Before my mother’s dementia, she wrote poetry.   She kept a notebook and pen in her purse so she was always prepared to jot down new lines for poems no matter where she was.

She once told me that when she taught kindergarten, the introduction to poetry curriculum for five-year-olds said the teacher should point to a color and say, “What words rhyme with red?”   (Then blue, green, yellow, brown, black, etc.)   “But never point to the color orange,” the instructions warned. “It will only confuse them because no word rhymes with orange.”

Molly and I went to visit my mom/her grandma last weekend.   We fed her bites of favorite food, told her family stories, sang along to Mom’s favorite children’s songs on Molly’s iPhone, and read poetry to her.   Here, in tribute to Mom’s kindergarten poetry advice many years ago, is a poem by author Mary O’Neill that describes the color orange…without trying to find a word that rhymes with it.

WHAT IS ORANGE?   By Mary O’Neill   ~   Orange is a tiger lily, A carrot,   A feather from a parrot.   A flame,   The wildest color   You can name.   Orange is a happy day, Saying good-bye    In a sunset that   That shocks the sky.   Orange is brave   Orange is bold     It’s bittersweet   And marigold      Orange is zip   Orange is dash   The brightest stripe   In a Roman sash.    Orange is an orange, Also a mango.    Orange is music of the tango.   Orange is the fur   Of the fiery fox,   It’s The brightest crayon   In the box.    And in the fall, When the leaves are turning,   Orange is the smell   Of a bonfire burning…







Filed under art, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, kindergarten lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Mary Shepherd's poetry, teaching

65 responses to “WHAT RHYMES WITH ORANGE?

  1. juliabarrett

    Nothing rhymes with orange yet so much is orange, including the poem! I love that she says orange is a tango! It is!

    • For me, Julia, orange is zip and dash, so I don’t care that the color itself doesn’t rhyme with anything. I remember in sixth grade with a teacher let us struggle for awhile trying to rhyme orange, and then she laughed and said she wanted us to forget rhyming and work on describing the sound, taste, smell and feeling of the color orange. I don’t remember the specific answers, but I do remember we had a lot of fun with it. 😉

  2. Amazingly, until the 15th century, English had no word for the colour orange – it was just considered a shade of red, hence “red fox” “red hair” “robin redbreast” and “red squirrel”, all of which would now be classed as shades of orange. Lovely post.

  3. Love the poem..orange is zip and zest!

  4. Aw…my favorite, “Orange is a happy day, Saying good-bye.” What a treasure this poem is, Marylin. ❤

    • Thanks, Jill. I’ve had this poem–and others by Mary O’Neill–in a notebook for a long time. When I was packing to come and visit Mom this month, I found “What Is Orange?” and it just seemed to nudge me and say it was time to share it. 😉

  5. Don

    What a tribute to Orange, Marylin. Loved it.

  6. Orange you smart, Marylin! Lovely reflection for this fall day in Florida.

  7. What a lovely post. Thank you!

  8. You’re welcome, Luanne. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  9. Claudia

    Ah the lovely oranges of autumn!!!!! Our trees aren’t bright this year but still some shades of orange and red to enjoy.

    • When I was in Abilene, KS some of the trees were a browning green, but others were a stunning orange/red/gold. The same was true when I went to visit Mom in Ft. Scott last weekend, Claudia. I felt like everything would burst out in color soon, but probably AFTER I left. I learned it rained the day after we left and, yes, the colors were beginning.
      When I was growing up, every fall when the leaves were changing, my parents drove us down into the Ozarks and a little place called Ginger Blue. We always got a table by a big window overlooking a narrow river, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such gorgeous colors that matched those. 😉

  10. I’m sure your Mom would have relished the visit with you and Molly having prepared with some of her favourite songs to sing. Mayhaps it jogged her memory of sweeter times singing with you.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • Aw, thank you, David. I’d like to think that having her daughter and grand-daughter singing favorite songs jogged Mom’s memories. She did smile and enjoy them. If only we’d had her great-grandchildren along, she would have really loved the sounds of their young voices.
      But those plans fell through when Gannon got pneumonia and his dad and his grandpa told us to go on and visit my mom, that they would take care of the kids. 😉
      Massive Hugs back to you! ❤

