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!


Alexi works at a coffee bar, and I was chatting with her while I waited in line. We both owned up to writing poems. Her love of poetry came from her mother, who gave her poetry books to read when she was a child. (My perfect grammar comes from my mother, but that is another story). Alexi said she was looking for a word to describe a turning point, a new chapter.

The Stranger: Alexi

The Word: Chapter

The poem I wrote:

We have a spell in our house
to cast off nightmares:
Nightmare, away!  Nightmare,
out the window!  They egress.
They cannot stay in the room.

What resides in your mind
is yours and you
can tell it what to do.
I cast this spell
at each new chapter,
when every possibility
haunts the edges and our love
comes forth unwillingly.

When no advice will work
even though much of it
flutters down, light
as dead leaves—when we
cannot be wild
and cannot be still.

We revise at each age
what becomes funny;
sometimes we send
the nightmare
into the toilet
and we laugh. At least
we can make a quilt
out of our words,
sleep under it all winter.

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