The Florida Review and Aquifer Author Publications: July 2020

Small literary magazines are integral parts of our writing community, allowing emerging and experienced writers to push their work forward with new experiments in self-expression and creative freedom. Our writers make up that essential part of literary magazines, and we welcome their work and help build writers’ opportunities. Here at The Florida Review, we love to celebrate the successes of our published authors. We encourage you to support the new books of these writers, who have been previously published in our print magazine and/or our online magazine, Aquifer.


Dilruba Ahmed (“’With Affirmative Action and All’” and “View-Master Virtual Reality Starter Pack: Mortality Reel,” Aquifer July 4th, 2017 and Editors’ Award for “Fever,” “Mojlishpur,” and “Clear Water,” TFR 31.2) has a new book of poems, Bring Now the Angels, from the Pitt Poetry Series.

Mary Pauline Lowry (“Texas Teeth,” TFR 42.2) has a new book out as of April 2020. The Roxy Letters (Simon & Shuster) is Lowry’s second novel.

Michael Hettich (“Shark Valley” and “Love Poem,” Aquifer July 12, 2018; “The Light of Ancient Stars,” TFR 40.2; and “Crows,” TFR 31.2) has a new collection of poems, To Start an Orchard, out from Press 53.

Ariel Francisco’s (“On the Eve of the Largest Hurricane Ever Recorded My Ex Tells Me She Hopes I Don’t Die and, I Mean, Whatever,” TFR 42.2) collection of poetry, A Sinking Ship Is Still a Ship, is out in spring 2020 from Burrow Press.

Paige Lewis (Editors’ Award 2016 with “Angel, Overworked” in TFR 41.1) has her first collection of poetry, Space Struck, out from Sarabande Books.

John Sibley Williams (“Hekla (Revised),” TFR 42.1) won the Orison Poetry Prize, and his collection of poetry, As One Fire Consumes Another, was published by Orison Books in 2019. We have an interview with him and another poem forthcoming in Aquifer later this month.

Miriam Cohen (“Recess Brides,” TFR 40.1) recently released her first collection of stories, Adults and Other Children, from Ig Publishing, including a reprint of “Recess Brides.”


Two Poems

“With Affirmative Action and All”

There is not enough silence in all of Pittsburgh
to explain the quiet in that room


between the two of you, not the televised silence
of a Steelers’ riot on mute; not the stillness


of the Duquesne Incline failing to scale
Mt. Washington and rise above the grime


of steel mills. Not the muffled gasps of black boys
kicked and dunked by whites while lifeguards


look on at the Highland Park pool, summer ’31.
Not the dampened blast of the Lower Hill, razed


to pave a parking lot and build the Civic Arena,
with “no social loss” in bulldozing homes


of immigrants and blacks. Not the stifled sobs
of teen August Wilson fleeing Gladstone


when his teacher accuses him of plagiarism.
But Pittsburgh, why bully you, City of Bridges:


steely with pride, grappling with all your histories?
Why choose you, and this old horse I ride


repeatedly, haphazardly, backwards through time—
why choose you, when, in any given American


town, there is a room inside a room inside a room
where thought shapes word shapes action—shapes


memory, shapes history—where synaptic gaps
deepen, now, into fissures, into canyons.

View-Master Virtual Reality Starter Pack: Mortality Reel

A canyon of memory floods
as the zip line slips: first bike,
first dance, first kiss. Broken bone.
And more: first love, wedding cake,
two kids. Soft spot pulsing
on each newborn’s crown. And you,
in the blur of greenery and river
and craggy rock, you release
every spring, pulley, or counterweight
that ever held you back.


Slammed by a PAT bus. Mercy. Swift
and painless. Seven angels gasp
but you are unperturbed, descending
with a steaming non-fat chai tea latte
into the counterflow lane from the curb.


One moment you leap and dance amid
a snow-topped mountain cap backdrop
and the next, without notice, you huddle
in bed, doting spouse dropping one perfect
tear upon your furrowed brow. Somewhere
afar, a sitar twangs and wails. A mysterious
virus. Rare injury. Lightning seizing
your whole and healthy spine
when you least expect it. No
choreography for grief: an entire troupe
of sequined mourners, it seems,
will fail to bring you back.


Legs crossed upon a mat in the dusty outpost
you attain such enlightenment that time slows,
giving you full minutes to regard the smooth
cartridge hurtling toward your chest. It makes
of the air a gel. A web. A balloon stretched to snap.
Welcome to bullet time. You were never so much
in your life as you were around it: observing it,
remarking on it. Given this moment of dead time,
you can at last see from every given viewpoint.


Overpriced vintage fountain pen
pokes through your bag, piercing
your backside. Infection follows
and you fall to sepsis, bringing credence
to claims that, daily, writing involves risk.


Pitch darkness. Silence. Pure emptiness.
A familiar voice in the distance.


The truth is, you don’t see it coming even there
in the wrinkled bed for the sixth—or is it seventh?—
visit that season. Your beloved covers a bowl
of canned peaches, the only taste, nowadays, that
appeals. You want to save it. You plan to eat it
later. You wait for your children to arrive
at the bedside as they always do, exhausted
and deeply happy to see you still there, still alive,
bright-eyed but—they know—shrinking. Your face
is fuller now with fluids your kidneys retain
which helps them forget that your legs, under
a stack of sheets and blankets, are nearly fleshless.
You know the doctors by name and they, you.
You know which nurses will glide in to usher
each dumbstruck family member from the room
hours after you’ve passed to the next world,
hours they’ve spent sobbing, wondering,
and pleading, your chest still rising and falling
in rhythm endlessly, it seems, as though
the only barrier between you and them
were the blissful sleep of recovery, a dream
of being lifted with love and carried home.