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!


Sean makes things out of balloons in Truckee, California—a town with an infamous history (including the Donner Party) that retains a wild-west feel and also has a summer street-market that includes balloons. Sean has been making balloon creations for five years. “I learned it on a dare,” he said. Some creations are huge and impressive, such as a balloon motorcycle. We are in Disney princess frenzy, however, and so we ask for a crown.

The Stranger: Sean

His Word: Forever

The poem I wrote:

To make believe that she
is a story, I
say we are strangers,
forever not mentioning
that she is
a forgiveness
from the daughtering
that came before:
a finless, un-mermaided
girl wanting me to say, “hello.”
Not, I see you
traded your tail
for pigeon-toed feet. Nothing
critical. She narrates
in reverse.
Maps us out
and forgets to fill us in.
You’ve come out
from the lake
I wouldn’t go there
but she will,
for all the reasons
she knew coming out.
The water
has bones.
How to tell
which of us is pretend?
This poem
is for you, Story,
as much as for the others.

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