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!


On Christmas eve, after my nearly 6-year old daughter had swiftly disproven Santa by explaining that nobody lives that far beyond age 100, my husband’s side of our big wonderful family had dinner at a cozy lodge restaurant in the snowiest part of Northern California. Santa visited our table; my daughter narrowed her eyes but accepted his gift of a coin. I made a mental note to tell her how, in an ideal version of the holidays, we all get to play each other’s Santa—just by being kind, generous, jolly sorts of givers. Then I saw this phenomenon in action when my toddler son and I came back from the bathroom and passed a table full of merriment: a dozen people wearing paper crowns and holding Christmas crackers. They gave my son a fake mustache. They gave me the word “cackle.”

The Strangers: Kirsten & her party

The Word: Cackle

The poem I wrote:

I am a queen,
my son says.
He says I am
his fox. I say nightly
to the queen,
Thank you
for letting me be
your fox.
We cackle together
because this
is the truth
nobody knows. 

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