Poetry Sunday: When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple by Jenny Joseph

I have to admit that purple has long been a favorite color of mine and I frequently wore it even before I became an old woman. As for the red hat, well, I'm not really into hats so much but if I wore one it would definitely be red. So, you could say I've been practicing at being an old woman for quite some time now. I should be really good at it by now. Perhaps I've already made up "for the sobriety of my youth." 

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple

by Jenny Joseph 

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.


  1. Replies
    1. I think most women of a certain age can appreciate it.

  2. I have never read this poem before, but have heard the first line before.

    I usually don't read much poetry, however, I finished Joy Harjo's book of poetry titled, An American Sunrise, which I will review soon.

    1. Bravo to you for reading the Harjo book. I'll look forward to your review. I almost never read entire books of poetry. I just dip in and read one or two, usually several times a week.

    2. Do you have a favorite poet or poem?

      I've been meaning to read Joy Harjo's works for sometime now... And with Harjo being the current US Poet Laureate and it being Native American Heritage Month, the time seemed right to read her poetry.

    3. I can't really claim a "favorite" poet. My favorite is usually the last one I've read. But I enjoy a lot of different poets and different kinds of poetry.

  3. Bravo for all the rebels, I say. There are a few quirky women in my life and I love them all.

  4. I love this poem! Although, when I'm an old women I'm going to have to choose a different color than purple, because purple is my least favorite color. Maybe I can go with fuchsia instead. ;D

    1. Fuchsia works. Any color will do as long as it's outrageous!

  5. One of my co workers (this was back in the early 1990's) had this poem at her desk for many years. Sadly, it was not to be for her - she died from cancer at the age of 58. But it makes me think of her, and that's a good thing. I know I've gotten more outspoken as I've aged. And, I do like purple. And this inspired me to write today's post on my blog, so that's a good thing, too.

    1. Well, I must hop on over there and read your post!

  6. Purple has never been my favorite color, but I love the poem and have thought of it more since growing older. I love New Orleans for the way so many older women throw caution and often good taste to the wind and wear whatever they like. Maybe if I didn't live in such a conservative area, I'd be the bohemian I've always wanted to be!

    1. We live in one of the more conservative counties in Texas, although we are on the border of Harris County and Houston, but I've learned that I have to be me, regardless of what the neighbors think.

  7. Love the poem- on the way to being quirky; wearing a cap is most unusual in my town.


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