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!


Portland, Oregon. Angie made our cross-town bus ride into an adventure: telling us stories about the bridges, making predictions about who would be waiting for the bus and who would be sprinting at the last minute, and telling us bits and pieces about neighborhoods. When I asked her for a word, she said, “Oh wait! What was the word of the day this morning?” Then she laughed and told me that she and her husband give themselves until midnight to use their words-of-the-day in a sentence. It was hardly 5pm. She still had time.

(About my poem: as we were on a food vacation, I tried to make a poem out of as many beer names as I could.)

The Stranger: Angie

Her Word: Ostentatious

The poem I wrote:

I am your Dutch Columbus. I am the dead guy at your door. We are not Casablanca. We’re crowned with nothing but thorns and titles, the colors we wear and the beers we’ve drunk. You’re a wee bit heavy now, just a wee—now I promise, I do, that it’s just another Belgian white night, and if there is a hog heaven then there must be a shelter for the Rogue Dead, for honey cream girls and for Shakespeare. There we will watch the world turn organic, as far as our damp voices call—there wintertime lights the highlife, blackened voodoo snuffs it out. Swimming at night toward the North Coast, pausing to love at India. Stovepipe, Prankster, Ostentatious, Haystack, I’m rambling again my darling, but you, Scarlet Lady of this black radish night, tell me what I may give—I froth at the mouth to give—that’s my hunger, blithering and infused with my fat whirlwind imagination, once arrogant and now organic. Just as we promised once, delirious in the dandelion spring. You are a ghost—no, a blond, now a framboise, now a night. My dark diplomat, my thunderstorm wheat—you who could lead a monk to slaughter, an Indian Empire off the Brakspear bridge. My bruin, my fiddler’s elbow. My waggledancing hobgoblin. Dunk me and make me wise, heavy wise and perturbed. Plunge me into your collection. I will wait for you. But now here we are, for as long as they’ll keep us. So watch me, taste my wings and touch my dew—I am the hummingbird at your shoulder crying, “yuengling! yuengling!”


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