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 Kevin on an elevator in the Harvard Science Center—he was going to work, and I was going for a ride with my babies who love pressing buttons. We got off at his floor and talked for a spell about homeschool, writing, intersections of connections.

The Stranger: Kevin

The Word: Synapse

The poem I wrote:

One in our house
learned to sew the day
before he died.
She measures thread
and somewhere
beneath the table lie
the abhorred shears.
Threads tangle; one
bright one breaks. He is not
coming back, not even
if I wish him. Tonight
one more woman
picks up the needle,
a simple mending, nothing
to break but thread.
His doctors tried.
Still it is true
that every system
breaks once.
Her fabric fills
with stitches, the world
with moths, rain and mulch
he cannot smell.
Across the synapse,
a message, electric and alive:
Put me back together.


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