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!


Walt and his daughter, Laurie, were getting into their car while I drove by. I was late for a dinner but Laurie is my neighbor, so I rolled down the window to say hello. Every neighborhood has “that guy everyone knows” and it turns out Walt is ours. As he introduced himself, he also mentioned his basset hound Buster—and then I knew who he was. Walt had written a book, a memoir, from the point of view of his hound. Many of my neighbors have read it. When I mentioned this, Walt said, “Wait just one moment,” and jogged to his car to get me a copy.

The Stranger: Walt

His Word: Punctuality

The poem I wrote:

In my twenties I ran certain
that the liquid of my days
would fit into a single beaker
job, like a parent, that took
care of all things so I could
stay young forever, unworried
by the things that whiten
adults’ hair. I saw it wrong.
Choosing the scattering of
many lives isn’t brave
but years ago I would’ve
thought it looked it:
it was my way of ducking
the grimmest fear, the one
of missing epic events.
My paths have been crooked
certainly. The epic events
arrived with punctuality.
I see now that above
all what I feared for my life
was perfect straightness,
nothing to love or grieve,
going too far too long
in the wrong bloody direction.

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