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 I 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!


Bogus Basin in the snow. My mother-in-law was holding my skis while I went to the bathroom, and I returned and saw her leaving the building with my children. Only then did I realize that my skis were nowhere to be seen. I hobbled into the lodge in my ski boots.

“What are you looking for?” asked Ken, a gentleman who worked at the rental counter.

I explained, “My mother-in-law was holding my skis and I don’t know where they are.”

“Lemme get this straight,” said Ken slowly. “Did you lose your mother-in-law or did you lose your skis? If mother-in-law you’d better put a bell around her neck.”

“No, no, no—my skis, my skis!”

Once I located both skis and family, I went back inside to ask Ken for a word. When I asked if he’d like me to email him the poem, Ken gestured at my phone in indignation. “Look at me! I’m 86. Think I have one of those?”

The Stranger: Ken

The Word: Cognizant

The poem I wrote:

You could say
it is a sin
to move
a rock

The risk
risks the fact
of your undertow

Here rocks
seed blue

sink wishes
into deep earth
where rocks belong

What if all rocks
are cognizant,
better not

the light
as is and do
not affront the earth.


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