $1,000 and publication in the Review. All entries are considered for publication, and all entrants receive a complimentary one-year subscription to the journal, as well as the option to purchase an additional discounted subscription. We thank you for your support of The Florida Review, and look forward to reading your work.


Accidental Selfie in the Photo of a Window Quote

West Hollywood, 2019

Who should I look to be when AIDS took a generation of leaders & artists & mentors & thinkers & lovers from me…


But the photo is a ghost: reflected boy who takes the picture, boy becoming thread. Boy sick again, undiagnosed, to whom these words will ring divine. Paint to pane, this sigil for departed, lives held in the glare against this glass. The photo is a ghost: boy not a boy but body double with rejection. Somehow, living then; a wasting king left wanting for long curls and smoother cheeks. The blue dress that will save boy still years off. Boy then is short hair and a loose black tee, scruffed face behind the camera. Above, branches off the sidewalk trees part and drop down midday light. Sun-skinned here, boy gospels with a generation. And that night, perched upon a tub’s ledge soaking feet and tonguing cankers, legions call again. Will wash boy’s wounds with sweetened salves, will offer up salvation through new life. Today that boy is gone but isn’t to be mourned. The sun still knows this spirit, how bright to light her walk below the trees.


*This poem appears in The Florida Review 46.2, Winter 2022.


Christmas Eve

A small tree leans against a wall. The windows, frozen over

lakes. There is no sky. Day and night.


Somewhere, grief is a place

no one is dying from. Heavy organ music. A cathedral, hymning the half-dark.


If you know anything, it is that a child dies at least once

in childhood.


You remember snow. Its quiet. How no one came.


How time can make small that which is no longer small.


Still. Imagine it is just another night. A cocktail and a cigarette in hand. A friend

saying, take care, before putting on a coat and getting in a cab. The snow, flitting

under streetlights. The moon laid across the lake by the park.


Imagine a life that you wanted to be yours. How you asked

to deserve it. Blue oars. A boat on a lake clear as harm.


Imagine some forever no one has named

heaven. Where loneliness is a mask

one is forgiven when it is taken off.


The last thing said or not said. Its sudden importance.


And all is blue. Day and night.

And all is blue. Day and night.




Three Poems


The aftertaste of beauty is anxiety.
The foretaste of history is prediction
as if the tongues had been written on.
I had been doing the ironies
till they were flat and unwrinkled,
the cuffs standing sharp and the pleats
and the blastula beginning with a dimple.
The background of Longinus was time.
The preface on paper was illusion.
In this the figures of the fixed wings
took on the pressed faces of threats and promises,
Peregrinus naming the poles of a loadstone,
the brass of the locks bitter but secure.



There is no coincidence
even quirks that become tradition
are rain practicing rivers on the glass
History is all antecedents
Showing how once upon a time persists
is a pleasant fiction with variations
chorus as footnotes coconuts
starting new islands on plain paper
folded to a boat and set adrift



If you’d just change the accented syllable
to the second we’d all feel better
Blood in its lessened pressure included
It would bring back the creek
where we’d ride past the plaster pig
in a suit to see the gathering tadpoles
redstarts starting red into the underbrush
and stingrays would come to the divers
entangled in drift nets and rusted hooks
to be blissfully relieved



Blues for King Kong

the soul tends to hide deep beneath the blues • & pain has chosen to call blues beautiful • & pain could not have seen things differently • when someone owns a thing we call it their possession • & yet what do we call it when some sinister spirit has entered them?  • of curtains that are mostly drawn • of a blues felt more intimately with the eyes closed • slow song for a masochist • a gentle tapping of feet •  bassist under collagen of bones • bassist of a chest-deep beating  • & some no longer look their friends in the eyes • others have not noticed themselves becoming islands • sunlight as a clarity reflected by water • moonlight as uncertainty reflected by water • drown under sounds of a profound saxophone sorrow • soak in softening passages of pain moving through the body • a falsetto waters the seeds of anguish  • protruding from the mouth • the roots of a soul reaching for light


Cool Side of the Pillow

Have you ever heard the sound of a screen door

closing old-timer slow?—Inching madness to the edge

of its seat?— Think of shoes on the wrong feet.

