Issue #16: JOY

Here you’ll find merch, Issue #16 story excerpts, interviews, the issue’s Spotify playlist, & links to reviews. So take a look, and make sure you haven’t missed anything!

FIYAH 16 JOY cover

Story Previews

A highway runs across the universe, imperceptible to science and the conscious human mind, but it exists all the same. It is a brilliant neon artery, traversed by a billion African souls. A vibrant pink and orange stream cuts through a cloudless blue sky, lit up by the yellow hues of a sun nowhere and everywhere at once. The highway twists and turns across four dimensions with no end in sight, more experience than interval. Right side up and upside down, its travelers follow along unencumbered as spirits tend to be. Exits from the interstate facilitate entrance to more tangible realities. Past, present and future are simply pit stops along an eternal march. The highway is a timeless place, buzzing with the urgency of life, and the invincibility of joy. It is a spectacular for all six senses.

The Boy is hungry. He wants apple pie and conversation. He loves that pie, but truly enjoys the company. His slender, chestnut brown hand pushes against the diner’s cool silver door. He loves the smooth touch of the glossy surface as much as he loves the way it shimmers in the sunlight. A bell tolls as the door swings open. The restaurant has traditional décor: wooden booth seats with Formica table tops covered in wine burgundy vinyl. Black and white checkerboard linoleum runs throughout the length of the establishment.

A counter sits in front of him with stools that spin on the same silver polished chrome as the door. He loves the stools. They’re bound with a faux red leather the same shade as the tabletops.

Weariness settled on Keisha’s shoulders and leaked into her soul. She retrieved her cold lunch from under the counter and scrolled through her phone for the latest bill notices. Far more contributions than sales came into the consignment shop and she started to wonder if they’d make rent this month. On top of that were today’s customers. Two blondes who questioned the authenticity of everything they put their hands on. A faded debutante, desperate to sell her gaudy 70s dresses. Then, all the ones who looked at her like the help. Keisha sighed deeply. Today had been a day.

The door chimed and someone rushed in. “Sorry I’m late!”

Keisha didn’t even bother to look up from her phone at her little brother. “You were supposed to be here after class finished. It’s Tuesday so ain’t that two?”

They found the body in a construction site in Kibagabaga. The police came, ruled it as an accident. The young man had no surviving relatives: his grandmother had died of a stroke mere days before. The local pastor held a memorial service to shoo evil off, but evil was stubborn.

Within days, workers fell down or fell ill. Scaffolding rotted or splintered. Other preachers came with holy water and booming speeches, one from every Christian denomination, then the imams, then the spiritualists. Still the accidents happened. The restless spirit had not left. The owner had two options: abandon the plot of land or call Maman Zaninka. He chose the latter and asked for Mama Zaninka’s special seasonal service: the help of her grandchildren.

“Breathe easy,” Mama Gold tells Seline the first time she reads her, stabbing my little sister’s lifeline with a crimson acrylic. “You’re tense.”

I sit across the room on Mama Gold’s gaudy crushed velvet divan, watching Seline get her palm read. This is a scam but my sister’s fiancé Samuel left her a month ago and ever since, she’s had nothing to believe in but the stars. We were riding the J this morning when a pamphlet advertising Mama Gold’s psychic services blew into the train car when the doors opened at Crescent. It landed at Seline’s feet. She picked it up and studied it, her eyes wide as saucers. A sign. 

Poem: In Retrograde by Billimarie Lubiano Robinson

Poem: Paradise by Jarred Thompson

Poem: Tiny instances of Black girl Magick by Nia June

Issue Interviews

Cover Artist – Odera Igbokwe:  Odera Igbokwe is the cover artist for FIYAH #16: JOY! We interviewed them about their style, process, and the artwork they did for us.

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