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: 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 »

The word: Love

October 18, 2017, 5:51 am

We went to get our flu shots with the usual promise of ice cream after. Becca, who held the syringes, offered us so much love. She allowed my daughter to make choices about how to receive her shot, and she chatted with my son in a disarming manner, full of laughter and ease. My babies were their bravest selves, for courage is easiest when met with kindness.

The Stranger: Becca

The Word: Love

The poem I wrote:

When you live a hundred years
sometimes you are human
other times purest animal.
Travel and books make
the human outlines
brighter. We misbehave
because we are everything:
but it matters not at all.
To love the world fulltime
is our best and most difficult job.

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

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