Julie Marie Wade

From the Jeopardy! category SPOILER ALERTS

First, the light & how to describe it—part Manila envelope, part Ticonderoga pencil. Casserole golden at times, then orange as a giant brick of cheese, then brown as tater tots crammed into cargo pant pockets. Idaho may make you squint & squirm, crave some nachos, drink raw eggs from a glass. Yes, the chickens have large talons. It’s an underdog state fit for an underdog story. Note the tetherball sun & the boondoggle clouds. Note the iconic llama cameo. (There’s a small chance our cat is called Tina because of this film.) Second, the plot & how to recount it—Uncle Rico never did throw a football over them mountains, never did strike it rich selling knock-off Tupperware or breast-enhancing supplements. But Pedro shaved his head & became class president. Kip & LaFawnduh fell in love online, then boarded a Greyhound bus together. And our eponymous protagonist, unlikely hero of the Gemstone State, won a talent show dancing to Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat.” Preston seems a sparse, dry place, far from the grid, nary the site of a tourist’s pilgrimage. Dust coats bicycle tires & Rollerblades, hovers above the highways like an unholy halo. It would be nice if you could pull me into town. Third, the supporting cast & how we remember them—Grandma breaks her coccyx on a dune buggy ride; Starla blushes at a Bust Must testimonial; Rex dubs himself sensei of his own dojo while clad in Hammer pants fashioned from an American flag. Critics called it a “quirky charmer,” a “one-hit wonder,” a “weird-ass fairy tale.” They’re not wrong. If you got it, odds are you drew some ligers in your notebooks, too, took some Glamour shots in your basement once upon a time. Now just imagine you’re weightless, in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by tiny seahorses. If you loved it, you’re probably more Deb than Summer Wheatley to this day. More enterprising than prize-winning perhaps, but with a certain staying power, the paradox of which is the way it helps you leave. (Even then, Deb was earning money for college with her home-woven handicrafts.) What amazes me is how we all know a Summer Wheatley, don’t we? Mine was Marissa Sheldon, was Kendra Kostrich, was Julie Winder—who still lives in my town & works at the bowling alley. The other two are unfindable on Facebook. They were cheerleaders way back when, with ESPRIT sweatshirts slipping off their slender shoulders & Keds tennis shoes forever bright-white as the day they bought them. They washed their hair with exotic products like Pantene & VO5 clarifying shampoo. Somehow they always chewed gum the teachers never confiscated, ate Funyuns & SweeTarts by the carton but never gained weight. These were the girls who had it easy or made it look easy—it’s hard to know which. They never seemed to sweat or stink or spill on their clothes, let alone bleed. Whatever they said became Gospel. Whatever they did set the newest trend. But they don’t make many movies about the goodfits, do they? Summer Wheatley isn’t a film in my Netflix queue. I wonder about her, though, like I wonder about Marissa & Kendra & Julie, who shared my name but not my story. Is Summer snickering at her boss from behind her Steno-thin cubicle walls, sending NSFW memes at work, cyberbullying on the Moms of Preston message board? Or maybe she’s flirting with customers at Big J’s Burgers, some of whom remember her when, one of whom offered to pay for Botox if she’d spend one night with him. “What do you think this is—Indecent Proposal?” But then she did it because Trisha, her still-BFF, said she should. Both of them are tired of the old joke: “Is it I-da-ho or you-da-ho?” Tired of guys who stop by for some curly fries & to reminisce about the Happy Hand Jobs Club. “I swear that’s what it was called,” Don smirks, like he’s been smirking all his life. Maybe Summer married him right after high school. Maybe they have a tribe of towheaded children by now. Or maybe they’re divorced but still fight daily over the phone. Can’t stop running into each other in their one exit ramp town. If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that you can make a piñata of whomever you like. Better, perhaps—a piñata of whatever you want. Don’t ask the principal for permission. Just go outside, close your eyes & strike with all your might.

“What is Napoleon Dynamite?


