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!


Get all your crazies out,” I told my daughter before we entered Modern Art, an event where the Modern Hotel turns over each room to a different artist, so what remains is a hotel-sized art gallery. My girl did wild whoops in the bushes and then calmed. When we walked in, we saw–in addition to the dancing, the viewers, the public art–a friendly trio of monsters. They all had square heads of varying colors. I asked the blue one, “What kind of monster are you?” “A Treefort Monster,” it answered. He had a long trunk, elephant style. We shook it. Another Treefort Monster had an orange head and teeth as long as carrots. The smallest pink monster gave my daughter a hug. (“I like that little pink one,” she told me later).

The Strangers: 3 Treefort Monsters

Their Word: Floribunda

The poem I wrote:

Everything is perfect
until you introduce
scissors. Now nothing
is safe. Her dresses
have missing ribbons
that reappear
on my desk; sweaters
lose their sleeves,
jaggedly. I am
an artist, the girl
tells me. It’s true.
So I set a few
rules but mostly
keep quiet
as she scissors
her world apart.
Today it is a leotard
whose crotch
she cut out. This part
can be a toy for the dogs.
Isn’t that nice?
I find a single message
in the floribunda
of her gifts: this cut
of ribbon is the most
beautiful thing I know,
and all I can do
is make it smaller.
Snip snip. Only
by breaking down
beautiful objects
will she learn
to make her own.

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