Tolu Oloruntoba

Tolu Oloruntoba Headshot

After abandoning plans to become a comic book artist and fantasy author, Tolu Oloruntoba spent his early career as a primary care physician. He currently manages virtual health projects, and has lived in Nigeria, the United States, and Canada. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, while his debut chapbook, Manubrium, was a bpNichol Chapbook Award finalist. He is the author of Each one a Furnace (Penguin, 2022) and The Junta of Happenstance (Anstruther, 2021) , winner of the 2022 Griffin Poetry Prize and the 2021 Governor General Literary Award for Poetry. He lives in the metro area of Coast Salish lands known as Vancouver.

The Tinderbox

–Tolu Oloruntoba

We were a conflagration asking

To be incarnated into the world.

My mother, superstitious,

Kept my father and I apart,

Two stones made of

The same igneous anger.

Everyone else at home, eyes like saucers,

Was crying as if in preparation,

Like firetrucks before a plane crash

In case we combusted.

Like my mother had once hidden

All the nooses we had,

Knocking down all hanging hooks from the ceiling,

They hid the tinder, and the wood,

Making tears into flame retardant

To paper the walls.

Your palmprints have returned

As shingles around my left eye.

There’s extinguishing foam on the runway.

We meet again in our prefabricated peace.

Don’t aim the will at me

If you will not shoot.

From Pleiades.


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