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 write this poem from London, where I am visiting my vast extended family. I took my babies for a jacketed jaunt downtown – we rode a double-decker red bus several miles in the wrong direction. When we corrected course and were waiting again at a bus stop, we found ourselves sitting next to an officer of the law. I stuffed one of my business cards inside each child’s jacket pocket and instructed them if we ever were to get accidentally separated, that they locate a police officer, like this one, and present the card and say, “Help me find my mother!” The officer, Jason, was as kind as could be, and he participated in our conversation about safety. Then he and I spoke of recent events in both of our countries. As the bus arrived, we agreed that the conversation had been for both parties a “tonic.”

The Stranger: Jason

The Word: Future

The poem I wrote:

Our mother through the centuries
was animal first,
quick to defend
any of her pups
from our small
growled offenses.

She loved us best when we got
things wrong: one bad choice,
one ignorant jump-ship,
and this woman,

like a nation,

came roaring to our
aid, to our sorry pelts
to say that yes,

I still count you, and

Yes, you speak well
even though you are no
work of art,

and finally
Yes you have a future

even though you’ve added nothing
to the blue of the world—

Yes, you, hungriest one
who forgot to grow
the way I raised you.


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