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!


On the Big Island, we did a Kona coffee tour: it was a small grower, and we were invited to pull the ripe red berries off the trees and taste them, noticing how all coffee possibilities come from this simple, sweet fruit. Our tour-guide, Yasmina, is formerly a submarine captain; upon learning this fact, I held my breath. When I asked her about the transition to working on land, she said, “If there’s an emergency here, I can leave work. Not so under the ocean.” When I asked for a word, she offered three: Voyage – Transition – Journey. She added: “To me they’re all the same thing.”

The Stranger: Yasmina

The Word: Voyage

The poem I wrote:

Hanging by a thread. How many
I have known who wished

for such delivery, when the body
fails but they are still

breathing. Their answer each time
I asked, how are you?

And nobody ever said the voyage
between calm and calm

is calm.


In this house,
it is her seventh birthday and she

is distracted by a piñata
in her mouth, dangling dead, still

part of her dental-scape.
It’s just tissue, my sister-doctor says.

Use scissors.
How she wishes to go to sleep

and wake delivered.
How in times of pain, like her birth,

I wished my mother
could rescue me from the deadening

roots of my body.


How solitary to be each
our own species. I cannot rescue her

forever but this is so easy.
That night, my hands washed twice,

I creep into her room
and kneel. I find the tooth and slowly

twist, slowly
slowly until it loosens its hold

and strands itself
on the continent of my hand.


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