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!


While flying for my Indiana trip I sat next to an orthodontist who had grown up in Boise, moved away, and come back to live with his wife and sons. This is the story of most fairy tales—young hero leaves home to have adventures in the greater world, then returns older (ideally with an elixir or some new knowledge) to make home a better place.

The Stranger: John

The Word: Circuitous

The poem I wrote:

When you leave a city
that loves you
it will not let go easily
but it will always let go. Like
a lover desperate at being
abandoned, a city will mourn by showing
you what you have missed,
the clothing it forgot to wear, be it rain or rage
or natural disaster. The city will grow while it waits
for you to come home by some circuitous path. Once
it has given you its passageways and parks, its subtle hills,
the changing of its masks, a city
will be surprising as you leave, tripping
onto an airplane, enumerating your pasts
and motives, glancing once
over your shoulder.

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