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

Share your poem on this week’s word!


I stopped by Bittercreek before lunch to have a $1 taster beer and tinker with a poem. Amy was working the bar. I learned that she runs a mega compost project in the form of a worm farm, and we talked about creative pursuits in unexpected forms. The conversation got me thinking of another person who loves feeding small animals: my mother, whose birthday is this week. This 5-part poem started with the memory of a spider she once fed.

The Stranger: Amy

The Word: Adjust

The poem I wrote:

Once an orb spider

laid two egg sacs
in a skylight of the greenhouse
that my mother kept.

Two identical globes
in her queer gauze light.


My mother stands in the room
as if it were the bathroom,
four by five feet.

She looks inside and sees
her animal. She feels life
slanting away. She who saves

after rainstorms
had decided to feed this spider.


Somewhere along the line…

Somewhere in the story…

Someone is talking, talking
about a mother,
no a writer, no
an animal.

She collected dying insects
in coffee mugs and tossed
them up to her.

(she dropped
to wrap
each in white,
and precise)

My mother must feed
somebody, she knows somewhere
the young might be hungry.


I carry through my decades
an image of her webs,
strung from corner to corner
to corner and weighted
with so many insects,
so many still living bodies
demanding their say,
saying that they want out,
sagging the web heavy,
dying down to the ground.
With orb-spider eyes
I watch them. Then I look
away, find another branch,
another unused greenhouse,
even if there is nothing to eat.
Each generation says,
the world is too much. 


To adjust a life takes
a lifetime. Suppose
she is living still,
she and the woman
who feeds her.


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