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 I 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!


When I arrived home, our trees smelled of wintergreen. It was Jeff, the Organic Spider Man, who sprays for bugs with the non-toxic stuff. We stood on the driveway and he told me the story of how, after seeing a family member grow ill, he changed his relationship with chemicals.

The Stranger: Jeff

The Word: Proactive

The poem I wrote:

They stand in front of me, these girls, pink-jacketed both, unloading plastic groceries into a play kitchen, doing mundane tasks with proactive joy. Nobody asks them to do anything yet they dizzy themselves with doing. They are pigeon-toed, they are lumpy, they have stuffed animals zipped into their jackets. Now they are skipping, reading aloud signs that say “No kids unless supervised by an adult.” On a whim they spider up a slide in the wrong direction. They have found a ledge; they dangle their legs. If I look closely enough. If I remember their shades of pink. If I can enumerate each plastic vegetable—then perhaps this is mine to keep.

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