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!


At Starry Story Night, Caleb told a story that moved the entire audience: he was first introduced to wonder, he told us, on a walk with his mother when pennies started falling out of the sky. Was his mother throwing them? Were they coming out of the bushes? This moment defined his whole life, he told us: a life spent seeking moments of wonder. It was a story that concluded with Caleb asking his dying mother if she really had been throwing the pennies. (No! she insisted).

The Stranger: Caleb

His Word: Empathy

The poem I wrote:

She calls all her babies “Girl!” because
I must call her that, without knowing it.
And we live in a house of rough girls,
these plastic dolls who poke and jump
and misbehave. Your girls sure don’t have
much empathy, I tell her. She wants
to know what empathy means. It means
sharing someone else’s feelings. Thinking
how other people would feel if we – Ouch!
One of my daughter’s girls has just
poked me in the neck. “Giiiirls!!”
She dissolves into happy scolding:
“No thank you, Girl, for doing that
to my mother – to your granny!”
she tells her doll. At me she shrugs.
“It is the girls’ fault,” she says. “Not mine.”

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