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!


Burns, Oregon. Passing through on my way to backpack for the first time. Mollie had escaped an abusive relationship and afterward tattooed onto her arm the word “warrior.”

The Stranger: Mollie

The Word: Warrior

The poem I wrote:

For how many years I refused
these wilds,
would not hold
or look at their maps.
Out here, who
would take care
of me? Who would be
my rescuers, here
with no mother
and no mate?

I follow her,
this woman who listens
to rocks. We dig
our holes; we bury;
what we cook we eat;
what we wear, we carry.
In my city
and my home,
there is a deep-breathing
child who listens,
who wants to know
how it is done,
how to go into these places,
how to come back
yourself still
but less hungry.

Sleeping girl, I don’t know
how to tell stories
about the wilderness.
There are those
who go deep,
seeing things
I don’t want to see;
they return
I know none of the ghosts, only
how light it feels
to fall asleep
with nothing,
how the act of purifying water
is just one form
of making life,

how you will make life enough
out here and always.
Listen: let
the wild be
your mother
and your mate for you
are more warrior inside than all of it
and perhaps so am I.

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