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!


My wonderful friend Sam has become a sort of lucky rabbit’s foot for my poems lately. It seems we are together when we meet some incredible strangers. (Case in point: this friend is responsible for the Salman Rushdie poem – and was with me with Pam offered the word “faithful.”) This friend visited the other night and brought with her Julia, a photojournalist who takes astonishingly beautiful photos from all around the world.

The Stranger: Julia

Her Word: Appropriate

The poem I wrote:

I know she will spend
her day riddled by indecision:
to grab him by the tail
again or rest on the branch
where the sun just
falls? The wild cats don’t
even roar, and this mama
never stops moving. Someone
wipes wet hands on my dress.
When we come to the zoo
the children want to see
cats and birds and the animals
that eat. They think the male
looks like a monkey statue:
why would he move,
when she will? The skinny
mother swings to rescue
her misbehaving baby from
picking on his older brother.
She growls at her teenager:
“Not appropriate!” The baby
pauses and runs back
into trouble. Isn’t this
the best game ever,
getting pulled by the tail
and never having
consequences? She has
no daughters to heighten
her life to, only these
sons misbehaving like wild
animals, not just like us
but close. If they don’t
breed her again she will age
into grace and leave all this
behind her, stretch her arms
on the branches and push
the old world aside, spinning it
like a broken baby bottle.

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