Winter 2022

The Coachella Review

You Can’t Do This Shit Alone: Toni Ann Johnson and Kate Maruyama Discuss Writing Friendships in the Long Game

Toni Ann Johnson and I were in the same MFA program but not at the same time. We met over email fourteen years ago when we both came to the defense of a mutual friend, and we bonded over our protective instincts for friends. As we got to know each other, we started exchanging work and sharing notes, and life stuff, and over the past fourteen years, a friendship has grown that I can’t imagine living or writing without. Toni is my first reader, the voice in my head, the cheerleader who keeps me going when the rejections pile up,…

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At the James P. Abernathy Memorial Fields by Elisabeth Strayer

Despite her general disinterest in the sport, Ava was seized by a desperate urge to be a baseball mom. She wasn’t certain that the phrase meant much in the cultural imagination, not in the way that “soccer mom” conjured a woman at the helm of a minivan, the bearer of halftime orange slices for shin guard-clad children. Those children frightened her: their too-big teeth ripping flesh from spongy rinds, their too-small hands tossing the spent peels to the grass for the soccer moms to gather.  But “baseball mom” sat in her mind like a blank thing, nearly devoid of associations.…

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Wildflowers Three By Jacquelin Winter

It was a standard if not cliché motel bathroom, and Mom had been in there a while. In August of 2001, we’d found ourselves at a Days Inn for the weekend—Mom, my sister, and I—despite her losing custody of us six years prior. We were one hour outside of Pittsburgh, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, though home was even farther, just over five hours east, in South Jersey.  The Rolling Rock Town Fair was a grungy music festival headlined that year by the Stone Temple Pilots, Live, the Deftones, and Incubus. It was rumored to be a kind of nineties alternative Woodstock…

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All the Doors Thrown Open By CL Bledsoe

When the bombs come, we’ll be happy ghosts hiding from the giant spiders, our bodies no longer aching from bad wiring, that thing we thought was a good idea that one time and took months to recover from. When the world becomes translucent glass, outshining the jealous stars, and we finally feel  how substantial shadows are from the inside out, dogs will bark at the smell of our souls, cats will beg  us for food our thumbs can no longer open. We’ll fade in the light and deepen under the moon, who will now  know our true names but still…

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Somebody Was Here: A Ten-Minute Doomsday Exploration By Brynn Hambley

          Brynn Hambley (she/they) is a queer and disabled playwright, theatre artist, devising artist, theatre educator, podcast host, and freelance writer based in the New York City area via New Jersey. She earned her BA in theatre arts from Gettysburg College and her MFA in theatre from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work explores loneliness, disablility, queerness, and the very human ability to have hope despite it all. In the past, she was a finalist for the Independent International Award for Improper Dramaturgy, 2019 (Antidotal); received the Emile O. Schmidt Award for Excellence in Theatre, 2018; and…

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In Lieu of Flowers By Suzanne Lewis

Marin County 1992  From the couch, my parents give me their full, undivided attention. Dr. Groszmann arranges her thick blonde hair in front of each shoulder, crosses one leg over the other.  She nods from her armchair, gives me her you-can-do-this expression. I shuffle three pages of notes, hands trembling. Eyeing the cassette recorder to make sure it is revolving, I take a deep breath as if perched on the high board. “The main thing I want to discuss today is my sexuality. It’s something I’m sure we all know but we never talk about, and that’s that I’m gay.” …

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The Play Is the Thang By Elaine Maikovska

          Elaine Maikovska is an attorney and writer/playwright living with her husband in Petaluma, California. Her plays have been performed at the Redwood Writers Play Festival. Her writing has appeared in the Argus Courier, The Medical Liability Reporter, and in several anthologies, including 95% Naked, edited by Daniel Coshnear, Vintage Voices, a Redwood Writers publication, and in Beyond Distance, and Crossroads, the Redwood Writers poetry anthologies. Her website is ElaineMaikovska.com.

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Two Poems By Cassandra Whitaker

For Queer Kids Doom Scrolling Retweet a curse, a prayer or both, phone a shelter from the wolf that is everywhere but in front of you, in the small space where you are your own joy; there is no wolf here. There is no reason to give your joy to the wolf. Such a beast lives in code, lives in prayer, lives in schoolbooks and stories of yesteryear when everything was so great for the wolf. For the wolf it all used to be so great. Stay alert, queer as you do, as you are, keep ringing the bell or…

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Crooked Teeth by Matthew Chabe

I’m standing on the shore with a burnt smoke in one hand and a beer in the other, and John’s talking but I can barely hear him over the roar of the fire. I think he says he’s leaving, but when I look at him, he’s still there and it’s not what he said at all. He said something different and he’s staring at me, waiting.  “What?” I say. He looks nervous and jumpy.  “You heard me.”  I try to pretend that I did, or that I care, but it’s a lost cause from the start, so I stand there.…

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America Plays with a Ouija Board By Tyler Truman Julian

during the pandemic. She’s considered close contact, after a bad one-night stand. No symptoms, still she’s in lockdown. The text comes in from the boy, Freedom— what he saved in her phone. Freedom: got tested today. Her mind goes to the sex, lackluster. I’m positive. It’s been weeks—Why are you texting me? How long had it been, lockdown?  A midnight meeting, she initiated it. He bumbled America’s bra strap, bumbled everything. It wasn’t worth it, and now, she reads, Close Contact. She revisits old texts, old messages. Better days. I used to be great, she thinks, sighs. Freedom was no…

