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!


At swim lessons, my kids went to their coaches and I sat in the hot tub. There I met Carolyn, former dietician who now works as a professor and researcher on health and aging. We had a great conversation before it got too hot to sit and we both got out.

The Stranger: Carolyn

The Word: Happiness

The poem I wrote:

You’re beautiful,
he wrote,
and she waited.
She waited first
to get older—
waited for him to shed
the dirty jeans
he always wore.
She waited for a reason
to leave town, for
the coral nipples
in his poems to darken,
for her own voice
to grow gentle and low.
She waited
until she stopped
dreaming about him,
waited for pets,
cars, children,
broken bones,
every happiness
to meet her first.
She waited until
the water around her
ran clear. When
she had all grown up
at last she wrote
back to him,
I’ve waited for you.
And she waited.

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