Winter 2023

The Coachella Review

Remission by Patricia Contaxis

It is Easter morning, one year after Brianna’s life-saving neurosurgery. We are standing in a pew at the congregational church in our hometown, to which we had walked that morning. Long banners hang from the vaulted ceiling of the sanctuary proclaiming Alleluia, and pots of tall lilies surround the communion table. The choir and congregation are mid-song, a big, glorious Easter hymn.  Wild sopranos careen behind me: “Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!”  All this shouting about triumph over death is making me nervous. I read the hymn, but I don’t sing the words.  We woke this morning…

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HOW TO MEDITATE I & II by Mykki Rios

HOW TO MEDITATE drift your skull to lilacs crest your brow with pineapple sage dream rose into your nostrils wake crying butterfly pea and cornflower fill your lungs herbaceous inhale parsley exhale mint rinse your hair with rice water let the dark of your insides deepen plum and charcoal  where light won’t reach fade your bruises with buttercup whiten your eyes with heartburst ring in every bitten strawberry stake your core with yew so you leak starfruit and cotton candy grape dance turmeric into your hips saffron your thighs balm your foot soles with aloe or clay HOW TO MEDITATE…

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too tired to lie down by Maestro Gamin

I’m tired how murder  follows us how we’re an all too accessible play area  for anger’s russian roulette merry go round and how this, patronizing, cautionary life of smiles and apathy for our death  waits freer than we ever were sweeping us vagrantly in riptides complacency in a glass of tap water poison in flint from slave patrol city minders too scared to be outspoken, too sour to let peace slip toward our space, too eager to kill their way into a co-opted white saviorhood. the sum of me after I regather what’s left, never amounts enough to save any…

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TCR Talks with Jean Kwok, author of The Leftover Woman

By Jeni Eskridge In The Leftover Woman, the thrilling new novel by New York Times bestselling author Jean Kwok, two women, worlds apart, come face-to-face with what it means to be a mother and to make impossible decisions. From a small Chinese fishing village, Jasmine escapes her controlling husband and embarks on a quest to find the child she had believed to be dead. In a parallel story, Rebecca struggles to repair a devastating career faux pas while battling her own guilt and the jealousy she feels toward the nanny of her adopted Chinese daughter. What they don’t know is…

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I Do Crew by Rachael Marie Walker

Three months ago, I was vaping in the tub, leaned back against the tile, submerged my face in the water, and thought: fuck, I’m not cis, am I?  My girlfriend of three years, Liz, was playing video games in the living room, out on a mission with her gamer friends in Red Dead Redemption. She took one look at me, still dripping from the bath, naked and sudsy with lavender bubble bath, and said she had to go, she’d catch up with them later, and motioned for me to sit in her lap. I curled up there, left a moist…

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Ethical Anarchy by Brenna Cheyney

We go together like loofah and linen— compostable, antimicrobial— soil cake in the gut house, nice parasites with stylet quips, sealing lips from disease. Mutuals suggest we left our dust to mingle—  skin cells, hair shed— without banter laughter balm, and yogic twister lip calms. Or maybe you’re the night sun  and I’m the fun jungle, mistaking fungal for lunar— blue oysters, deep-fried— hinting at single on the side. Crushing on de-extinction, we go together like thylacines and  fat-tailed dunnarts, a daydream, scheme-editing with funds and labs, distracting from the crisis at hand. Sweet tongues for invasives, trachea bent from…

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Fresh Coffee By J.D. Strunk

Paul opened the door to the break room and froze: a neon-blue eye stared back at him. The unblinking cyclopean orb belonged to a new coffeemaker. Paul felt his stomach hit his toes. He’d been dreading this day for years. The old coffeemaker had been grimy and scuffed, but it had also been reliable. What’s more, he knew how to use it. Paul approached the new machine with trepidation. It felt too futuristic to be a coffeemaker. Why did everything need to be so futuristic? The word “streamlined” shot through Paul’s mind as he examined it. While it was true…

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Ammonite by RT Young

Dina starts awake to the sound of the phone ringing, and before answering she knows Ken has gone out again. She can feel the absence of him in their shared bed like a cavity, the room still and silent as a forest, and the roaring klaxon of the landline is a chainsaw, teeth biting through living wood. Still, to confirm she is alone, she lets her hand search around the empty space beside her, roving over the landscape of pilling cotton sheets. They are cool to the touch. The digital clock on his bedside table reads, ‘02.37’. Next to it…

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On Maintenance by Kristin Kovacic

I hold in my hand a passbook for a savings account my father opened with a $30 deposit on October 26, 1960. You may have to be at least as old as I am now—60—to recognize a bank passbook and remember its purpose. This one looks like an American passport, which my dad had yet to acquire, with a somber blue cloth cover embossed with the name of the bank and its branch—Pittsburgh National Bank, Bloomfield Office—in gold. Palm-sized, ideal for slipping into a man’s top pocket. You pulled out your passbook as you entered the bank, where a teller…

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Goodnight by Gianfranco Lentini

Gianfranco Lentini (he/him) is a NYC-based queer playwright, teacher, journalist, and first-generation Italian American. His plays include Glory Hole (Burlington County Footlighters), happier (A Night of Play), I’m really glad you’re here (The Magnetic Theatre), Katherine & Peter (Torrent Theatre, inspiraTO Festival), Self-Published (Molecule Literary Magazine), You Tell Me (Theatrical Response Team), Okay Walt Whitman (The Coachella Review), and Open (Mini Plays Review: An International Journal of Short Plays). Gianfranco is currently an Adjunct Professor at New York University for Tisch Drama’s New Studio on Broadway’s Summer Program and a Wendy Wasserstein Project Representative for TDF (Theatre Development Fund). He is also a proud Member of the Dramatists Guild of America. You can learn more…

