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!


I adore costumes; some of my own favorites include a pilgrim’s shift (shapeless as a toga), a real kimono, a midnight-blue sorceress gown that comes out occasionally for a dinner party. What I don’t have but wish I had is a dirndl, one of those traditional Bavarian dresses (think beer garden). At an OctoberFest celebration, Marie was wearing a dirndl – and the only other person in a dirndl was my toddler daughter (and in her case we had to bribe her!) Marie’s dirndl, I suspect, was voluntary.

The Stranger: Marie

Her Word: Cheetah

The poem I wrote:

Some days I try to be like water,
to accept the stones and ripple
around them. Simple,

but not eternally. Other days
it is near impossible to hold quiet
when the stones scrape and stunt
and shore you up. Those days,
forget water. Better

to be air or fire or blood.
Better to cheetah forward
with my front brain dry

and ready, lean and hot and riotously
hungry for the next thing.


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