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 one-year-old baby and my sister Sarah and I got stuck in an old elevator in a Cambridge, Massachusetts apartment building. We were carrying groceries up to the fifth floor; we had considered the stairs. Unfortunately the alarm button was broken too, and the elevator phone was missing—but luckily we had our own phones. We called the emergency number and the operator called the fire department and two trucks and half a dozen firemen showed up and pried the door open.

The Stranger: Jim (Fire Captain)

His Word: Rescue

The poem I wrote:

The practice is building up
to become a person always
ready: nights,
mornings, meals, always
a catastrophe will happen
and you must solve it,
you must find hope
in each story.
It is training the animal inside
to run toward smoke,
not away—it is telling
those at home, don’t worry,
though of course they do.
But the trick to rescue
is the quietness:
not acting when acting
isn’t needed. It is humble
training to be still
while you wait, to appear only
when something breaks
or sparks or comes too early,
when everything is broken.
You show up to say, don’t worry.
This happens every day.

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