The other day inside the foyer of hell, the newest inmates were two 
troubled Nigerians. One person had died from mob burns, the skin singed, 

after stealing ballot boxes and setting the votes ablaze, and the other had 
died from eating a potful of poisoned corns, the stomach swollen. They both 

looked startled at the warmth and luxury of the surroundings. Every road they 
saw was cobblestoned, tarred—no potholes seen anywhere. Mosquitoes were 

absent too. There was no malaria fever, no typhoid fever, no Ebola fever. 
The candidates thanked Almighty God for the special opportunity because 

the dreaded devil they’d come to visit was anything but wicked. The man 
smiled broadly, sitting on his throne, and welcomed them. I’m Apostle Saytin

he announced, the emperor of the planet of hell. The electricity in hell was 
available at all times, twenty-four seven—no sudden outages, no load shedding. 

The ambience of hell was orderly, well-developed, and festive, so unlike 
the chaotic country they’d both left behind. When the new inmates complained

that they were thirsty, the devil turned his golden faucet, filled two glasses with 
clean water, and extended his gloved hands, beaming proudly. The visitors were 

so stunned by the man’s hospitality that they gaped at one another. But we’ve been 
told that this is where offenders come to suffer, the Nigerians wondered. The devil 

looked harmless, bearded lustrously, sporting glossy eyes that could be considered 
sexy and charming, eyes that saw future criminals, delighted for their arrival. 

The devil had never falsified an election to favour his political party. 
The devil had never snatched ballot boxes and sprinted away with them.

The devil had never over-invoiced for a contract in the history of hell business. 
The devil wasn’t a kidnapper. He wasn’t a terrorist. He wasn’t a bandit.
He’d never solicited or received any ransom from captives. 
He’d never in his lifetime manipulated a university’s admission 

process to favour his kith and kin. Neither white nor Black, the devil wasn’t 
a bigot who preferred to sip only the tea made by his religion and tribespeople. 

The devil accepted everyone, no matter their sexuality, race, gender, or creed. 
The devil notably adored and welcomed homophobes, rapists, racists, murderers, 

transphobes, and paedophiles—among others. Oh, yes, Apostle Saytin was 
so inclusive, and no other planet could be more diversified and openhearted. 

He’d never lied under oath or declared false assets and liabilities, 
to deceive the public and gain power. Human-trafficking, domestic 

violence, money-laundering, and drug-trafficking were taboo to him, 
although engaging in any of those activities elsewhere qualified 

one for entry into his kingdom. As the generalissimo of this paradise, 
Apostle Saytin had never travelled to Britain or America to seek 

medical treatment. He’d never worked as a trigger-happy policeman, 
shooting unarmed citizens. He wasn’t even among the callous soldiers 

who gunned down the ENDSARS protesters in October of 2020. 
The devil had never siphoned shiploads of crude oil meant for his 

people, selling the product to another country for his personal gain. 
He’d never asked or received any bribes from teeming travellers 

who were curious to renew their expired passports. The devil was 
neither a petty thief nor an armed robber, not even a Christian fanatic 

or an Islamic fundamentalist. He wasn’t a herdsman with guns and 
sharp knives, massacring Nigerian farmers and defenceless children 

who played around as they sang and built soil castles with bare hands. 
He’d never murdered pregnant women, slashing some into two, to watch 

their unborn babies wobble and pop out wearing knife cuts, gunshot 
wounds, and blood. Apostle Saytin had never burnt opposition voters 

to agony and death to win himself a seat in the parliament. But we’ve been 
made to believe that this man is horrible, vile, and cruel, the Nigerians 
wondered. His only job was to show newcomers the way to the part of 
hell where the famous fire wreaked havoc on occupants, Apostle Saytin

continued to explain. They followed him, expectant. As soon as they 
approached the raging inferno, the two Nigerians jumped into it 

without any prompting and broke into laughter. Amazed, the devil 
burst out: Why are you both so excited to be here? I expected to 

see you scream in pain as the fire attacks your skin. But the Nigerians 
chorused: Sir, we’ve already gone through hellfire worse than this.

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Autumn 2023

Issue 106

The Autumn 2023 issue includes four new poems by featured author Michael Hofmann, as well as new work by Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Monica Youn, Luke Kennard, Glyn Maxwell, Cindy Juyoung Ok, Jesse Nathan, and leena aboutaleb. Also in the issue are poems originally written in Arabic, Czech, Greek, Nüshu, and Spanish, among which a long-awaited fresh take on ‘The Hanging Poem of Imru al-Qays’ by Kareem James Abu-Zeid and five new poems by Homero Aridjis as translated by Forrest Gander. This bumper issue also introduces an expanded offering of prose with Dan O’Brien on the defiant and redemptive power of confessional writing and Rachel Hadas on translating Ovid and finding comfort in a world plagued by apathy and disaster. Our interviews section sees Kostya Tsolakis in conversation with Harris Otabasis and Nikolas Koutsodontis, the editors of the Anthology of Greek Queer Poetry, while Sohini Basak interviews Meena Kandasamy. The reviews section sports criticism by Tarn MacArthur, Aliyah Begum, Lily McDermott, and Tristram Fane Saunders.
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