People, writing

Talking with a stranger

Happy National Poetry Month.

It’s been over a month since I’ve posted here. My time away has had its events.

Mid-February I went to northern B.C. to be with my daughter and help with the grandkids around the birth of her baby. Their lovely baby girl arrived on February 24th.

Then on March 2nd (still at my daughter’s) I had a crazy fall on some stairs and fractured my hip. Surgery the next day put everything right (I hope) though I’m still walking with a cane and not back to normal mobility (of course I’m back at home now). That’s life for you!

Again this April I’m attempting to write a poem a day. I’m using a grab-bag of prompts to help with this: Robert Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog, Adele Kenny blog The Music In It, Martha Silano’s book The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice and others.

Today’s poem was prompted by the Poets and Writers weekly email “The Time Is Now.” This prompt is actually for creative nonfiction but who says one can’t use it for a poem?

Children are often reminded not to talk to strangers, and for good reason. As we get older, communication with strangers isn’t as dangerous, but it can still be uncomfortable. This week, think about a conversation you have had with a stranger in an awkward situation. Who started it? Did you feel safe? After talking, did you feel like you knew this person any better? Did you ever see this person again, and if not, would you want to?

On reading that prompt I immediately thought of my experience this past Monday when, after attending my physiotherapy appointment, I decided to sit and wait for hubby on the bench outside the building.

park bench

Talking with a stranger

Appointment done, the sun is out
the day is warm, the bench is long
the lady sitting there is mute
hair turbaned, leather purse is gold
she wears sunglasses and a coat.

I say, “It’s nice.” She says, “It is.”
I find my notebook and my pen.
She looks asleep but murmurs then,
“How warm is it to get today?
“Twelve or fifteen is what they say.”

Our little talk has loosed her tongue
for now the muttering has begun
not to me or anyone
within our view converses she
with ones unseen

earnestly, disgustedly
with vehemence
and sarcasm, disdainfully
while I, relieved of chat polite
can write and write and write and write.

Violet Nesdoly © 2014 (All rights reserved)


Poetry Friday LogoThis post is part of Poetry Friday, hosted today by Amy at The Poem Farm – a farm where poetry flourishes!


15 thoughts on “Talking with a stranger”

  1. Violet,
    So glad you are back and healing. That must have been quite a set back and with a new grandbaby, too. Your poem is quite funny, and I can imagine the entertainment of you and she sitting on the bench having your own separate conversations, hers with the air and yours on the page. Happy writing!


    1. Why thank you, Margaret. The biggest setback was that I wanted to help, but I ended up needing help!

      About the conversation–you’ve summed it up well: “having your own separate conversations.”


  2. Congratulations on your new granddaughter, and I’m sorry about your accident. Glad you are recovering, and hope the pt is going well. Your poem captured a moment I don’t think I’ve ever had, interesting, & you don’t seem the least bit alarmed, just content that you can write. Perhaps the woman was grateful for a warm body next to her so she could talk? Cheers!


    1. Thank you so much Linda!

      No, the moment didn’t alarm me and I pondered why. I suppose it was because the lady was otherwise calm and never seemed threatening toward me. In fact, she hardly seemed aware that I was there.

      That same day a few minutes later another lady came by. This was after the first ‘stranger’ had left and a woman who was visiting with her husband or friend in a wheelchair had taken the corner of the bench farthest from me. This second lady confronted the other woman first with “Do you have some change? For a coffee.” “No.” Then to me: “Do you have some change. I want to buy a coffee.” Me: “No” (I honestly didn’t have a penny on me). She proceeded to sit down right between us and sipped (loudly) on some liquid from a cup she held in her hand (not coffee; it was white). She slurped several times, then saw another potential victim and jumped up to talk to someone else.

      I think our sunny Monday brought all kinds out of hibernation (including me)!


  3. Congratulations on your baby granddaughter! So sorry that your visit was a bit derailed by an injury. Wishing you luck with your April poetry and with your recovery!


  4. Welcome back! You had some ups and downs (literally) since last we heard from you. I’m just curious — why did you choose the slightly backward word order at the end of the fourth lines?


    1. Thanks, Mary!

      About those fourth lines… maybe I’ve ready too much Ryan, with rhymes wanting their prominence. Rhythm had something to do with it too. In the fourth stanza “…converses she” was done intentionally so that it was next to “with ones unseen.”

      Does the word order stumble you? This is very much an early draft. I should probably try for a more natural order.


      1. Yes, it does stumble me a bit. But I’m just one readers, and the most important thing is the effect you were going for! One of the things I love about Kay Ryan’s rhymes is the way she sprinkles them liberally throughout the lines, not just at the ends. Maybe you could try that in the next draft. (She’s one of my mentors, too!)


    1. Thank you, Michelle! I’m sure I’ve had curious events like this happen to me at other times (no doubt we all have), but have never thought of writing a poem about it. That prompt came along at just the perfect time to make this seem like a legit idea… another beauty of poetry: it can be about anything!


  5. Welcome back, Violet! I hope that you will be feeling better and better each day and truly admire your writing through such a difficult time. Congratulations on your wee family member too!

    This stranger poem pulled me right in too, making me think of all of the times I’ve talked with strangers. You capture that “awkward feeling” so well, and too, remind us that there is always something to be learned – directly or indirectly – from time spent with strangers.

    Take good care and manyh healing thoughts for spring!


  6. Hi there Violet, so sad to hear about your recent accident. Welcome back! I love reading your poem – there is so much hunger for that elusive quite space to write, write, write. 🙂 Hope you feel better soon!


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