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: Diversity

May 16, 2018, 10:08 am

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Austin with my daughter and realized that I can no longer count how many times we have made this trip together (she was six weeks old our first time). We had a lively conversation with our Lyft driver, Augie, about the many places he lived with his wife and daughter during his military years. “Good to travel with your kids young!” he said to me. “They remember.”

The Stranger: Augie

The Word: Diversity

The poem I wrote:

Traveling all roads,
leaving something
in each yet
belonging to none,
we range the world
in diversity
like a riverwork
of veins, trusting
that all blood
flows to the heart.

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

The word: Dazzling

May 9, 2018, 9:16 am

I went into the Coop wine shop seeking red bubbly. Stephen, who was working, admired my clay necklace: two yellow stars on either side of a rolled-up earth. It is a very beautiful necklace and I told him it was made by a child. We paused for a moment, both effervescing over this fact. “Tell her she is really good,” he said at last.

The Stranger: Stephen

The Word: Dazzling

The poem I wrote:

I dream


{of some
{absurd safety
{as I plunge
{softly down
{through the sea




{drowning, drowning
{in sheets
{of gray,
{dazzling life
{and then its victims




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

The word: Kindness

May 2, 2018, 9:17 am

At the zoo, Canada geese were nesting and did not want to be bothered. Avoiding geese, we made it to the carousel. My babies were the only two in line, holding up their quarters hopefully. Zach let them ride all by themselves.

The Stranger: Zach

The Word: Kindness

The poem I wrote:

In part, for Gulshan

Five oak trees
stand behind
my house:

to think
anyone could own
a tree—

a tree,
its leaves mosaicked
to the sky,

indebted to earth,
a kindness

of belonging:
and what these
five oaks

have is a
woman who loves


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

The word: Connection

April 25, 2018, 11:36 am

This poem and next week’s poem come from kind strangers my kids and I met at Zoo Boise. Mike and Annie work as volunteers, and they helped us obtain food to feed the goats. One of the goats had an epically impressive beard. Another goat was so calm that it rested its head for several minutes just above my son’s shoulder.

The Stranger: Mike & Annie

The Word: Connection

The poem I wrote:

Upon discovering that he had
an underwater twin almost
as beautiful as he, Narcissus
felt unnourished by the land
and suffocated by air. He wished
he had learned to breathe
in other elements. At night
the twin grew darker and more
lovely; both twins grew jealous.
Their umbilical link tightened
and hummed at their unfair
connection: this mirroring,
this having only one womb
to share, only enough air or water
to breathe in and bellow out
as the other has failed to use.
Both wait by the pond for years,
one gazing into water, the other
into air. Animals pass by: jaguars,
bears, snakes. Nothing eats them
because nothing knows where
one begins and the other ends.
And isn’t this how it goes, peering
into the face of ourselves: afraid
to plunge in, afraid to look away.
If we do nothing, the face below
will only wait with us, sitting as still
as life underwater, waiting for the words,
You get me. You get my animal.

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

The word: Wormhole

April 18, 2018, 10:07 am

At the opening of an art exhibition called Woodsmoke—merging art and poetry inspired by James Castle—I met Jason, the founder of MING Studios, where the exhibition was held. The night was complete with cake-pops, children and adults, and walls covered with words, trees, windows, black and white drawings of small houses.

The Stranger: Jason

The Word: Wormhole

The poem I wrote:

New town, flat cement, nobody
knows blink. To be fresh
from another place is to be
dirtless. Here the dirt’s good.
To each his own wormhole
in the past of some other country.
Blank holds space to tell any story,
any plot where you get jammed
or flooded out. Here is yours.
You can be cut in half and still grow.

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

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