Green, orange and red like traffic lights
Green as a growing leaf
Green like the good old days
Greener than a ripe apple
The colour of jealousy
Mildew and mould or
Or lost in a forest green
Yellow with red in it,
That makes orange
As orange as spilt juice
More orange than a sunflower
Like a thrown-out tangerine skin
As orange as they come
The orange than turns gold
Orange mixed with yellow, tinted red
Strawberry red, tomato red
Redder than an old summer dress
The colour of lipstick
As red as a politician, as red as blood
Or the sound of screeching brakes
red ochre, red cider, red poker,
as red as the last leaves of autumn.
Group Poem by
Joyce, Tony, Connie, Elsie,
Jean, Margot, June and Colin
Devonshire House, Cavendish
After the morning session and lunch at Devonshire House we were taken across to the 'other side' for a workshop with the residents suffering from dementia. Eight of them gathered in a circle in comfy chairs. They were very friendly and Elsie's face lit up when she saw me. 'Are you new here?' she asked me. She was ninety ('Can you believe it?) and I realised this was likely to be the last time I was going to be chatted up by a woman twice my age. 'A poet!' she said, 'how lovely. We've got two painters here and now a poet! I love looking at trees, especially that one with the red leaves....' I was pleased to find that through the window we were blessed with a rather lovely autumnal view. 'We should call this session Poetry From Scratch' said June.
They wouldn't be able to write anything themselves but I did have Tim with me (who organised and got funding for the sessions) and we were both happy to act as scribers. So, using the view, I asked them what they could see in the landscape outside – what was the countryside made of? At this stage I wasn't quite sure what the end result would be but they took to coming up with things with enthusiasm although, as you'd expect, did go off at interesting tangents. 'Do you think they planted those trees like that?' asked Elsie. Colin replied 'It could've been birds dropping the seeds.' Connie said 'I don't like trees at night', while Jean started to recite 'Two Little Dickie Birds' and the group quickly joined in.
The conversation kept returning to the red leaves of a nearby tree (the only tree we could see that still seemed to have any leaves). 'What are they as red as?' I asked. 'As red as lipstick' said Elsie. 'As red as a summer dress' said Margot. 'As red as a traffic light' said Tony. We then discovered (well, I'd not thought of it before anyhow) that the colours of traffic lights (green, orange and red) were the same colours as autumn leaves. We were on our way. An hour later something had been created - an idea had come to life. A poem from scratch. And when asked, Joyce, Tony, Connie, Elsie, Jean, Margot, June and Colin decided on the title too.