Life Preserver [15 Words or Less]

Hello, and welcome! This is 15 Words or Less Poems, a low-pressure way to wake up your poetry brain (guidelines here), and I’m very glad you’re here.  

Life Preserver
Photo: Laura P. Salas

In Duluth a couple weeks ago, we went to the Lake Superior Marine Museum like we always do. I snapped a few pictures, including this one. My husband and I and our niece and nephew hopped into Lake Superior for a few minutes (40 degrees year-round) that week. Brrrr. But fun!

Dip in the Lake
Photo: Lori Justus

But just this week in Duluth, a girl and her father died swimming in the Lake. There were riptide warnings and 5- to 7‑foot waves right near shore. Never underestimate the power of Lake Superior. Thinking about these experiences and having just read two fantastic middle grade novels (Maybe a Fox and The Notations of Cooper Cameron) that both somehow incorporate drowning or a fear of drowning, water is on my mind.

This image makes me think of several things:

  1. Cheerios cereal everywhere when my kids were little
  2. Lifesavers Storybooks in Christmas stockings
  3. How is it that I have NEVER thought about why Lifesavers candies are called that? I literally never made the connection before.

And here’s my first draft.  I was going to do a list poem of different kinds of lifesavers, some serious, some humorous, but then it turned into a Can Be… poem and stayed on the more serious side. I don’t write about politics, but my anxieties are coming out in my poems anyway.

A Lifesaver Can Be...


It’s your turn! Have fun and stick to 15 WORDS OR LESS! (Title doesn’t count toward word count.)









63 Responses

  1. I like the rhyme in the last syllables.….and of course, I’m going right to philosophical.

    A Life Saver Can Be

    Me or Us
    In the right place
    At the right time
    to protect–

    1. You, Me or Us — lovely. I like how in your poem, you don’t have to be extraordinary to help.

    2. This is lovely, Linda. My poems are tending toward the philosophical lately, too. I set out to be concrete, but my concerns about society right now seem to be creeping in. I love the simplicity of your poem.

    3. Linda, slow and steady, just as the candy melts in our mouth, so are each one of us, going about our daily lives, at the ready, whenever and wherever. Love the simple admonition.

  2. I don’t think I ever made the name connection either, Laura. Isn’t that funny? We can go all our lives knowing and not knowing something at the same time. Love yours and Linda’s Can Be poems of hope in our society. I need these hopeful words.

    On Monday, I shared a Nelson Mandela quote about fear and courage with my students. I am thinking about fear, courage, lifesavers. Who will be our lifesaver?

    Fear changes nothing.
    When you are drowning,
    only a lifesaver
    will do.

    1. I love that this poem is a challenge. Even though it doesn’t directly ask the reader, it does ask it subtly: will you be a lifesaver?

    2. So true Margaret. I happened upon the same quote by Nelson Mandela over the weekend. Courage over fear, I hope to remember that.

  3. I love these. Funny how a simple “life saver” feels so appropriate right now.
    Mine is 16 words, and literally came from my heart.

    If my heart has a hole in its center
    Is it a lifesaver?
    Or needs one?

    1. Beth, I love how you took this simple fact about a lifesaver having a hole in the middle and made it into a personal poem. We all need help, but we can all give help to. I love this!

  4. Laura, three words in your poem speak volumes; welcome, unselfish and compassion …if only! Sanity comes from the little kindnesses that we witness, more often than we may realize. I witnessed an act of compassion in a local eatery a few days ago, awesome!


    Life saver
    its lifeline attached
    extended to all
    without exception.

    1. Thanks, Martha. All those little acts of compassion means so much. I love your last line especially.

  5. I can honesty say with out me writing my poems I might not have made it thought life

    poetry Savers

    with each scribble of
    words I never quite
    the safety net of lines
    that were untangling
    to save my life

    1. This is wonderful, Jessica. I love where you took this image. Great word choices–scribble, untangling–help deliver your message about the overarching importance of poetry and words in your world.

    2. Jessica, this is so beautiful. I love that poetry is so good at making other people see things, but the best thing of all is what it does for the person who’s writing it. Your poem captures that beautifully.

  6. I’m hopeful that there are many lifesavers out there. I kept thinking of that old lifesaver ad when a simple wintergreen lifesaver could banish despair. It’s a bit more complicated than that, isn’t it?

