The billboard by the exit ramp read:
Ready Yourself to Meet Your Maker
I looked to that sign whenever we passed it,
never thinking to call. Jim is likely
with his Maker now. I was nine or ten;
Odette, six or seven. Our father
was driving the car and he’s long gone.
We want the poem to circle home
like road trips into the city, like summer-
love, and sun. Here we are in quarantine
and just like that I’m casting back:
Odette and I in the Karmann Ghia,
knees against our parents’ backs,
snug in the world—at least for a while.
We played ‘I spy with my little eye’:
I spy something on a sign, I dangled meanly
at Odette, after Dad had passed it, so
the answer could not be guessed. The game
soon lost its gloss. But being in the car felt futuristic.
Big buildings, fast traffic, people
facing forward—up-to-the-minute in the streets.
Odette and I in vectored memory.
Hard flat glare of sensing something coming—
Outsize buildings, outsize lies and men
projecting shadows of their own
implosion before them. Sisters window-
gazing from a blue vestigial seat.
Questions and Answers
How/where do you find inspiration today?
I find inspiration wherever it finds me, which is anywhere. It may come in taking a walk, driving the car, or being driven—being in motion is frequently inspirational for me. It may also come in reading and misreading. I’ve received a number of poetic gifts through misreading. It may also come through art, music, and dreams. The key is to be open, attentive, actively receptive.
What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?
“Vestigial” is a poem that was long in coming. The Meet Your Maker sign was a potent image for me in childhood. The idea that meeting my Maker could be just a phone call away to guy called Jim was both fascinating and funny. And there was poetry in it: the power of word and image meeting idea. I tried over the years to weave that line into a poem but it never worked. It took the convergence of quarantine and a crazy political backdrop to give the poem a backbone, plus the word “vestigial.” Once I had that word, the poem took shape. We actually took a number of family road trips in the Karmann Ghia, my sister and I cramped into the tiny vestigial back seat. That might be where I got an early sense for the absurd.
Elana Wolff is a Toronto-based writer of poetry and creative nonfiction, literary editor, translator, and designer and facilitator of social art courses. Her work has recently appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine, The Dalhousie Review, Taddle Creek Magazine, The Banyan Review, Eclectica, and GRIFFEL. Her collection, Swoon (Guernica Editions), is the winner of the 2020 Canadian Jewish Literary Award.