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!


For the month of April, I have had a Liechtensteinian poet staying with me. We went to a friend’s book release party at Rediscovered Books in downtown Boise. After the reading and the celebrating, I found my guest in the poetry section being introduced to the great American poets by Kelly, who works at the bookstore.

This is the final piece of the 4-part April poem. The poem that resulted is shaped like matryoshka (Russian nesting dolls)—each new poem is tucked into the heart of the previous one.

The Stranger: Kelly

His Word: Eyeshadow

The poem I wrote:

Sunshine before storm.
A boy
in my arms. I sing
and he shakes his head.


I don’t know yet
how to sing to you.

All I know
is how to turn us both
into birds.


Girl edits boy. Boy edits girl.
Perhaps there is some
enjoyment in it.

Boy asks, Do you think
the crocuses
will rise today?

I must tell
these stories now
so they may become
the future.


These people.
I offer them a script
for endings, a way to invite
someone upstairs
on a whisper.
You are too strict,
they say. You in your
boots, standing on
one leg, no eyeshadow
or anything. Some say
editing is a form
of love. So many ways
I have let myself be edited.


So many ways I have let
myself be loved.


Such a story catches
in my bones
like shrapnel.

I must tell it now
or else it will become
the future.


I say, You
sing me a song.
Like a dolphin
he does.


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