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!


One of the most moving TEDxBoise talks I saw was by a pair of Bosnian refugees who spoke of the stages of leaving their country and coming to the United States for resettlement. What got me was how astonishingly young both were to have lived such things. One of the speakers, Refik, carried in a tube a piece of shrapnel that had shot into his chest, stopped in an artery and moved down to his leg, where it would remain lodged for years. Now he is a Ph.D. student, teaching college students and mentoring young refugees.

The Stranger: Refik

His Word: Future

The poem I wrote:

Sunshine before storm.
A boy
in my arms. I sing
and he shakes his head.


I don’t know yet
how to sing to you.

All I know
is how to turn us both
into birds.

Such a story catches
in my bones

like shrapnel.
I must tell it now
or else it will become
the future.


I say, You
sing me a song.
Like a dolphin
he does.


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