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 two-year-old son and I took forty-five minutes to stop for coffee and pie. Astonishingly, he likes the taste of coffee, so I give him tiny sips. A woman sitting across from us looked at my phone and started to laugh. I always have a sticker on my phone-cum-wallet that reads: “IS IT NECESSARY?” This led to a conversation and the gift of a word. When this poem emerged, I thought at first it was about the dog, but soon I saw that it wasn’t: rather, it’s about choosing to do something we don’t wish to do so that our kids’ lives will be better.

The Stranger: Ursula

The Word: Mirror

The poem I wrote:

What lies under water
is not what they think.
Can it be true, the mother-
mirror reflected wrong,
that she isn’t at heart
a hero? When the old dog
took a freezing swim,
and the baby yelled,
“I have a question, Woody.
Is you all right?” the current
through my mind melted
in malice: he’s old enough.
It’s bloody cold. Let the dog
drown. But what they see
is their mother unwinding
her yellow scarf, taking off
her coat, stepping down
the bank to catch the dog
by the neck. Safe.
They remember a hero
wading into the cold,
a reflection as icy
as a queen’s, the trap
of She did it, so must I.

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