By Jaime Lee Jarvis - Peace Corps Volunteer, Uzbekistan (1998–2000)
Shavkat loves his father’s garden
with an ardor: a real Spenserian
coaxing peaches from their hiding-spaces
in the peach-bark
herding goats and fugitive hens, sucking
cherries, saving stems for the cow
Shavkat runs the chickens round the yard
to keep them fit—then runs them through
The soup his mother gives the bones to
sweet with oil he smacks his lips, spoons more
In springtime he is skinny and shirtless,
shaggy hair shaved to the scalp, sweating
as he heaves the shovel to churn the soil.
His father plants mint and Shavkat
runs his fingers through the leaves,
smiling up at us with his teeth and his wide eyes
The scent rises to dance with us
we turn and turn, then sweep the walk.
This poem was selected as a finalist in the returned 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.