  11. Ah, I love this Orange poem, how clever! I remember doing exercises with students along the lines of tough rhyming words – and orange always cropped up. Alice Cooper couldn’t think up a word to couple with ‘innocence’ in his School’s Out rock classic. That’s tricky, too. Great post to share, thanks Marylin.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Jenny. It’s a fun teacher activity.
      Years ago, I had a student teacher who had a list of 100 words not to even try to rhyme in a poem, and she offered extra credit to students who could choose one and make it work.
      I remember Alice Cooper’s “innocence” was on the list. I wish I could find that list; it had some doozies on it. But the only color was orange, and like you, I loved the Orange poem. 😉

  12. A wonderful poem. I am a great admirer of orange, winter, summer, autumn or fall. Soon we will be seeing the lovely orange of the monarch butterflies. 🙂 Happy Halloween.

    • Two years ago, Gallivanta, we happened to be at the right place at a magical time. It was at a rest stop, we were walking around stretching our legs after a long drive, and suddenly the trees exploded with thousands of Monarch butterflies! It was the most wonderful thing, to stand and be surrounded with the fluttering, swarming colors. 😉

  13. I like the last line best, a reminder of bonfires burning, such a wonderful smell, strangely. Also strange that nothing rhymes with orange. I did not know that. I won’t try. 🙂

  14. Orange! I love orange! It is a happy, passionate color and fall is abundant with it. The poem you included is fantastic. Thank you for sharing and I am glad you had a good visit with Mary. I wish I could be a fly on the wall to witness your visits. I am certain that they would be an inspiration and true witness of love and joy. Have a great Halloween!

    • Gannon and Grace didn’t get to go with us, Robyn, because two nights before we were to leave, he was at the ER where chest x-rays showed he had pneumonia. But his dad and his grandpa promised to take care of the kids and sent us on our way, which turned out to a magical mother-daughter weekend, and our energy and happiness with Mom took on a very special wonder of its own.
      It was true joy. And when we arrived back home, the kids, their dad and their grandpa, and of course puppy Scout, had all had a good time hanging out together, too.
      Some last minute changes just turn out to be true magic! 😉 ❤

      • Molly Mosher

        It was such a wonderful weekend. We had so much fun reconnecting the three generations through stories, songs, and laughter!

      • The good news is that our husbands–Gannon’s dad and grandpa–took good care of both kiddos so you and I could drive to/from Ft. Scott to visit Grandma, Molly. The wonderful news was that she enjoyed our happy antics and even joined in a couple of time…which, for Grandma at 98, was spectacular. And as icing on the cake, you and I had such a good weekend together, and when we returned, the whole family was so glad to see us! ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ Love you bunches, Mookie!

  15. Those cupcakes look absolutely delicious Marylin! I am not a big fan of the color orange but recently I bought a light orange sweater and matching orange/soft blue scarf to go with it. I really like the look of it. I’m warming up to orange! Hope you have a wonderful Halloween. Blessings to your mom and family. xoxo Joanne

    • Orange and blue, Joanne? Why, deep in your soul you might be a Bronco fan without realizing it! 😉
      There are so many shades of orange, which is what I love about the Orange poem, and now you’re enjoying a new color.
      Thank you for the blessings. Even though Mom never clearly recognized us, we know she felt the love by the way she smiled and tried to respond.

  16. Jim

    On your suggestion, sweetie, I plan to orrange more time in my ‘busy’ schedule this fall to enjoy more orange. Go Denver Broncos!!! Hee-hee 🙂

  17. Nancy Parker Brummett

    One of my favorite colors! Thanks, Marylin.

  18. Thanks for sharing that lovely poem. Orange is my favorite color.

  19. Lovely post, Marylin. Thank you!

  20. What a beautiful poem Marylin. I like the color orange in nature, however I have never owned orange clothing.

    • There are a lot of shades and hues to choose from, Gerlinde. You might try on some orange sweaters or scarves just to see. You might find just the right, happy, nature-like shade! 😉

  21. I absolutely loved your mom’s orange poem. What a gifted poet! Your mom would be so proud of you for sharing her life and her love of life these past five years (or has it been six years?) on your blog. I enjoy reading your inspiring blog, Marylin. ❤️

