[15 Words or Less Poems] Roots


Photo: Laura Purdie Salas

Wake up your poetry brains with 15 Words or Less (guidelines here)!

Here are the roots of a cool tree in the Bahamas–I think this was at a beach in Freeport. Here’s what this image?makes me think of:

1)?Knotted shoelaces
2) Mermaid hair
3) Medusa

And here’s my poem first draft:

The Last Mermaid
washed up
on beach,
scales dulled,
tail still,
hair tangle of’salt, stone

extinct

–Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

What do you think of when you look at this picture? Take any quick idea and jot down a 15 Words or Less poem. It doesn’t have to rhyme or describe this picture. It’s just about whatever you think of when you look at it.

138 Responses

  1. plunging darkness, forcing our way through
    anchored fast that our creations

    may reach the sky

    (while i should probably know what my own poems are about, i am torn between whether or not this is about writing or children. or both.)

    1. What a vivid way to express that usually someone or something is behind the scenes, working hard, putting in time, staying grounded, in order for someone or something else (a story, a poem, a child, a spouse) to fly high and big. I almost always know what my poems are about, which can get boring. I’m always so excited when something comes out that’s at least slightly open to interpretation! (anchored fast is my favorite phrase)

      1. thanks! when ‘anchored fast’ spilled out i paused and admired it a bit myself. it isn’t often i feel the sudden magic of words that happen along.

        in the spirit of these exercises i try to do them as quickly as possible. i look at the photo until something starts brewing, then jump down to the comment box and hustle the feeling into words before it flits.

        confession time: i don’t read your intro or your poem if possible before writing mine. i really want the response to be raw and immediate. that said, i loved that you went into mermaid territory. i didn’t see it myself until afterward, but now i can almost see nothing else.

        1. LOVE that you admit to pausing and admiring briefly. It really is magic when a phrase comes out that is more than we expected.

          I am so glad you try to do them quickly–that is definitely the idea. Some people confess to spending more time, revising, etc. But really it’s not supposed to be effort-ful or anxiety-provoking. Look for a minute, then spill. That’s it.

          Thanks for the kind words. And I’m glad you don’t read my post first. I do it and list a few thoughts to help people start seeing other things in the image, but I’d really rather NOT influence the words of people who are comfortable just taking off from the image. THAT’s def the way to go. I always enjoy the poems you come up with–it’s a treat to read them.

  2. plunging darkness, forcing our way through
    anchored fast that our creations

    may reach the sky

    (while i should probably know what my own poems are about, i am torn between whether or not this is about writing or children. or both.)

    1. What a vivid way to express that usually someone or something is behind the scenes, working hard, putting in time, staying grounded, in order for someone or something else (a story, a poem, a child, a spouse) to fly high and big. I almost always know what my poems are about, which can get boring. I’m always so excited when something comes out that’s at least slightly open to interpretation! (anchored fast is my favorite phrase)

      1. thanks! when ‘anchored fast’ spilled out i paused and admired it a bit myself. it isn’t often i feel the sudden magic of words that happen along.

        in the spirit of these exercises i try to do them as quickly as possible. i look at the photo until something starts brewing, then jump down to the comment box and hustle the feeling into words before it flits.

        confession time: i don’t read your intro or your poem if possible before writing mine. i really want the response to be raw and immediate. that said, i loved that you went into mermaid territory. i didn’t see it myself until afterward, but now i can almost see nothing else.

        1. LOVE that you admit to pausing and admiring briefly. It really is magic when a phrase comes out that is more than we expected.

          I am so glad you try to do them quickly–that is definitely the idea. Some people confess to spending more time, revising, etc. But really it’s not supposed to be effort-ful or anxiety-provoking. Look for a minute, then spill. That’s it.

          Thanks for the kind words. And I’m glad you don’t read my post first. I do it and list a few thoughts to help people start seeing other things in the image, but I’d really rather NOT influence the words of people who are comfortable just taking off from the image. THAT’s def the way to go. I always enjoy the poems you come up with–it’s a treat to read them.

    1. Oh! So I know the title is War Beach, but I was picturing the tsunami. Great f words and or sounds. Really strong, concrete scene!

    1. Oh! So I know the title is War Beach, but I was picturing the tsunami. Great f words and or sounds. Really strong, concrete scene!

  3. Brittle and dry
    Heaving one last sigh
    Hair drying in sky
    Goodbye, sea. Goodbye.

    I really liked your idea, Ms. Salas! Good picture!

    1. Thanks, Amelia. I love the sensory words–I could feel the brittleness and hear the sigh. Is this a person or some otherworldly creature speaking this poem?

  4. Brittle and dry
    Heaving one last sigh
    Hair drying in sky
    Goodbye, sea. Goodbye.

    I really liked your idea, Ms. Salas! Good picture!

    1. Thanks, Amelia. I love the sensory words–I could feel the brittleness and hear the sigh. Is this a person or some otherworldly creature speaking this poem?

  5. Wow, some things to think about with these early poems! Not so much with mine! 😉

    French class…
    she spends the hour lost
    in split ends

    © Diane Mayr

  6. Wow, some things to think about with these early poems! Not so much with mine! 😉

    French class…
    she spends the hour lost
    in split ends

    © Diane Mayr

    1. there’s something about the phrase “reaching for water” that sticks with me. i picture hands grabbing and gaining no purchase, and that only makes what comes before more wrenching

    1. there’s something about the phrase “reaching for water” that sticks with me. i picture hands grabbing and gaining no purchase, and that only makes what comes before more wrenching

  7. Why do orchid roots lift up?

    A snake dance toward the sky
    swallowing air.

    Like us.

