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!


Some of you who are former readers of the Tuesday Writer blog (which no longer exists but turned into a book, The Creative Year) might remember a mention of a family obsession with backhoes. Well, we were the luckiest family on our block the other morning, for we had a small excavator digging up concrete in our backyard. I asked the driver how in the world he learned to do the work, for he removed slabs of our crooked patio with such care and precision. He said he learned from watching his dad. When I asked him for a word, he leaned against our fence for a long time. At last he said quietly, “Grace.”

The Stranger: Cory

His Word: Grace

The poem I wrote:

The students I teach tell me
stories where “you’re not
brilliant” got calligraphied
over their life. It is a pretty
theory but it never works.
The only thing that works
is work, finding honor
in the dust where the rumors
are excavated and stripped
away: anyone can tell the dirt
is real because it muddies
each time it rains.
The machines we bow to
for they can do so much more
than we can. The body
we bow to because
it holds the whole world.
The work we don’t bow
to but still it rescues us,
offering grace when
no-one else will.

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