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!


Hello friends,

Where I live, in Boise, we’ve had several hard snows – last week we were iced slick in, and the gray skies, too low, were bearing down on us. To cheer myself up, I went to see …

The stranger: Gregory, who gives a mean Thai massage. I like to see him in January, when it feels like a purification.

His word: Ebullient

The poem I wrote:

You will never catch the diamond light a wristwatch casts on a wall,
nor the secret energy source that feeds an ebullient person. Just like

you cannot net the scent of someone you love.

I once knew a woman who smelled like cinnamon and smoke; she
sewed me an orange doll. I would give it to my daughter but first

I had to smell it, to look for her in the fabric,

in the stitches of the nose. There are secrets sewn into these dolls:
you will always see your mother in their faces, but not quite.

My daughter will smell me until her own her-smell

flowers into the fabric, the dress. I know better but I don’t always
act on it. I know the senses are not lasting, that the best you can do

is to breathe her in, hard, one more time.

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