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!


Airports are by definition stale, unromantic. But the Portland airport does its best: it invites musicians to play in the terminal, and I paused to listen to Brian Cheney on the piano. I listened for a long time; his music was a spot of green on a barren landscape. After a few songs, a photographer approached me and said he hoped I didn’t mind that he had taken a photo of me because “seeing someone pay such close attention to music is almost as cool as hearing the music itself.” This led to a conversation about focus, attention, and an artist’s duty to moments: the triangle of an artist watching an artist watch an artist.

The Stranger: Corey

The Word: Serendipitous

The poem I wrote:


By the bus stop, music:            a man at the piano.

Some miracle of stained           glass kept the rain

from wetting him, the wind     from sounding,

the night from making              invisible his hands,

and so the music made             a canopy around us.

The music said, there is            nothing in the world,

but (it said) you. It said,           you are pure beast,

beautiful; it said, you have       come here tonight

(how serendipitous);                you, so far from being

a machine, are capable             of mercy; at last the

music said, as the night            came down, nothing

divides you from the sky          and nothing in the

world can protect you;             and that is all right.


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