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!


Melissa works at Boise Art Museum, where I showed up one Saturday for a tour. We talked about several artists we admired from the museum, including the brilliant Troy Passey, whose 2014 calendar hung like a mobile from the gift shop ceiling. I told Melissa how the calendar’s April artwork came from a line from Poetry for Strangers (the quote: “Poets are Weirdos.”) That sealed it. Melissa and I became allies over art, and she gave me a word that I liked.

The Stranger: Melissa

Her Word: Agitation

The poem I wrote:

My daughter is playing Doctor – no, not that
kind, but she has a scrubs costume with pockets
for instruments and she asks me to lie on the
black couch. She checks me out. My knees work,
my ears aren’t too waxy. And how about my
heart? You have heart trouble, she tells me with a
grave nod. Of course I do. What mother doesn’t
have agitation of the heart, a constant feathering
between will I break/will I love/will I break?
What she knows of the map of my heart is as
unsolvable as any X, but here she stands with
her stethoscope, waiting for me to ask, What
should I do, Doctor? Well. She clicks her mouth.
Just love on your heart and it will get better.

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