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!


After class, I met my friend Sheila (a fellow PFS poet) at Legal Seafood to have beer and oysters. It felt like a rite of summer passage to sit outside, before dinner crowded in, and drink down the salty oyster water after eating their slimy bodies. Brian was our waiter. He immediately recognized Sheila’s Welsh accent. He had been to Wales – he told us stories and did his own Welsh accent, making us laugh. And he looked flabbergasted when I asked him for a word.

The Stranger: Brian

His Word: Flabbergasted

The poem I wrote:

“Costco List”


get undies so you don’t
look at me each time you
run out.

Seaweed snacks.

Tasty bars the baby
can eat. DO NOT GET

Dog food.

Do they have
cheap wine?
Do they have
baby shoes?
I don’t really know
what they have
but we like:

Coconut milk


Tomato paste


Soba noodles


70% dark chocolate.

It is a problem
for America that being here
is so much fun,
magic tricks
curling out of racks of objects.
Abracadabra! Look
at these overhead lights
like moonlight,
music playing without
a person to make it,
always the idea of a cart-race,
all of us packed
like wolves in a den,
salivating. You could
buy anything
or walk through
aisles for hours and hours,

Please get all of this
or none except dog food.

And undies.


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