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Running by Sean Murphy

He runs. He’s made the mistake of walking alone near the junkyard, after sunset, and come upon the dogs. Usually, a deftly thrown rock or self-assured shout will discourage them, but this time the lateness of the day lends desperation to their enterprise. Or perhaps, like the bigger boys who tormented him, these predators sense he’s weaker, and easier game. Two things, he knows, will save him: his speed and his awareness that they tend to tire—and lose interest—almost immediately. The solidarity of the pack was not sufficient; they were, he understands, at heart craven and without will.   (Always,…

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Sailor Wife By Andrea Caswell

They Say Ten years ago, I married a sailor. They say sailors swear a lot, but my husband barely does. Actually, he’s kind of a disappointment in that area. I can swear him under the table, usually within the first few minutes of watching a football game. And as far as being drunken, my sailor rarely is. I think it’s because he was drunken a lot in college, and a lot after that. Still, we keep a healthy supply of rum on hand and limes to fend off scurvy.  My sailor is superstitious. They say you should never leave port…

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Coffee with My Mother By Lynn Katz

I close my eyes and I can see you. Early, early in the morning pouring from the percolator one-handed telephone cradled on your shoulder stretched umbilical cord attached to the wall. Clutching your favorite lipstick-smeared mug chipped and blooming psychedelic flowers sipping the inky liquid, oily surfaced, burnt and bitter Chock Full O’Nuts on sale . . . because you believed it was heaven sent. I open my eyes and I can’t see you. Early, early in the morning standing in line my fingers sticky my thumbs jerking as I text and send, text and send senseless acronyms you wouldn’t understand.…

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Angels on Twitter By Hanna Pachman

At the top of the ladder of angels lies the highest ceiling of clouds before God, six wings, with eyes looking everywhere and nowhere at once.  A seraph poses for a photo with God at a cocktail party. Stilettos emerge from long legs and the weather of Islands.  She who dines with God listens, she who is not a seraph does not tweet, does not have a best friend. #HolyHolyHoly #Hahaha #Prada Meanwhile, floods, terrorism, and starvation call for answers beneath the filmy goo of air. At the bottom of the sky lie the archangels, who didn’t get picked for…

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Exile By A. K. Herman

The day Paula arrived in Brooklyn, a Sunday in late August, the rain came down in gray arrows that covered the windows of the livery cab that she rode in like a cloth. Paula could only make out the shapes of buildings, like dark teeth in a fog. It rained for the entire week, and she didn’t leave her room at the top of the stairs in the brownstone where she stayed with her aunt, Lorna. On Friday, when the rain stopped, Paula looked through the window at the world to which she was exiled until her belly, which still…

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Steel By Anita Gill

He nearly killed us just after our eleventh anniversary. Glossy pages of the wedding gift guides call it the steel year. A shiny alloy of carbon and iron, strong yet malleable, what makes the bones of buildings, supports bridges, and for many years, served as the exoskeleton of automobiles. My partner and I had orbited the Chevy Malibu in the summer heat of the cracked Hertz parking lot that morning, inspecting for the slightest dent in the reflection of the overcast sky. The pen scraped the contract we confidently signed. The vehicle would shuttle us from Maryland to California. Neither…

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Battle of the Bands By Mike Wilson

The Four Immeasurables* are a Motown quartet singing between seams of appearance as tanks roll over swollen plains and mortars demolish labor of centuries                                                                           Crooning Be Kind, ye minds who zip-tie hands, fire bullets in backs of skulls, who turkey shoot babushkas and rape mothers in front of their toddlers                          …

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The Last Jew In Boyle Heights By Carolyn Siegal

My walker catches on the splintered plank floors of the front porch. I push hard and plop into the wicker chair, flattening the cushion Ruthie sewed thirty years ago, sun-faded and fraying. White paint is now grey, and the porch overhang is peeling in strips, brown wood showing through. I am an old man in an old house. A big birthday party at my daughter Sharon’s in the valley this afternoon. She circled the date on the kitchen calendar. What’s there to celebrate? A more sensible person would be dead already.  Bird chirps are drowned out by the constant whoosh…

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The Coyotes of Los Angeles County By Alan Semerdjian

spring from the invisible hunger of all that’s hidden outside of homes, these pairs of sighs bright as angels’ wings, wild as wind on fire. Two lovers walk their dog to pass some time, daylight heat lifting, mountain dreams descending, the witching hour of everything out of sight. These are dangerous days. The smoke from the Lake, Saddle Ridge, Salt, and Creek, Woolsey, Bobcat, tongues of flame, the ghosts above the hills sending everything that lives down, down, down to survive. The lovers hold each other close. The dog is barking, the smell of fear, smoke still circling the mind,…

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Lily’s Hands by Michael Garcia Bertrand

Lily’s hands were curiously marked by the calamity of being Cuban. This wasn’t such a far-fetched notion, she reasoned, for she believed in stories of magical realism, in ghosts and spirits, in self-healing, in the goodness of people, in love after death. That her hands were acting in perfect harmony with her Cuba’s current tragedies was an easy matter of faith and imagination, both of which she had in abundance. Her first clue upon awakening was the pain of instant needles stabbing the palm of her right hand. At first, she thought it was the numbing of a hand asleep,…

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