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!


Big news: My book about my awesome grandfather is available; his life is an incredible story and I loved getting to be his biographer. I hope you take a look.

And onto the poem…

I met Adrienne and Lee in a Walla Walla wine tasting room. I was with my person—everyone was with their person. It was couples everywhere, all of us crashing each other’s dates, and it felt good when we collectively accepted the fact and began to talk. Adrienne and Lee were great fun. They told us stories about camping with their kids—how their son would hop out at a campground with his walkie talkie and announce, “I’m gonna go make some friends!”

For this stranger-poem, I returned to an earlier idea (Dunyazad, the sister under the bed and catalyst of stories in 1001 Nights, which I wrote about in my poem for Monica on the word “aroma”).

The Strangers: Adrienne + Lee

The Word: Catalyst

The poem I wrote:

Being trapped
beneath their mattress
is like being forced underwater
beneath a boat.

You lose

your innocence that way. You become
the older sister even though she

is the one above, getting drilled
into by His Lusty Highness.
We both arrived here virgins and I still am.

If he decides to kill her,

he will drill into me next.
If I do my job well, then my sister
will keep me
alive in turn. Her life an epic
and I only the catalyst:

a child in want of a bedtime story.

It is a strange sort of magic, her being master
of all the endings: kings and camels
and fish that speak
in prophecies before being


My sister’s stories are one more way
she is leaving me behind. Once upon a time
I was known as the cleverer sister—
but everyone knows that

she is brave and I am better at hiding.


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