Poetry for Strangers is about finding inspiration in the chance encounters of everyday life. PFS suggests that every person can be the “muse” of a poem. Each week I ask a stranger for a single word and write a poem inspired by the word. I invite you to do the same.

Share your poem on this week’s word!


The word: Dreamer

October 11, 2017, 6:32 am

“When you ask me to give one word, all words leave.” This was Drew’s response when I said I wanted to write him a poem on any word of his choice. Drew impressed me as a person who lives several different lives: he makes music as a DJ, coaches tennis, and delivers morning bread.

The Stranger: Drew

The Word: Dreamer

The poem I wrote:

When I say yes

what I dream
you turn
into wood.

It was for me

you gathered
the animals,

made a boat
for my fears
of this god or that—

I am sorry now
for such floods
I have caused.

You call me
dreamer and I am

in those dreams
afraid. But you
make arks,

keep the whole

world afloat
and let my fears

sink at last.


The Challenge: Do you have a poem in you on this word? Write one here.

The word: Faithful

October 4, 2017, 6:14 am

I took my dogs, one young and one old, to our veterinarian to get their shots. The office felt homey and the dogs sniffed around. While they did, the warm and wonderful Dr. Saras shared stories with me of her own best dogs.

The Stranger: Dr. Saras

The Word: Faithful

The poem I wrote:

At the end
of a heroic life,
he gets old

just like
the rest of us.

After a life
of running,

after years
of being
the best one.

To think
of a word
to describe
a dog
brings one
to tears.

What can be said
of these
forever children,

and so



The Challenge: Do you have a poem in you on this word? Write one here.

The word: Peace

September 27, 2017, 6:21 am

Writers love writers. Of course. At the Boise Downtown Farmer’s Market, I met Susan, writer and tea-maker, who offered samples of the teas she had blended. “Isn’t there a link,” she wondered aloud, “between people who love to write and people who love to drink tea?”

The Stranger: Susan

The Word: Peace

The poem I wrote:

Though the kids
cleaned it up,
the mother started
the food fight:
boy pinched girl
so with sound
aim I threw fried
tofu; it bonked
off his forehead.
There will be peace
among us even
for those who
started it, even
for those who carry
guilt’s burden.

The Challenge: Do you have a poem in you on this word? Write one here.

The word: Snow

September 20, 2017, 5:05 am

In the very early morning, Derrick was delivering croissants from Gaston’s Bakery to the café where my daughter and I sat, she making rubber band bracelets, I working on a piece of writing. He gave my girl the first chocolate croissant of the day.

The Stranger: Derrick

The Word: Snow

The poem I wrote:

You lie down, I cross you, and we raise our arms and legs, making a bowl. Hold us to fire and we will set. Glaze us turquoise with specks of brown. Now our sides are high, we are round-sculpted, and we can hold water. Time to let the children in. They play on us as if a skate park, skittering inside. A single nudge and we go to sea, for we are made of the stuff that floats. Will we hold our shape once they grow? How well sculpted are we and will we be shaped like a bowl forever, strong enough to hold snow without breaking, and ready to carry years, to last long enough? This is how parents are shaped. Round, set, glazed, and patient.

The Challenge: Do you have a poem in you on this word? Write one here.

The word: Imperfect

September 13, 2017, 6:29 am

Always there are exciting strangers at galas. At this year’s Boise Contemporary Theater event, my date was my amazing sister-in-law, who generously bragged to our table about my recent book. The woman next to me, it turned out, was also a writer. We talked about a project of hers, a blog titled “Imprfect” (minus first “e”).

The Stranger: Gina

The Word: Imperfect

The poem I wrote:

“Dog Bride”

He marries us
three at a time,
a wife for each head,
each dog-face.

It started as a dare
but soon came clear
that the monster

wanted a wife,
a woman to slip
underground, to help guard
what the rest
of the world
cannot see—how to resist
such portals?

The second head growls
in its sleep. I thought
I might escape
but there is nothing here
to see, nothing

and the road away
slips just out
of our light.
The old bodying
of birth, love, and death
seems such a sweet
thing to remember.

If I could’ve wished
another time,
it would be to stay
imperfect, plotless
and unimpressive,

that way
no great story
would descend
to choose me.


The Challenge: Do you have a poem in you on this word? Write one here.

« Page 1, 2, 3 ... 46