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 write this from Austin, Texas, where I grew up and am spending a week with my children and parents, and where I stopped at a teashop and met this stranger. Austin is obviously a different city from the place where I grew up. There is an old dumb joke: “How many Austinites does it take to change a light bulb?” Three. One to change it and two others to reminisce about the good old days.

The Stranger: Jonathan

His Word: Almost

The poem I wrote:

We used to live here, almost
at home near the swimming pools
and 24-hour cafes, past the morning

bird that cries spaceheater-spaceheater-spaceheater,
past the cheating cars and any person
who walks alone in the crying-out-heat:

we grew up happy and hungry
to leave: that is the only way
to grow, forward into space,

not backward into other
people’s memories: those memories
crunch in the dirt like pill-bugs.

It is hard not to step on them.

Children: listen to me. I bring you up
in our city because it is the perfect
place right now. You will be known

here, darlings. You make the music.
You mud the earth. You avoid
scorpions. You fall in love

again and again and each time
will be the first, just you and heat
and thunder and infinite green.

And to you, city: My bones
are your bones and we both
are getting old.