Julia Johnson

At the Delachaise

You tell me your husband is really a leopard.
I tell you that you've had too much wine.
You insist that he has all of the qualities and attributes and characteristics
and the coloring of a leopard. And that he loves you for your beauty.
I ask why you didn't know this when you first met him
and you insist you did and I ask why you would marry a leopard.
You say that you knew no one would want to meet him but that you
had to marry him. I tell you I can't wait to meet him
and I promise I really do.
I really do want to meet him.
We share a tall cone of fries in white paper.
At the end of the night, we take off our masks and step onto the sidewalk,
and kiss each other in the air instead of touching.

Announcing the Winner of the Editor’s Prize for Poetry

Congratulations to Caleb A.P. Parker, our 2023 winner for the Editor’s Prize in Poetry! His poem, “Palinode,” will be available to read in our Spring 2024 issue.

Caleb A.P. Parker, a writer and musician from the industrialized Gulf Coast of Texas, was raised by two Episcopal priests. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Colorado Review, Ninth Letter, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and currently lives in New York City.


Show us your poems!

The Florida Review wants to read your work.

Our submission portal is now open for poetry! We’re interested in poems with emotional and intellectual depth, poems that have texture and verve. Check out our submission guidelines, then submit here.



Review: Undress, She Said by Doug Anderson

Review: Undress, She Said by Doug Anderson
Four Way Books, September, 2022
$17.95, 102 pages
Reviewed by Thomas Page

Undress, She Said by Doug Anderson Cover

What would happen if someone were to break down our stereotype of the male poet, the one spending his time typing away at his keyboard about his problems with his body and those he wishes to share it with? Doug Anderson seeks to find this answer in his latest poetry collection. Undress, She Said is a vividly crafted poetry collection that takes the reader down the path of the traditional masculine poet-voice and his relationship with his sense of place. This sense of place forms the backbone of the collection’s debate about how pride, sexuality, and memory impact the mind of a man in a war-dominate society. Doug Anderson opens with “Prophesy,” setting the stage for the theme of accepting fate that is pervasive throughout the collection. In support of this theme, he writes,


“There is a storm coming,
clouds opening, closing their fists.
No point in boarding up the house” (3).


The speaker in this collection is subjected to a variety of influences that make him desensitized to the many problems of the collection’s world. Undress, She Said is divided into four parts that talk about each of these influences: “Love in Plague Time,” “The War Doesn’t End,” “Homage,” and “Mythologies.”


In “Love in Plague Time,” Anderson writes about the convergence of religion, morality, and desire that complicate how the speaker interacts with his world. This is the longest section of the book and serves as a “part 1” to the collection’s themes. The content of the poems in this section ranges from mental health (“When the Plague Came”) to sexuality (“Masturbation”). This section is imbued with the apathy that comes from a life conflicted between what the speaker wants to do and what he should do. For example, in “Skeleton of Water,” Anderson toes the line between these two ideas, writing,


“I was a failure as a libertine, always falling in love,
lacked the detachment of a true rake, drank to hide
my heart’s anarchy, the knowledge that the angels
I wrestled with were divine” (30).


His technical approach in this section is to alienate the voice from his world through various snapshots of his past. The focus on the past self and the present voice helps to characterize the kind of voice that will be taking the reader throughout the reflections in the rest of the book. The speaker discusses how life in an idyllic setting can make him feel ostracized by his own people.


Anderson centers these themes of morality into the realm of military veterans who come from his society in the second section, “The War Doesn’t End.” This section is primarily focused on veterans from the Vietnam War and how the war has affected their lives. In the title poem “The War Doesn’t End” Anderson reflects on a mixed-race solider he meets in Ho Chi Mihn City after the war has ended, saying that the soldier is:


“Mixed black and Vietnamese, unwelcome here,
unwelcome there, son of a soldier gone” (65).


