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!


There is a place near me called the Boise Hive where anyone can record a CD. Such possibilities: preserving family stories! the voices of grandparents! children singing Christmas carols (“o kissmuss tee, o kissmuss tee”). My visit was less sentimental: I went to the Boise Hive to record some poems for a grant application. Nate did the recording work. At the end he erased a few blips and handed me a CD.

The Stranger: Nate    

His Word: Jalopy

The poem I wrote:

Once a century the sentiment
blooms, jasmine-sweet
and intoxicating—we jazz
ourselves into rust,
maddening fools
at a worldwide party
until we all want to move
away. Still we love the 1920s,
so many thou-shalt-nots
taunting like bloody steak
to a dog thou-must; such wild
freedom at having nothing
to keep safe. This
old story, still running
like a jalopy, nostalgic
for itself even if all its
mirrors are broken.

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