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!


While having tea in the backyard with my friend-with-twin-sons, I learned that her twins’ newest pastime is to make atlatls out of twigs and duct tape. Two neighborhood friends, sisters aged 10 and 8, were also visiting. I asked the sisters for a word.

The Strangers: Lucy and Ruby

Their Word: Atlatl

The poem I wrote:

We climbed up a ladder onto the roof to drink our tea after our daughter had gone to sleep – we who are suspended between adolescence and growing old – and from the top we could see everything, past and present. | We could see ourselves at four, seven, fifteen: across the street we could see the party some brave kid threw, with two girls walking out of it (one of them me!) carrying Explore-a-Child dolls that cry when you don’t rock them hard enough and cry when you do, until you push the reset button and they beep and go quiet. | We both could picture it – bundling up that future and throwing it like an atlatl somewhere far ahead with our war-cry of not now! Yet knowing it would be waiting for us, like a good dog, or like those two girls sitting two stories down on our curb. | Somewhere far ahead, mid-mountains, my husband spotted a two-headed dog – with one cocked head in our direction, the other finishing its dinner – both heads waiting for us to make a decision.


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