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!


Uncle Gee owns a teashop in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and my person and I sat there for over two hours at a polished counter alongside a dozen other strangers. It was a dizzying afternoon of tasting teas and hearing a lecture—in the best sense—about life, health, family, education, and of course tea. So much we learned! This man is a marvel. My favorites of his sentences: “Come in and have a damn cup of tea!” “If you hurt my daughter I’ll eat your cat.” “I don’t like your son’s name—I think you should call him…” And a refrain of: “This is not your typical tea shop.” Whatever type of tea shop it is, I will return to it.

The Stranger: Uncle Gee

His Word: Happiness

The poem I wrote:

A broken truck.
An old woman spraying dead
all the weeds in her patch.
A nest of broken eggs
laid beneath some foul-smelling plant.
Was there life left before
the Labrador got to the eggs?
A dandelion he tries to blow
but hasn’t yet the breath.
His concern that I cannot fix
the truck. He takes me
into places like this
where he cannot go
by himself. We touch
scraps the houses
have left behind. He turns to me
and says, happy, mom,
as if happiness is a thing
that can be swallowed.
As if an alley could contain
the fast-driving whole world
from puppy to broken truck.
There is happiness stirred
into the dirt. It is life enough.

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