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!


My toddler son asks to go places “by bikes!” This spring we often do. My old pink bike has turned into a long limousine with seat in front for my guy and bike attachment in back for my pre-two-wheeler girl. It works. One day I was riding this bike solo when the chain became detached from the sprocket and I couldn’t pedal forward. While I paused on the roadside and assessed my options, a kind stranger named Rick stopped by and asked if he might help. I held his sunglasses while he reattached the chain.

Sidenote: This marks my 150th poem for strangers!

The Stranger: Rick

His Word: Mental health

The poem I wrote:

Green girl
after green girl touched
my skin but could not
name its color—

Inside me is a monster.
I tried to use rocks
to rub him out
of my body—

So this is the warrior
I have become, fighting
myself over a piece of time—

Tell me something
about mental health, a fact
between “You can’t talk
to crazy,” and “We are all just
a committee of selves”—

Turn away, turn toward,
we face each other in a narrow script:
Hello, green girl. Greetings, monster.

We are warriors all
battling the same questions:
The life inside. The question
of how to talk.
Myself versus myself.
The whole dirty fact of us both.


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