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!


I met this stranger in the locker room after my daughter’s swim lesson. My two-and-a-half-year-old son approached her and complimented her on everything from her swimsuit to her socks. She accepted each of his compliments with grace. This stranger works as a psychotherapist, and she told me she is writing a dissertation on shame.

The impetus for this poem came from a situation in our house in which the Halloween decoration (a swan squash) has been Galatea-ed by our son, who carries it around and introduces it to people as “my baby, Nightmare Moon.”

The Stranger: Pam

The Word: Shame

The poem I wrote:

This small man
made of springs
fell in green
adoptive love
with a long-necked
squash, just like
a tape dispenser
falling in love
with a snail.

There are women
who won’t let
their sons do this.
This fathering.
No doting on things
they can hold,
whose necks
they can keep
protected. That
doll-less majority
who turn heads
into balls
and slam hard.

We are in the left
of every sentence.
How far from shame
such love falls.

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