There it was suddenly — the javelina,
scurrying like a squirrel across the motel
parking lot. Its wooly body swerved left
and right around cars, darting towards
the conifers at the end of the row.
You gasped when you saw it — your mouth
hung open in a squeal. I thought something
must be wrong, the way you waved
your hands about at your sides, the way
your legs froze in the middle of walking,
but it was just joy, the desert pig digging up
mirth from your insides. I tried to chase after it
for a photo, speed walking with my hand
on the flash, but you stopped me, calling
out with caution as if I was the foolish one
and you were ever responsible. The picture
I managed turned out blurry and dark,
the javelina just a gray flash near the corner
of the frame. Who knew there was life
in the desert? Long ago, I had lived nearby
and slept in a house where the oven was kept
in a breezeway outside. It was too hot
to cook then anyway and I burned everything
I touched. I came back with you looking
for home or for its opposite, for some sign
I had made the right choice. You took me
to a psychic. She laid out tarot cards
on the table, produced visage after visage
of sword and stone. What’s holding you back?
she asked, pointing down to a knight
blocking the way. In the corner card,
a lady picked apple after apple from a ripe
green tree. I pictured the javelina, running
full speed on its tiny feet, its round belly
jiggling above the asphalt. Nothing,
I told her, my arms crossed against my chest.
Instead of a picture, I brought home a statue
as souvenir: an inch tall javelina, its body
recreated in slate going nowhere.
DESERT VACATION by Emily Lake Hansen
This poem won Third Prize in our 2019 Poetry Contest

Photo used under CC.