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!


Graduate students know all the good coffee shops, and in Austin my art history grad student cousin took me to a coffee-tent called “Beware Coffee.” It was actually a tent: solidly parked in a lot near the university. We walked in between the flaps to see an elegant counter with two people and an espresso machine behind it. Also in the tent were three small tables with plants on them—a little makeshift café—and several people seated. The owners had moved from the west coast to start a small coffee business in Austin. We all had a little trouble figuring out how to spell their word.

The Strangers: Natasha & Braxton

Their Word: Paraprosdokian

The poem I wrote:

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.” – Groucho Marx

All I want for Christmas is
a surprise, one day that
feels unlike the others
that fall like leaves from a
sheath of paper stashed
beneath the computer.
It is fine to mire bellybutton-
deep in the prosaic,
so long as one new thing
flashes its certainty or
you stay awake all night
once or twice a year.
If a deck of cards flips
to one too many jacks,
the days will lead us
somewhere too,

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