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 a snow day, my daughter bit two Legos apart and loosened her front tooth, initiating the end of her baby smile. We asked the people at our neighborhood market, where we walked for hot chocolate, to tell stories of their lost teeth. One person remembered yanking a tooth in the tie-it-to-the-door-technique. (“Only once!” he said. “Ouch!”) Someone else remembered tasting blood from a wiggly molar. (My daughter winced.) Near the door at a small round table, Gratia and her daughter were sharing a newspaper: Gratia read the news, her daughter the comics. They offered their tooth stories. When I asked for a word, they mused. “Electric toothbrush?” her daughter suggested.

The Stranger: Gratia

The Word: Electric

The poem I wrote:

I wish to be made
of purest distillation

glass-bottled for travel,
not caught in fixed

like a tooth. Matriarchally
I have taken my place
in line,

How long I’ve lived
on the periphery of things—

except there
in the electric center,

where gifts
as to a vessel receiving

not diapers?
my child asked

after listening
to the story of
gold and frankincense and myrrh,

then shifting like a star
at the insensitivity
of kings.


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