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!


Years ago in the Denver airport I had too much time between Austin and Boise and stopped to get my boots shined and ended up missing my flight. It wasn’t the first time. It won’t be the last. The fact remains: airports have a dazzling array of ways to miss your flights.

On a recent layover in Denver I stopped with my tiny son at a café called Root Down. There I learned that this woman and her son worked together at the café. When I asked her for a word, she asked for her son. “He knows better words.”

The Strangers: Jamae (the mother) and Sam (the son).

Their Word: Euphoria

The poem I wrote:

We have been up all night and now it’s just dawn and we’re
Frying eggs with the Buddha. Not butter, he says. What else
Have you got. He points at the sunrise. He balances
The daughter’s doll (named Aurora) on the purple-tulip
Kitchen backsplash. Boo! says the Buddha, and the doll
Falls over. Such a weird euphoria of having a holy person
In our kitchen. I mean, the stuff he knows but won’t tell us.
We have to figure it out on our own. How about olive oil?
He asks. Where would it be? Such mess. His bum rustles
Inside the pantry. I suppose that’s how life works,
Magic in sudden increments, an excruciating not-knowing
And in the end being glad of it, the ripe bum of the Buddha
Rising like a sun in the buttery kitchen air.

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