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!


On my way back from a visit to Austin, I stopped in Colorado to visit a friend. There I met Mahani, originally from South Africa, who caters some of the most delicious vegan meals.

The Stranger: Mahani

The Word: Contentment

The poem I wrote:

There is a silver snake
dead on the road,
rippled as a dry
waterfall. There
is a bladed grasshopper
that flies. And here
a wooden house,
child-sized with
ancient curtains—
somebody or nobody
lived there once.

There are men glowing
in yellow shirts,
scraping asphalt;
soon a storm above
the mountains, and
a hundred wailing openmouthed
dogs. And over
there a child climbing a tree
dressed as a bunny—can
there be more?

I want to ask: do you lose
things in this world,
the objects so splendid
and alive, so full
of contentment, and
not to mention the boxes,
tables and pillowcases,
the streets, voices taking over—
all with such insistence.
How can you ever find
anything in here?

I hear them at night
making quiet noise,
remembering in the heat
the dying end
of childhood. There may
or may not have been
a penny falling.
Can you hear
how the black night
is green awake?

Hard table, glowing men,
dead snake, bladed
insects, bunny child,
wailing dogs: there is enough
for me in the world
of the living. I say no to the ghosts.
I draw a line, say, Here
is my world. How many times
I choose you. As for the rest,
please be all quiet and tended to.
I wish you every part of well.


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