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 hang around cafés too much and it shows: a hefty percentage of recent strangers come from cafes. Annie, too. Annie played an incredible Venus in Boise Contemporary Theater’s “Venus in Fur,” a two-person performance of rising tension. The morning after seeing it, I saw her in a café while I was waiting to get my grandfather’s autobiography scanned at the printer’s. Annie and I talked briefly about the performance – it was the first run in front of an audience. We agreed that it makes sense to see a play twice, once in the earliest run, and then once it’s been performed many times.

The Stranger: Annie

Her Word: Tension

The poem I wrote:

“I wish I was a big sister
that was as tall as the sky.”

She says this from her
carseat, her brother
joggling his baby-cheeks
in the carseat beside her.

I know what she means:
the so-many-things
she could reach,
the warrior ways
she could defend him,
holding perfect
tension between love
and ferocity, as we do.

I know these things
and for one moment
believe I can almost
read her mind. I ask,
“What would you
be able to do if you
were as tall as the sky?”

“Touch it,” she answers.

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