By Nate Zaff - Peace Corps Volunteer, Peru (2013-2015)
“Poderosa,” she says to me
from atop our town reservoir,
her fingers wrapped in
leather gloves, as she scrapes
layers of sand & chlorine
from the water purifier
we made together, from the
work we researched, planned
and proposed to our local
desk-holders, which we built
and installed and maintained
and cared for, for which she
stands in the pouring rain
to scrape away sand & chlorine,
the mixture which makes it all work.
I zip up our tools in a backpack
and look out over the vast field
of farms and trees which line
the horizon of the Andes,
a checkerboard of greens and
browns and rich reds of adobe,
silhouetted against the endless
mountain sky. She grew up here,
and the sight of clean water
technology in her hands, built
with her hands, captivates her.
But I can’t seem to turn my head
from the river valley cutting
thousands of meters through rock
below me, or the forests of
Eucalyptus dotting peaks in the
distance, or the clouds painting
the sky with such immensity.
It’s funny, what we’re each
consumed by, what I’ve helped
show her, and the brilliance
which she helped bring to me.
This poem was selected as a finalist 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.