A Blur

A preconception was replaced with new understandings.


caramelos: candies
la policia: the policewoman
niños: kids
señoras: women
choclos: Peruvian corn

By Nate Zeff - Peace Corps Volunteer, Peru (2013-2015)

At first, I thought it might be
like watching a clock face,
smooth and metered, the way
days passed and people lived,
as if set neatly behind glass.
But when I stepped off the bus
the blur of life overtook everything,
and I found myself crash-landing
in a series of day-long flashes,
hitting the lush, mountain grass
running, among people playing out
lives so strange to me… kids flying
into the house next door, where
shopkeepers kept the best selection
of caramelos, past la policia who
leaned against doorframes, all
half-smiles and smirks keeping a
watchful eye, the nurses bustling
in and out of the health post, their
clipboards and coolers of vaccines
for the niños, the señoras sitting
outside our municipal building,
avocados and choclos and
tomatoes and onions spread out
on thick, blue blankets, 20 cents each.
How the tidy picture I’d drawn
in my mind fell to pieces, when the
clock back opened and the gears
tumbled out, when I let go and
leaned in – to the crowd of my
neighbors and the vibrant, wild
life around me – into all the new
electricity of tomorrow. 

This poem was selected as the runner-up in the Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. It was selected from more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.

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