    • 🙂 😉 Oh, how I wish, Tracy!. Some of Mary O’Neill’s poems have been among my mother’s favorites, but unfortunately, Mom didn’t write them. But I’m glad you share our love for the Orange poem.
      It’s been 5 years, Tracy; when I first began writing the blog, Mom had dementia, but it was just beginning and she still had many lucid hours during the day when she and I could talk and be on the same page and laugh together. I do miss those days. ❤

  22. Molly Mosher

    Well, I think that Grandma missed a great opportunity to broaden her little kinder’s knowledge base. The rumor that orange rhymes with no other word is incorrect. Orange rhymes with Blorenge (a mountain in Wales) and sporange (a sac where spores are made). Many people think that silver also has nothing that rhymes with it, but it actually rhymes with Wilver (a nickname) and chilver (a ewe lamb). I just can’t believe that they wouldn’t introduce these words as vocabulary in kindergarten! 🙂

    Great post, Mom. We sure did have a great time with Grandma last weekend. Three generation of girls spending time together. It was a wonderful way for us to all bond and reconnect! Thanks for making it happen, and for writing such a wonderful description of it.

    Love you!

    • Grandma has told some funny, touching, sweet stories about her little kindergarten students who were struggling to tie their shoes and learn their telephone numbers, Molly, but she never gave the impression that they were off-the-chart smart. And that’s what it would have taken for her five-years-olds in Kansas City to make rhymes with a mountain in Wales or a sac where spores are made. 😉
      But it’s good for me to know. Now I’ll know what to rhyme with Orange the next time I want to write a poem.

    • Obviously Blorenge and sporange were just made up words to ruin the rumor. 🙂 I love LOVE that your daughter weighed in here, sounding exactly like my English-major-grammar-police oldest daughter.

      • I love your comment, Melodie. Thank you. When Molly, and her children Grace and Gannon, add their thoughts to a post, it makes it all so special. The kids know that eventually we’ll print out all the posts (almost 300 at this point) plus the comments, and they can always look back at what they learned about my mom, their great-grandmother, and also what they were doing and thinking at the time. This will be the blog memoir. 😉

  23. I love orange – whether it is disguised as coral by an added touch of pink or subdued to a calming peach, my house if filled with it. No other color sums up fall so well. The poem was inspired – loved it! Thanks introducing me to it! Happy Fall to you!

  24. Love this Marylin, orange is such a joyful colour and perhaps nothing rhymes with it because there’s nothing else like it 🙂

  25. Gannon

    Mor Mor if we write poems like Dr. Seuss wrote we can rhyme things with orange.

    The cat was fat and orange
    She like to eat mice with a spornge!

    Love you, Gannon

    • Dr. Seuss’ rhymes really left a lot of room for creativity, Gannon! 🙂 I can picture the fat, orange cat eating the mice…but is a spornge like an orange spork (part spoon, part fork) ? Love you, too, Ganno!! ❤

  26. Grace

    Hi Mor Mor!

    Orange is the color of our biggest rival school, but it’s still a good color! Actually many people say my hair is ORANGE not red, so if that’s true then I guess I really like the color.

    I missed the girl’s trip to go see Grandma, but somebody had to stay and take care of all the boys. I miss you already.

    Love, Grace

    • Abilene’s schools have the cowboys and cowgirls in orange and brown, right? As much as I love orange (and love Eisenhower’s home town of Abilene), I really love Chapman’s bright Irish green, Grace, and the home town of my wonderful grandchildren!
      Your mom and I missed you on the trip to visit your great-grandma, but we were glad to have you staying home to take care of the boys: your brother, your dad, your grandpa. And also Scout. 🙂 Love you lots, sweetie. 😉 ❤

  27. Jane Sturgeon

    For me orange melts into pink to flow the colour of love with warmth and passion…love it, love you Marylin. Ohh and the wonderful comments of your family. xXx ❤

    • Much love back to you, too, Jane. Since all the blog posts and comments will be printed out for Mom’s great-grandchildren to each have their own “histories” of these years, I’m glad Molly and her children participate and will see how they felt about the topics at the time. I’m glad you enjoy them. 🙂 ❤

  28. Loved the post and all your motivations for writing it … thank you.

  29. What a delightful poem, I’ve never heard of it and only just realised thanks to you that there is no word that rhymes with orange! I hope you and your family had a fun Halloween dear Marylin! Love this post 🙂 ❤

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