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!


This stranger—whose energy and brightness when talking about coffee made it clear that he was exactly the kind of stranger for whom I like to write poems—was delightful. His word was given to me the afternoon before an adventurous evening when we found a yellow-jacket nest by the garage.

The Stranger: Michael

The Word: Legendary

The poem I wrote:

In the yellow-
jacket nest
sits only fury

& how a slaying
is a project
just like any;

such a nest
like a baby’s
head on the closet

floor, blue
as a humming
lantern; disputes

on who will empty
it, make it all
better & when

they hum we feel
alive, like people
to whom legendary
things happen.

‘To extinction,’
we’ll toast
once the act is done

& for one night
we will write
ourselves clean,

how such an event
is a baptism.

(yes, larvae, we see you)

the next morning
it will fall apart
like gray

paper, layered
with perfect cells,
a garrison;

inside they wriggle
fetal, voiceless like any
shelved-in young

& nearly glowing,
not dead. One
wasp returns

and we back away
with something
like respect. 

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