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!


“How can I be too early for oysters?” I asked, incredulously. It was the day of my last summer class, I had no papers to grade, and I thought I’d have a treat. But no, Paul the barkeep explained, “We don’t serve oysters until four, then at five begins the dinner menu and everything costs twice as much. But at least they turn down the lights.” It was just after 3 o’clock. “You could have a beer,” he suggested. “The great palliative.” When I said I wanted to write him a poem, he reached behind the bar and pulled off the wall a poem of his own to show me.

The Stranger: Paul

His Word: Disperse

The poem I wrote:

It’s oyster light, night will hinge
closed like a shell, darkening
away from the pink. A girl

sways out of a house, looks around.
She is four, she is absolute as a pearl,
she is singing, all her energy
is about to disperse.

We are inside, we are her parents, we are
a beast that’s been hard to manage,
a beast that’s given her good milk.

She is a wet creature about to shake
off every drop of her water, a
baby beast who sings out of the house
to those inside who fear silence,

As long as you hear a song, that is me.


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