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!


Have I talked about my fake tooth? I talk about it rather a lot. I got kicked in the mouth as an 8th grade cheerleader. It got me interested in people’s teeth. When I met Cipi I couldn’t stop staring at her necklace. It contained a tooth—a molar to be exact. But (hold your Meyer Wolfsheim thoughts, Gatsby enthusiasts!) instead of seeming creepy, it simply looked neat. Rooted. Transparently part of how the body works. I admired the roots—I have had a root canal, so I looked with interest in what my front tooth lacks. And I asked questions and learned that she had made the necklace herself.

The Stranger: Cipi

Her Word: Tooth

The poem I wrote:

Of course it is rude to talk
at dinner about god, sex,
or warts, but this day
I told our guests about
my daughter’s first wart:
a plantar on her foot,
which she is treating
with oregano oil.
Afterward I wondered
if I was simply being mean,
for it is the single
non-perfect part
of her four-year-old body.
What if my mother
said to guests, guess
what, Elisabeth’s front tooth
is fake! But hidden
behind my words,
a gift, a tiny spreading freedom,
disinfecting her from
the need to hide and fight
and worry the body.
After all it’s just
a body, we can talk
about it, we all have one,
do not be afraid for
its perfection is a trick
that only lasts a moment.

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