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!


“Who else is American?” my daughter asked. She was wearing a royal purple costume gown and she was holding stickers of the American flag that she wanted to hand out. Pretty much everybody here is American, I told her. We were at Whole Foods after the first day of school, eating figs and yogurt. The baby guy sat in his highchair saying, “Hi. Hi. Hi.” Compared to the girl in the gown, the baby and I were dressed more like the rabble. A couple came to the end of our table and asked if they could join us. We are chaos: anyone who sticks around will figure that out soon. Susy and Kelly asked the kids questions, and in the chaos we were able to have a meaningful conversation (the baby guy continued, “Hi. Hi. Hi.”)

The Strangers: Susy & Kelly

Their Word: Grace

The poem I wrote:

My grandmother said
having children meant she never
thought in a narrative line
ever again. My sister-in-law
said that’s a nice way
of saying you spend your whole life
running in f-ing circles.
The raw grace, so animal, so alive—
like waking up each morning to elk feeding
on grass, about to eat
our small green blanket.
We become chimera, half-lion, half-
goat, half-snake, too many halves,
and sometimes we breathe fire.
The narrative thread
resumes at times, an odd day at lunch
where for an hour
we’ve all pretended
to be elephants; she looks at me
over the table and says,
Mom, I’m sorry your nana died,
and it is clear that she means it.

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