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!


My friend Cathy and I sat talking politics at a pub Friday night, on our way to write postcards to our state representatives. Next to us sat a quiet man wearing a wool tartan cap. Toward the end of our conversation, he said, “I’ve been trying to figure out which side of the fence you two are on.”

Cathy guffawed. “Really?”

We learned that this man, Robert, was in town visiting his daughter who works at the pub. We also learned that he owns a dairy business in California and that he stands opposite us in terms of the fence. This led to the sort of lucid conversation about politics that leaves with nobody feeling moved philosophically, but each of us feeling empathy and interest in the other.

Cathy asked if this man’s daughter shared his political opinions.

“I think so,” he said.

At that moment, Robert’s daughter walked over to squeeze her dad on the shoulder. “Which side of the fence are you on?” Cathy asked her.

The daughter’s response: “I’m not talking about THAT!”

The Stranger: Robert

The Word: Fantasy

The poem I wrote:

Home is a trap
just as anger
is a sleeve

inside out
for effect.

Brain too
is a sleeve
and I never know
how you
live in yours.

is the broken
shell of a
hermit crab and

fear is a beast
that rattles

and beast is
a good
excuse. Baby,

what I mean
to tell you
is how awful
I feel
that my heart
is not as open
as yours.


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