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!


Walking the Labrador down my street on a day when spring seemed just about here, I was surprised when a man popped his head out of the side of a van. “Do you like opera?” he asked. Yes, I answered. He handed me a CD. “You’ll love it,” he promised. Pleased by the gift, I asked him for a word to use in a poem.

The Stranger: Andre

The Word: Solitaire

The poem I wrote:

I don’t wish to die, said a man to his gods.
The gods squatted on their heels and acted
surprised. Finally

the gods pronounced: You may live as long
as you choose—when you wish to die,
touch the earth. Then they vanished

in a bath of light, leaving the man a horse.


The man rode while history unwrapped
like a moving picture.
He rode into the future

and met generations of kings. He rode at night,
moonlit, and he always took care

not to fall.

But he began to ask, Why did the gods
waste this gift on me,
me a solitaire, me
an old boar?
Some days it was just man and sky,
the horse nodding at other horses.
The glare of life from so
many angles, so many years.

First he felt

delirious at his luck, then
happy, then content.


At last he came upon a very old woman

carrying a jug of milk; she
was ragged, she
was poor, her face
was a thousand years old,
and when she dropped her milk

he dropped from his horse to help
without thinking
that it might be a woman
to undo what the gods had given.


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