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!


For the first time, I got turned down when asking for a word. It was by a TSA employee. “A word?” she said. “I don’t know if I’m allowed. You could ask my supervisor if you want.” I decided that for this final word of 2013, I would find somebody who without doubt did not have a supervisor.

The Stranger: Santa Claus 

His Word: Joyous

The poem I wrote:

Here is a story: there was a man
on a roof who loved to give
gifts. No, I don’t like that story.
He dressed in red and had a beard.
You tell me the one about Goldilocks.
Some of us steal porridge while
others land reindeer on the roof.
It is confusing to pick the joyous
from the terrible like picking
beads from lentils: age dims our eyes
so we still can’t know the difference.
Does Santa live with the three bears? It
doesn’t matter: we are all make-believe.

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