    Jeanne Poland

    1. Wow–there’s a lot of image/thought in these few short words, Jeanne. The combo of the words “orchid” and “snake” have me picturing beautiful, exotic scenes. I love that you compare the orchid to things as disparate as a snake and a person.

  8. Why do orchid roots lift up?

    A snake dance toward the sky
    swallowing air.

    Like us.

    Jeanne Poland

    1. Wow–there’s a lot of image/thought in these few short words, Jeanne. The combo of the words “orchid” and “snake” have me picturing beautiful, exotic scenes. I love that you compare the orchid to things as disparate as a snake and a person.

  9. Some really deep, powerful poems here. Looks like you picked a good pic! Here’s my offering:

    THE WAITING

    Like desicated shreds
    of root
    stretched across
    desert
    barreness,
    in futility
    of hope
    I lie.

    -Matt Forrest Esenwine

    1. We’re kind of downers today, aren’t we? But beautiful downers! I love the image of roots stretched over desert, like a barren net. And then that line “of hope.” Very interesting, since you could have just said in futility/I lie. I can interpret the last three lines several different ways. It’s a little mysterious and lovely.

  10. Some really deep, powerful poems here. Looks like you picked a good pic! Here’s my offering:

    THE WAITING

    Like desicated shreds
    of root
    stretched across
    desert
    barreness,
    in futility
    of hope
    I lie.

    -Matt Forrest Esenwine

    1. We’re kind of downers today, aren’t we? But beautiful downers! I love the image of roots stretched over desert, like a barren net. And then that line “of hope.” Very interesting, since you could have just said in futility/I lie. I can interpret the last three lines several different ways. It’s a little mysterious and lovely.

  11. Heart-breaking image, Laura.

    ROOTS

    “Reach for the stars”,
    they say.
    I reach for the earth–
    digging deep,
    growing strong.

    ~ Janelle (Blue Sky, Big Dreams)

    1. What a great twist, Janelle. This feels like a poem lifted right out of a novel in verse, because the character feels strong and I feel like she/he has a whole story that I want to discover.

    2. i, too, thought it sounded like an excerpt of something bigger… and that makes me want more!

  12. Heart-breaking image, Laura.

    ROOTS

    “Reach for the stars”,
    they say.
    I reach for the earth–
    digging deep,
    growing strong.

    ~ Janelle (Blue Sky, Big Dreams)

    1. What a great twist, Janelle. This feels like a poem lifted right out of a novel in verse, because the character feels strong and I feel like she/he has a whole story that I want to discover.

    2. i, too, thought it sounded like an excerpt of something bigger… and that makes me want more!

  13. Fossil tracks
    timeworn trails
    stories etched in stone:
    spilling secrets
    of ancient
    souls.

    Love your mermaid, Laura, especially the tangle of salt, stone. I’ve been writing about dinosaurs, so I saw tracks in this image. It’s amazing what we know (or presume we know) from tracks left millions of years ago!

  14. Fossil tracks
    timeworn trails
    stories etched in stone:
    spilling secrets
    of ancient
    souls.

    Love your mermaid, Laura, especially the tangle of salt, stone. I’ve been writing about dinosaurs, so I saw tracks in this image. It’s amazing what we know (or presume we know) from tracks left millions of years ago!

  15. Love yours, Laura! What a great picture.

    Sweep away the sand
    sweep away the stones
    but leave the sea alone
    or
    sink

    (yikes that’s a bit creepy!)

    1. Thanks, Catherine. Ooh, I love the ominous tone here and the parallelism of the first two lines. And ALL my 15WOL poems lately have been real downers. Even though that hasn’t been my mood. It’s always kind of puzzling to see what comes out!

  16. Love yours, Laura! What a great picture.

    Sweep away the sand
    sweep away the stones
    but leave the sea alone
    or
    sink

    (yikes that’s a bit creepy!)

    1. Thanks, Catherine. Ooh, I love the ominous tone here and the parallelism of the first two lines. And ALL my 15WOL poems lately have been real downers. Even though that hasn’t been my mood. It’s always kind of puzzling to see what comes out!

  17. It’s been a long day, but couldn’t miss this one, Laura. I love the photo! Your poem surprised me a lot; I didn’t think of mermaid hair at all. It’s beautiful, but sad. Here’s mine, more realism, I guess.

    Scraggly, stringy,
    tangled and worn,
    roots of trees
    seeking air,
    sipping moisture
    anywhere.

    1. Thanks, Linda. I don’t know why my poems lately have had so much gloom and doom in them:>) This is super–love the first two lines especially, which give me mood and image and texture.

  18. It’s been a long day, but couldn’t miss this one, Laura. I love the photo! Your poem surprised me a lot; I didn’t think of mermaid hair at all. It’s beautiful, but sad. Here’s mine, more realism, I guess.

    Scraggly, stringy,
    tangled and worn,
    roots of trees
    seeking air,
    sipping moisture
    anywhere.

    1. Thanks, Linda. I don’t know why my poems lately have had so much gloom and doom in them:>) This is super–love the first two lines especially, which give me mood and image and texture.

    1. I like this! My week was time crunched and I didn’t get anything posted, but this is where my thinking was going. Don’t think I can top yours!

    1. I like this! My week was time crunched and I didn’t get anything posted, but this is where my thinking was going. Don’t think I can top yours!

  19. Some rich and wonderful poetry here. I like the activity, too. I’ll have to try this one with my students. It’s the end of the day and a long week, so my brain is fried. Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed everyone’s poems.

  20. Some rich and wonderful poetry here. I like the activity, too. I’ll have to try this one with my students. It’s the end of the day and a long week, so my brain is fried. Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed everyone’s poems.

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