If not flung
into perilous waters,

    life preservers
    collect dust.

    Without deliberate action,
    we drown.

    1. Molly, this is so true. When I was at that museum, I also took a picture of a life vest that definitely looked like it had been in the water more than once. And I thought about how that meant it had done its duty. It had probably saved lives. A life preserver on a wall is good for nothing if we don’t use it. Wonderful poem!

    2. Would be nice if they didn’t HAVE to be used, but nice to know they weren’t left to gather dust when they could have been used.

      1. You have reminded me of my “intentions” that I seem to never get around to; they are dust-covered for sure.

  7. I love the kindness and gentle rhymes in your poem, Laura.
    Your cold swim inspired my poem. I had to leave out the shivering and the way chilled skin turns red.

    Cold Water Swim Equals Wading

    ten toes
    two shins
    two knees
    two thighs
    fingertips skimming
    feet numb
    climbing out

    1. Hehe–cold water swimming does indeed equal wading, for the most part. I love the simple rhythm of your first several lines. When you get into shockingly cold water, it feels like your brain can only process very short facts like that. So it really captures the experience for me:)

    2. Once you are numb enough (heh-heh), you can swim! We mostly wade here in Maine ocean waters. It’s hard to be that numb.
      Your short lines are effectively chattering!

  8. Did some digging. Fascinating history of the man who invented the candy, and his son.


    No lifesaver
    To save
    The son,
    A poet
    Who left The Bridge

    Donna Smith

    1. Donna, thank you for the inspiration to “check it out.” Who knew!

    2. Wow. This is so haunting, and a surreal mix of fact, fiction, and mood. Fabulous.

  9. I enjoyed your poem, Laura. I especially liked the idea of the potential to be a world changer through simply acts. Here’s what I came up with:

    Savor the moments
    Arms encircling like big O’s
    Give rest to the weary.

  10. It’s hard not to go philosophical these days! Thanks for the delicious reminder of those lifesaver books. My mom did not go for candy gifts, so I treasured the lifesaver book she gave me one Chanukah. I think I made the connection in swim class.

    Lessons Learned in Senior Lifesaver Class

    Toss buoy,
    Reach with pole, towel, hand…
    You can’t help others if you’re drowning.

    1. I was never trained in lifesaving but I do remember being told what to do and the reminder that you can’t save someone else if YOU are drowning! Nice reminder!

    2. We in turn got those Lifesaver books for both are girls for their stockings every year for I think 20 years. Aw, tradition. I love this take on the idea, Buffy, that you have to take care of yourselves to help others. The old oxygen bag on the airplane analogy is getting worn, so this makes it fresh again.

    1. Hahaha. Thank you for this laugh, Elizabeth. It was nice to have somebody go in a fun instead of a serious direction. We sure could all use that. Love the voice here!

  11. Laura I love the writing that your life preserver photo has inspired…indeed a philosophical perspective. Mine was inspired by a case last night at work.

    Eleventh hour delivery.
    Scissors snip
    set you free.
    My life slips precariously…
    Lifesavers, toss your line to me!

    1. Thanks, Jean. Wow, this is dramatic. I especially love the scissors snip line. Very nice!

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,504 other subscribers

Are You Looking For?

Poetry Friday posts

Classroom Connections posts

All my poetryactions

Go to my Poetry page for:

