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!


I met Pam at a party and simply could not get enough of her. She was from Texas, first of all – my people! And she had the most astonishing stories, and also this deep-gut empathetic wisdom, spiced with humor. For example, she told a friend who had recently divorced: You know marriage is like waffles – you can throw away the first. She said it so gently and kindly. She was just magnificent. So this poem is for her.

The Stranger: Pam

Her Word: Faithful

The poem I wrote:

This is the sacrifice that the faithful make: show up in the deep-ocean darkness of night to nurse somebody else’s son back to life. He’s losing his leg and each time he rolls over in bed the IV comes out. Your job is to set the IV right. You do this while your own boys are at home, sleeping. You do this even when the sick boy’s mother locks the door, locking you out, while angry men like sharks surround your car. You do this and you would do it again, for mothers shouldn’t lose their sons. Sons shouldn’t lose mothers either. You ask the sharks: who is the leader here? You ask the leader, do you have children? I’ll give you all the money in my purse to buy your daughter an Easter dress if you let me get out of here. Swimming into air is not easy, you think as you drive away, a window open to let in the dawn. Everything is alive this morning, even the bending ocean on the side of the road. The faithful live here, in everything green. The faithful keep the secret of how things stay green for a long, long time. Across the city your boys are waking. You will be home, soon.