This “soldier gone” forms the narrative backbone of this second section as Anderson navigates through the indoctrination the Marines received (“Killing with a Name”) to how this allowed them to inflict turmoil on others (“Somewhere South of Danang, 1967”). Anderson demonstrates his narrative skill in his poetry through the lyrical story his voice tells in this section. He also connects the speaker’s problems with his life before in “Love in Plague Time” to the lack of interest in the problems of “The War Doesn’t End.”


The two sides of the speaker—the apathetic citizen (“Love in the Plague Time”) and the desensitized Marine (“The War Doesn’t End”)—melt away and meld in the third section of “Homage.” Anderson spends most of this section in conversation with Li Po, another poet, about how his life’s two previous phases have affected him. He reflects on his aging (“Homage to Li Po”) and how that affects his ultimately nihilistic outlook on life (“Anonymous Civil Servant, T’ang Dynasty”). However, in “Two Poets Drinking,” Anderson realizes that this line of thinking is destructive and that being a part of a relationship is vital to survival:


“He keeps me from stepping off the cliff,
I catch him when he falls.
And fall he will, as will I” (79).


The speaker’s journey throughout this section is to destroy and rebuild who he was in this life, revealing the ways he is trying to be a better person. The conversational form of the third section serves as a paradigm shift in the collection’s overall tone and theme. Indeed it is the bridge of the collection’s lyrical structure.


Anderson ends his collection with “Mythologies,” a contemporary reflection of the themes of Greek mythology and Biblical stories with the themes and settings discussed earlier in the book. Some of his subjects are Odysseus (“Cyclops”) and Adam. In “Survivor,” he combines the legend of Circe with the setting of a strip club:


“I saw my men in that topless bar
that Circe ran, throwing their
combat pay up on the stage,
her tucking the bills in her g-string” (96).


He circles back to the themes presented in “Love in Plague Time” under the guise of using myths and stories to reexamine the themes of alienation. The section and the collection ends with “Age is Asking Me to Give Up Love.” Much like the cyclical nature of myth, Anderson says,


“Might be easier if love gave me up.
It won’t, nor has it sublimated
into something holy” (102).


Anderson’s text is striking due to its streamlined lyricism and juxtaposition of the natural and artificial. This is well-exemplified in the line  “I was shocked, thought in our madness you’d bitten my lip. But it was only blueberries” (82).


Undress, She Said will stand out to readers through its varied reflection of the male poet within the last century.



Two Poems

Halloween: Ends

Michael Myers at the 711 filling up his SUV.
Michael Myers at Home Depot buying fancy drill bits he doesn’t really need.
Michael Myers sitting in the back of the room at the PTA meeting, scrolling through Tinder.
Michael Myers doing taxes.
Michael Myers scrolling through Facebook in the movie theater.
Michael Myers at couple’s counseling.
Michael Myers letting the dog out one night and telling the kids it ran away.
Michael Myers killing all the sex workers in Grand Theft Auto.
Michael Myers sitting in the back pew at church, scrolling through Tinder.
Michael Myers mowing the lawn on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Michael Myers wearing an apron that says I Rub My Own Meat.
Michael Myers getting drunk at his Superbowl party.
Michael Myers explaining the differences between a bratwurst and a sausage to a woman looking at her phone.
Michael Myers renting Saw IV again on Amazon Prime.
Michael Myers taking his mask off to have sex but leaving his socks on.
Michael Myers toweling off in the locker room.
Michael Myers rubbing against people on the train.
Michael Myers at the hotel bar explaining the difference between bourbon and whisky to a woman looking at her phone.
Michael Myers calling up toiletries and answering the door in his bathrobe each time.
Michael Myers ordering his burger well-done.
Michael Myers sending his food back twice.
Michael Myers not tipping.


Another autumn

                        after Mikey Swanberg


walking the mile
to work,


freezing in the morning,
sweating on the way back,


each step a stitch
quilting the heavy blanket


of our unhappiness.
Nothing has happened,


and still—


I imagined my lover

might show up


in my office
before I left,


shut the door
and we would fuck


quietly on the desk


to the rhythm

of the copy machine.