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Brownsville Girls by Mitchell Ganem

Mitchell P. Ganem has written and directed for both stage and screen. He is co-writer of Elvis Has Left the Building, starring Academy Award winner Kim Basinger.  His screenplay Kinky Grace has won several film festival awards.  Mitch’s short film Killing Dinner has played in festivals from here to Turkey.  He is currently in pre-production to direct his original screenplays Fleur de Lis and Losing Jerry for Beachfront Films.  Mitch often works as an uncredited gun-for-hire on screenplays and a credited gun-for-hire on such cinematic wonders as the original screenplay No Visible Horizon and the screenplay adaption of J.P. Polidoro’s…

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The Wedding That Was by Ankitha Venkataram

Michelle pointedly kept her school bag next to her seat on the school bus and looked away from Siddharth who was trying his best to look as innocent as her puppy, Tommy. She saw something yellow flash in front of her. He was holding out two Ferrero Rocher chocolates.  “I’m sorry,” he said. “Could you let me sit before the bus starts moving?” “Why don’t you go sit with your friends instead?” she said, acidic.  “I’m sorry! But they make fun of me already for hanging out with a girl all the time. If I acknowledged you waving at me,…

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Best Friends by Romney Humphrey

Romney Humphrey is a former media writer/producer, award-winning screenwriter, and nationally produced playwright with recent productions in California, Florida, and Connecticut. Her play The Bench is being made into a short film this spring. She is the author of three books, including the best-selling How I Learned I’m Old, a humor/memoir.  

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what I’ve learned about absence while studying korean by Kianna Greene

Kianna Greene Raised simultaneously between Atlanta and Columbus, Georgia, Kianna Greene is a poet and writer living in Orlando, Florida where she is an MFA Poetry Candidate at the University of Central Florida. Her work has appeared in Maudlin House and Ruminate Magazine. Kianna is an alumna of The Kenyon Review‘s Writers Workshop and currently serves as Associate Poetry Editor for The Florida Review and an Assistant Prose Poetry Editor for Pithead Chapel. More about her can be found at kiannagreene.com and @kiannaelaine on both Instagram and Twitter.

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Frankie by Rachel Ament

I hadn’t gotten pregnant yet, but I could still feel the baby in me. Heavy, slimy movement. A soft cramping. We named her Frankie because it made us laugh. The name was hard and sturdy but also playful and full of life. At night I would ask Drew to touch my stomach. Our little ritual. Did you say goodnight to Frankie? He would play along. Oh, hey Frankie. Did you have a good day? It was a life within a life. I knew one day it would be the reverse. The rest of my life buried in motherhood. Drew palmed…

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Memento Mori by Drew Dotson

1996 My mom picked me up from school early for a doctor’s appointment. Soon we were on the interstate, headed to Atlanta to see the pulmonologist who treated my cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease known for the havoc it wreaks on the lungs. As a kid, I wasn’t trepidatious about these visits. Already a people pleaser at 10 years old, I relished the praise I got when my lungs sounded clear. I would go home satisfied, and life would revert to normal until it was time to return three months later. That was the routine—until today. After the visit,…

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Talent Management in ScamBot City by Vivian Chou

Did you know forelsket means falling in love for the first time? Humans go bananas for that word during courtship. I went over it in yesterday’s bot seminar, “So You Want to Scam Norwegian Widows. How to Come Off Like a Native Speaker and Not Fresh Off the Boat.” Our catfish bots closed upwards of three million kroner yesterday alone! Ever since corporate strategy shifted from small fish, big pond, to big fish, small pond, our high-income targets have brought in way more cash, with the help of the humanizing software updates.  But boom times don’t last forever. Boss’s words…

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Everything Helps by Steve Mulligan

“Of course your back hurts,” my wife said. “That’s what you get for doing CrossFit.” For the first time in fifteen years, I was back at the gym on the regular—swinging kettlebells, doing burpees, jerking and contorting. I had just turned forty, and all this exercise seemed like a mild midlife crisis. When the doctor escorted me to the front of the ER waiting room, bypassing crying kids, broken bones and a couple flesh wounds, I realized it was a whole other kind of crisis. Why was I getting the VIP treatment? A grapefruit-sized tumor in my back. How the…

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Two Poems by Alex Rieser

Sugar Hexany  We’re already on dangerous ground — your voice does to me what music does ; is what I mean when I describe spending time with you … is spending time with the world , levántame baby in that which shimmers . How walking through grass cleanses the feet — the art that occurred in a vacuum ; minced divination … cleaning up nice and looking , fancy . The way you lean against the wall charging your phone — your palm and all the secrets I’ve ever wanted ; to give jewelry to a woman who doesn’t often…

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The Autism Talk by Nazli Kibria

“Five more minutes, then we get out and change our clothes,” I repeat twice. Shomik alternates between dog paddling and flipping himself in the water. I revel at his ease and imagine the sensation of respite, of weightlessness in a heavy world. Shumita, his sister, a first grader, plunges to collect plastic frogs and goldfish at the bottom of the pool.  “Mermaid treasures,” she yells jubilantly, “look Shomik, I got a red frog.” Soaking in the warm, silky blue illuminated water feels luxurious. Outside, there is dirty slippery slush and a frigid wind that ices my hair.  Twice a week…

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