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!


Toni makes tea and is a community leader in teaching people about plant-based diets. I have eaten at her tea room, Shangri-La, many times. Her tea room is moving to a new location this fall, and when I called in search of my favorite tea, Toni agreed to meet me at the new location so I could replenish.

The Stranger: Toni

The Word: Tea

The poem I wrote:

Look down
at your roots,
your wet long
white roots.
Do not long
to be the woman
who begins
the story, the one
who bears fruit
and dies: she only
can come back
as memory
or witch.

Your job,
sweet petal,
is to be everything
else: hero and horse,
lake and ogre
beneath, tower and gold
at once. Ask wishes
of the moon. Do
the work that needs
to be done. Learn
to sew even if
a mother never
taught you.
Dry the best
leaves for tea.
Sew enough shirts
to unwing
your brothers
from the birds
they will become.
Feed the dog for it
can be a good friend.
Crow at night once
your newborn sleeps
at last.

This is your story,
woman. Yours,
mother. In this version
you get to live.

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