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!


Before introducing this week’s stranger, a quick call for poets: I’m seeking any Poetry for Strangers contributors who will be in Boise on May 2, Saturday, which is Boise Independent Authors Day. I will be at Rediscovered Books from 3-4pm doing an event for Poetry for Strangers. Will you come and share some of your word poems? Please email me if so.

At a performance at Boise Contemporary Theater, we sat behind an actor I recognized from my first-ever Idaho Shakespeare play back in 2007: Lynn had played Caliban in “The Tempest,” and he was the best, gnarliest, oceaniest Caliban ever: he had seashells barnacled to his body and he moved with a heartbreaking, humble crabwalk. We said hello and told him how much we liked his Caliban. We watched the play and afterward I asked for a word.

The Stranger: Lynn

His Word: Unknown

The poem I wrote:

“Dollhouse: 0 | Puppy: 76”

Just when we thought we’d shut all the old beasts
Off, a new beast has been shivering our village.
Tricky business: she nipped at grandfather and tore
His overalls from his chest; sister’s red hair
Stands up straight. Our beast is confused at best:
At times she eats tables; her teeth marked up
The computer so badly we had to throw it away.

You can visit my life and see the damage.
The characters cower like delicate insects
Inside the dollhouse. At night I shut each door
Promising safety to the people inside. I am lying.
The house has pink walls, small drawn-on rugs,
A study, a crib for the bitten-on baby. I don’t know
How many families live here but they have all
Been separated by this holocaust. As for
The beast, nobody knows what to do with her.
We give her chew-toys. We stuff peanut butter
Into a rubber object and hope it will busy

Her teeth. In the end, we give up and stuff
Everything away, telling ourselves we are just
Objects, we are all just wooden mortal things,
And if she doesn’t eat us tomorrow, then
We can always count on some unknown soon.

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