Founded in 2013, Poetry for Strangers is a project dedicated to 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 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: Age

November 22, 2017, 5:53 am

I led a writing workshop at Willow Park Senior Living to a fabulous group of writers. We wrote about the eras—the ages—in our lives. It took place just before Thanksgiving, so I left thinking about which details we remember, how thankful we as writers must be for them.

The Strangers: Willow Park Writers

The Word: Age

The poem I wrote:

Yours the frog.
Yours the stereo.
Yours the frozen

cabin or the empty
room. But the whole
life is ours, its river-bends,

its fortunate shallows, even
its family of beasts
and branches.

Nobody escapes
without a story to tell.

If we are lucky,
age will happen
to us. If we are lucky,

these stories
will mark us,
they will say,

“Mine. Mine.
I need you
to tell me.”

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

The word: Happiness

November 15, 2017, 6:04 am

At swim lessons, my kids went to their coaches and I sat in the hot tub. There I met Carolyn, former dietician who now works as a professor and researcher on health and aging. We had a great conversation before it got too hot to sit and we both got out.

The Stranger: Carolyn

The Word: Happiness

The poem I wrote:

You’re beautiful,
he wrote,
and she waited.
She waited first
to get older—
waited for him to shed
the dirty jeans
he always wore.
She waited for a reason
to leave town, for
the coral nipples
in his poems to darken,
for her own voice
to grow gentle and low.
She waited
until she stopped
dreaming about him,
waited for pets,
cars, children,
broken bones,
every happiness
to meet her first.
She waited until
the water around her
ran clear. When
she had all grown up
at last she wrote
back to him,
I’ve waited for you.
And she waited.

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

The word: Proactive

November 8, 2017, 6:16 am

When I arrived home, our trees smelled of wintergreen. It was Jeff, the Organic Spider Man, who sprays for bugs with the non-toxic stuff. We stood on the driveway and he told me the story of how, after seeing a family member grow ill, he changed his relationship with chemicals.

The Stranger: Jeff

The Word: Proactive

The poem I wrote:

They stand in front of me, these girls, pink-jacketed both, unloading plastic groceries into a play kitchen, doing mundane tasks with proactive joy. Nobody asks them to do anything yet they dizzy themselves with doing. They are pigeon-toed, they are lumpy, they have stuffed animals zipped into their jackets. Now they are skipping, reading aloud signs that say “No kids unless supervised by an adult.” On a whim they spider up a slide in the wrong direction. They have found a ledge; they dangle their legs. If I look closely enough. If I remember their shades of pink. If I can enumerate each plastic vegetable—then perhaps this is mine to keep.

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

The word: Home

November 1, 2017, 1:22 pm

My dad and I are planning a ten-day walk this spring, about 15 miles each day – so I am training now by walking all over town. To motivate myself to keep walking, I set interesting stops along the way: a coffee shop, the old train depot, lunch, and Cinder Winery & Tasting Room. That was my final stop; there I had a lovely talk about travel with a woman who works there.

The Stranger: Kiah

The Word: Home

The poem I wrote:

Donner du temps au temps.” –  François Mitterrand

Home is how they catch us, a lovely trick
when we wish to be caught. Between time and time,
between home and home, there are one thousand
stories to keep us awake, each one strange,
each filled with answers on how to live free. Yes,
time needs time and home needs not-home:
an aptitude for goodbyes, a knowing that the more
we know and the less we do, the better.

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

The word: Humanness

October 25, 2017, 5:33 am

Paul, seeing me unable to decide which beer to order at the pub, treated me for a sampler of ten tiny beers. As I thanked him for this unexpected and generous act, he said, “Just part of being human.” This led to a brief conversation about writing, which his mother used to teach (her #1 rule: “make it concise!”) So, Paul, a haiku for you:

The Stranger: Paul

The Word: Humanness

The poem I wrote:

Humanness rises
airy and winged, fearless
against the landscape.

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

1 ... 5, 6, 7, 8