In another version,
he’d walk out to me


halfway along the mile,

stitching his own path,


and say something
he was never going to say,


that he had changed, and I
had changed, but


all for the better,
and we were stronger for it,


as though love
were a sourdough,


dying then restarting,
grown through being given away.


How long did I believe that time
was the most costly thing.


What a hard bargain
to find it is the only thing.




Correlation is not causation, but few things correlate more to a mood than rain.


Do people still come down with “a case of the vapors”?


What is weather if not causality in a landscape?


When it rains it pours. How does the Morton Salt Girl maintain her kicky attitude, happy under that umbrella and never bored with life?


Half the idiots in charge of this country don’t even know enough to come in out of the rain.


The Great Plains are basically a desert and thus Nebraska is a fairly dry state. In Lincoln, my Grandpa Boo was obsessed with his rain gauge, and therefore I, too, obsessed became.


Raining cats and dogs may come from the Greek cata doxa, “contrary to experience or belief.” I can’t believe how hard it’s raining!


Swipe a fingertip heart in the misty windowpane.


I hate to be the one to say it, but your parade’s going to get rained on.


Never have I ever been so depressed as when I lived for one year in the Pacific Northwest. It literally always rains and people metaphorically are always taking rainchecks. The Seattle No, I later learned it was termed, aka the Seattle Freeze.


A rain of arrows. Soot and ash raining down. What is life but a rain of blows?


This is the third year in a row that the rains have failed.


A peer-reviewed study found that of all 50 states, Washington ranked 48th for the trait of extraversion.


Gentle rain on the roof is as pleasing as alliteration, day or night, right as rain.


Does rain like being the external correlative of sorrow? Of pain? That feeling of tears going into your ears when you’re lying on your back and crying.


When you listen to “Famous Blue Raincoat,” what shade of blue do you see?


At this point it’d take a meteor shower to get the earth really clean.


Droplets stitch the day with gray silken threads. Come rain or shine, the hits just keep coming.



Two Poems

Witness Statement

And, behold, in the year
of unencumbered plague


those who trafficked in wickedness
did so on palatial golf courses.


An orphan cried for succor
and received spit.


Nothing of this was new
or profound, only more naked.


And, lo, I fed my son a breakfast
bar on a dying planet.


And on a dying planet
the wicked watered


my son’s playground with poisons.
They hallowed his oceans with lead.


Tell me what should I have done
but bathe bread in peanut butter


mince Flintstones in a cup of cola.
And, lo, the wicked thought only


of my boy as a horsetail dreams
of flies. His chest rose and fell


as we both tacked the garbage
truck rumbling its track.


In this was no sin.
In this was only another


form of hunger: the truckness
of the truck begetting wonder


begetting want. Oh, felt my boy
with every rattling atom.


And the wicked kenneled
a brown boy so like my son.


I said, I am sickened.
I said, I will maim you


with my claws before you
take their boy, my boy whose laugh


turns this truck ripe with refuse
to some radiant blessing.


Anubis at the DMV

Let me be blunt:

            fate is no whim.


It is the voice of

            a thousand bureaucrats intoning

                        now serving 554.


If diligence is a knife

            you are our bread.


if service is a repeating decimal

            a herd of digits flashed to life

                        you’re dead last.


                        The sarcophagal cero.


Each attendant is a monolith

                        in a desert you wander

                                    an hour, a lifetime.


Who can know?

            The intervals grow



Think of a cat

            toying mindlessly with a string

                        an entire day




Past the grave

            vice or virtue is simply

                        the dust we brush off.


Let it accumulate.

            Let the carpet fiber

                        crack beneath your feet


Now you want to know

            how much longer

                        a day, a year, a league.


Like all dictators

            I simply push the beads

                        across, then back.


Who am I

            to enumerate

                        your wait time?


Who to tell you

            how to spend your death?



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.




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.