  • National Poetry Month projects through the years
  • Small Reads Roundups (poems grouped by topic)
  • Introductions to several favorite poetry forms
#waterpoemproject15 Words or Less Poems20for2030 Painless Classroom Poems50 State Poemsacrosticsactivity pagesactivity sheetALAA Leaf Can Be...Amy Ludwig VanDerwaterA Need to FeedanthologiesanthologyA Rock Can projectsaudiopoemsawardsbad newsBarbara Juster EsbensenBilly Collinsbiopoemsblog tourbookalikesbook festivalsBookSpeak!book spine poemsbook trailersbop poembyr a thoddaidcafepresscalendar poemsCamp Read-a-LotCan Be... bookscan be... poemsCapstoneCarol Varsalonacascade poemsCatherine FlynnCCRA.W.3CCRA.W.4CCRA.W.5centoschapter bookschoral compositionschristina rossetticinquainsCLAclassified ad poemsclassroom connectionclassroom connectionsClover Kittyconferences and conventionscrown sonnetscybilsdansaDare to DreamDavid Elliottdeeper wisdom poemdefinitosdiamantesdiversitydizaindodoitsuDot DayDouglas Floriandownloadablesdrum corpse.e. cummingsekphrastic poemsepistolary poemsequation poemsessentialethereeseventsexquisite corpseFairy Tale Garage Salefamilyfibonaccifiction picture booksfinding familyfirefightersforeign editionsfound poemsfree author zoomsfree versefrom studentsgeesegeorgia heardghazalGift Taggiveawaygolden shovelgoldilocksgratitudehaikuheart of aheart of a teacherHeidi MordhorstHelen FrostHighlightshow-to poemshow to make a rainbowI Am FromI Am poemsidiomsif you want to knit some mittensIf You Were the MoonILAimagepoemsinterviewin the middle of the nightIRAIrelandIrene LathamJ. Patrick LewisJanet WongJoyce SidmanKendraKerlanKidlit Comboslailaura's board booksLaura's booksLaura's poemsLaura's readingsLaura ShovanLee Bennett HopkinsLilian MoorelimericksLinda Booth SweeneyLine Leads the WayLion of the Skylist poemslittle free librarylive writingLullaby and Kisses Sweetlyricsmadness poetrymargaret simonMarilyn Singermary lee hahnmask poemsMeet My FamilyMelissa StewartMentors for Rentmentor textsmetaphorMichelle Myers LacknerMillbrookMinnesota Book Awardsmoonmy reading lifemy writing processN+7naaninarrative poemsNational Poetry Month 2012 (haiku a day)National Poetry Month 2014 (riddle-ku)National Poetry Month 2015National Poetry Month 2016National Poetry Month 2017 (#wonderbreak)national poetry month 2018 (haiku a day)National Poetry Month 2020National Poetry Month 2021 (#EquationPoem)national poetry month 2022 (sticky-note poems)National Poetry Month 2023 (Digging for Poems)National Poetry Month 2024 (magnipoems)ncteNerdy Book Clubnifty newsnifty stuffNikki Grimesnonfictionnonfiction booksNonfiction Writers Dig Deepnovelsnovels in verseodesOne Minute Till BedtimeoppositifyOskar's VoyagepadletpantoumsparodiesPatreonpeacepersonalpet poemsphotopoetryphrase acrosticspicture booksplagiarismpoempicspoemspoems for two voicespoemsketchpoetic pursuitsPoetry 7poetryactionspoetry activitiesPoetry Blastpoetry booksPoetry FridayPoetry Friday AnthologiesPoetry Princessespoetry promptspoetry sistersPoetry Tips for Teachersprogressive poempublishing processpuddle songPutridquotationsraccontinosRandy Salasread-aloudreadaloudreading poetry in the classroomRebecca Kai Dotlichrecipe poemsrefugeesresearchreview copiesreviewsrevisionrhyming booksrhyming nonfictionrhyming picture booksRhyming Picture Books the Write Wayrhyming poemsRiddle-kuriddle poemsRock Can Be...Rock the Blogrondeau redoublesRudyard Kiplingsalas snippetsSCBWIschool visitsScotlandseasonssecrets of the loonSELsestinasshrinking daysskinnyskypeslice of lifesmall readssnack snooze skedaddlesnowman-coldsonnetsStampede!storm poemstorytimestorywalkstudent poemsstudent workSylvia VardellTanita Davistankatautogramteachableteacher resourcesteen/adult poemsterza rimasthankfulthank yous and referencesthe business sidethings to do iftracy nelson maurertrioletstunie munson-bensonvideosVikram MadanvillanellevillanellesWater Can Be...wealthy elementaryWe BelongWhat's InsideWhy-kuwinterwonderwonderbreakword of the yearwordplaywordsmithswork for hirewritingwriting bookswriting processwriting promptswriting the life poeticyoung authors conferencesYouTubeZapZap Clap Boomzenozentangle
Show More Show Less

Discover more from Laura Purdie Salas

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Join Laura's monthly newsletter for eductators

Get three of Laura's favorite poetry activities when you subscribe to "Small Reads."