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!


While riding my bicycle home from downtown, I stopped by a tent near St. Luke’s Hospital. It turns out this week is their healthcare week and I had stumbled upon their employee barbecue. At one table a Nurse Educator was leading an exercise booth. After doing ten squats with her, I asked her for a word.

The Stranger: Norma

Her Word: Healthy

The poem I wrote:

We come to life with nothing and
will leave life with nothing again –

but we have so many things
to carry, so we forget to be
healthy the way an iris is

healthy, all green stalk and stem,
in a field with only a bee
or two, and nothing else
to distract, to weigh down and steal

away the vital stuff, the chlorophyll –

the key is deciding what to erase:
this stretch of worry here, next to
the lower vertebrae: or

the daily need for something,
caffeine or the flashing heat of being
in the center of the world –

or some hard winged thing
that got lodged into the head
years ago, and is fluttering

against the skull, waiting
for summer when will run up
into the hills, fast as we can,

and breathe out hard, setting it free.


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