And how fingernails scratch the chalkboard

to test your impulses.  When the dog shits

in the house, and the house isn’t yours.

Lost keys. Bad haircut. Bad ink. Bad poem.

Broken tooth. Ulcer. Speeding ticket.

Bad job. Foreclosure. Your ovaries tied.

Boyfriend sexting someone else.

Your kid hates you. Your dying friend has

no insurance policy. You’re addicted to soap.

Boss screaming down your throat.

You burnt the turkey. Is it worth mentioning,

that moss has no roots?— We know something

has been tampered with, when the seal

is broken.  Only one thing to do, don’t surrender,

turn over your armor, dream a little dream.



Murphy’s Law

30 rabies shots, my uncle got
when, after cornering a rat for fun,
and drunk, it lept and bit his bare chest.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes, they
say—what can happen, will—Which is what
my dad was thinking when he passed the pub

so aptly named on the day they sawed
through my skull. This is the perversity
of the universe. You go outside

to catch your breath and butcher’s knives wink
in every window. Miles’ trumpet intones
So What while atom bombs dream of flouting

their dormancy. The night before surgery,
I lay on the plush hotel bed, staring
at a room service form. When I was

little, I was obsessed with opulence.
I wanted filet mignon, lobster
delivered to my imagined penthouse

as I watched cartoons: a toddler bobbing
along the steel girders of a nascent
skyscraper, pianos crashing down, turning teeth

into sonatas. Sometimes you have
to confront the world’s malice like a mouse
who’s been burned too many times by spring-

loaded-cheese. I remember assuming
the hospital’s food would be suspect.
Juice with plastic peel-off top, overly-

salted soup, but, I thought: that’s only
if they don’t slice into my temporal
lobe. If they don’t accidentally

give me a lobotomy, or cut my
head clean off. I’ll be lucky to gag
on pot pie while mom scrolls WebMD.

Two Poems

On Our Date I Forget the “Birds of Prey” Exhibit is Closed Sunday

Grace is just life
caught in the throat. Imprinted
and broken winged.
Crow hit by my Toyota, muddy.
Peace and rehab three-syllable words

when slurred. Grace of certainty
in the sun’s smallness—small enough

to set behind your hand,
yet still lift like a hand
on her waist while facing a dark nerve.


Her to touch, a crow
not very much a crow, wingless
who must hop from branch to branch

as crippled form of grace,
as chapel wind is pious, bows
in gospel like fletching
post-launch, inalterable flight.
Who dares claim the feathers
of such a fucked-up bird for



Rhetorical questions claim
power from the empty, ellipses
lit like street lamps, spacing
regular pools through dark.
Anyways you forgot
your walking boots. Leave
like the cut that gliding scissors
pass. You came into this life
like chains deliver the flightless.
Like silence delivers a stillborn grace.



The wanting child breaks a bowl
before he loses his first tooth. Research says


we regress before moving forward


the way white tides marshal themselves

before they break. A circle


opens into a spiral and the trauma


opens into an echo. But I don’t wanna

echo. But despite the begging


watch the hitting segue into bars


and showers full of right heat. The way

washing becomes a sloughing


or a person becomes a lesson.




On the Levee Once Again I Walk to Sharpen

my body to a blade. Weapon for nothing. Recall my first diet,
66 pounds, my proud refusal of a fist-sized milk carton.

My mother’s sister at 40, spooning Gerber peaches
into her mouth at the family table. Recall the game

my mother taught me when I was a teenager—
—find someone on the street who has my body—

Now without her how I will sharpen. Will be
vapor. Smoke. Furious at the world for nothing.

Rushing down the year’s dark corridor, street unspooling
every morning, tracking miles.

How I craved my mother’s judgement. Be vapor. Be smoke.
Be blade. Remember how it feels to desire

nothing, not even touch’s static. Remember why
emptiness still comforts like nothing else.

I will shrink myself down to where I don’t matter.
Thumbelina, tight and safe in a walnut shell.

Yet grief thickens everything. Even the imprint of my body.

Who’s keeping count.