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!


It was only the second time I’d been told no. It happened first when I asked a TSA employee for a word, and then it happened again last night at a restaurant when my person and I were out celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary. But this time it was quite different. I asked the assistant server, Mark, for a word—and he said, “I think the person you really want to ask is Zach in the back.” Zach came up to the front holding two pages of handwritten words. “Funny words,” he called them. He had spent the day making a list, which he read aloud to me: Catawampus. Bamboozle. Gorgonzola. Bosom. Sisu. Mono no aware. Hendiadys. And dozens more I forgot.

The Strangers: Zach in the back (assisted by Kiona and Mark)

The Word: Bamboozle

The poem I wrote:

If you believe in God,
He lives in America.
A cab driver told me this
And I remembered. Why
The river we crossed
Last night smelled
Like ocean. (Dears,
It is, it is). Just another
Bamboozle. It won’t
Hurt. The older wolves
Came to sniff at us.
They first smelt salt.
Then they started
taking apart the world.

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