Jaime Lee Jarvis

Paperwork, Your Name is Martha

Verbal finger-waggle
un-subtle tongue
lashing as we beg for retroactive
lunch money

Our receipts don’t add up
expense reports wind-blown.
No proof we rode the marshrutka
but the dust in our names

We thought we’d save the world—
so far there’s nothing to save
but explanations:

It was too late to walk,
I didn’t know the language.

Thought we’d save the world—
instead we’re saving pennies taking
the slow bus to town
riding the overnight train

cotton in our ears to keep out
cockroaches and drunk men’s laughter

We thought we’d save the world—
instead we hoard stories about Martha,
and market-basket surveys,
and how it all stretched out

every cent
and every second

Jaime Lee Jarvis left southern California in 1998 to be a Peace Corps volunteer in a small town outside Bukhara, Uzbekistan. She has not worked for the federal government since returning to the US, though she now spends hours without number editing proposals directed at one of its agencies. Other hours, she serves on the board of Split This Rock. Her poem "Aral" was the Split This Rock Poem of the Week in November 2010. Jarvis has a master's degree in technical and professional writing. She lives in Washington, DC.