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 moved to Boise in stages, and the first stage happened in the summer of 2007. I was mid-PhD and had fallen in love and wanted to spend the summer with the person I loved. That summer, my first order of business was to find people who liked to talk about literature. I signed up for a Boise State course called “Preparing for The Tempest”: we spent an intense, delicious week learning what went on behind the scenes of an Idaho Shakespeare Festival performance. In the 2007 run of “The Tempest”—and I have lived in Boise long enough to see a second run of it, completely different—but in this run, Ariel was played by the actress Sara Bruner, and seeing her prepare for the role was my favorite part. For she brought into the role of the sprite so many halves: she was half-human, half-air; half-man, half-woman; half devoted child to Prospero, half on-the-clock-employee, ready to retire; the only whole was that she kept completely, wholly in motion the entire time. You could half-believe that she could fly. In the years since Ariel, she has moved to Oregon, but I saw her this month when she was home for a visit.

The Stranger: Sara

The Word: Curiouser

The poem I wrote:

We rode horses. It was something we did on weekends, just out
of town. Once we drove home in a rainstorm and passed under
a bridge and on the other side of the bridge, the rain disappeared.
There was magic. At times there were miniature ponies living in
the backyard. We didn’t have everything but we had enough. It
was one of those nights when you asked what I did as a child and
I could not answer; now the answers come galloping back. We put
on magic shows. We made grave rubbings. We picked blackberries.
We told stories. We collected slugs. We dressed up lizards in Barbie
clothes. We climbed up and down trees and christened ourselves
with botanical names. We held funerals for fish. We grew every day
curiouser. We crawled around the lake each time it lowered and we
emerged smelling like salt and dead things. We learned what we set
out to learn. We ran as far and as fast as we could. We built villages
out of cardboard box. We slept with dogs at our feet. We imagined
ourselves growing up and having children and doing all the same
things. Most days we swam. We were safe and we knew it. We went
on road trips and only once got to sleep in the backseat, unbelted,
as we drove into New Mexico as the sun rose. We had one friend
who claimed her middle name was Cookie and who had only one
pierced ear. Once we got stuck at the top of a magnolia tree. Often
we went to the beach. Once someone handed us a fishing pole and
we caught on accident a baby shark. We played bingo with retirees
and sometimes we won. We carried books under our arms. We rode
scooters. We shot stars. We loved. We watched hot air balloons rise.
We rode horses.

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