Many of you are familiar with my Purple poem, that poem that travels the world like a chain letter, the poem that turns up in many unlikely places. What many of you don’t know is that Purple, a parable is available in a handmade edition at RosenberryBooks@RosenberryBooks.com.

Since the day Mrs. Lohr told me

my art work wasn’t good enough

to hang above the blackboard

with the other kids’ stuff,

a door in my heart closed shut.


When I was nearing my 30th birthday,

I picked up a pen

not expecting a miracle.


Word for word

it flowed onto the page,

the poem that opened a gate

to the place that had been locked

since first grade.


So powerful was the poem

that it became like a chain letter

that circumnavigated the globe.


Once a woman,

not knowing why,

chased a crinkled piece of paper

across an empty parkling lot

and while she waited for her bus

she read the poem

and cried.




In first grade

Mrs. Lohr said

my purple teepee

wasn’t realistic enough

that purple was no color

for a tent,

that purple was a color

for people who died,

that my drawing

wasn’t good enough to hang

with the others.


I walked back to my seat

counting the swish swish swishes

of my baggy corduroy trousers.

With a black crayon

nightfall came to my purple tent

in the middle of an afternoon.


In second grade

Mr. Barta said draw anything,

he didn’t care what.


I left my paper blank

and when he came around

to my desk

my heart beat like a tom tom.

He touched my head

with his big hand

and in a soft voice said

the snowfall

how clean

and white

and beautiful.


Purple first appeared in East West Journal in 1984.It appeared in the first edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul (anonymously), Family Circle, Dr. Bernie Siegel’s Love, Magic & Mudpies (Rodale Press) and many other places. It has been read in many settings including church sermons.


c copyright 1983,2008,2011 by Alexis Rotella

No part of these poems may be used without the permission of

Alexis Rotella.  This includes workshop settings and publication of any kind.



14 thoughts on “PURPLE

  1. Dear Alexis,
    I have loved this poem for many years and found it originally in a text in which it had been published, long ago when I was an English teacher. Now, as a therapist, I would like to ask your kind permission to use the poem in an online course that I am teaching on creativity, specifically related to dealing with voices–both critical and encouraging–that might influence our creative endeavors. I really want to honor you for the degree to which my students in the past were moved by your work. Thank you,
    Cyncie Winter, MH, MA, LPC

  2. I have no suggestions — we all find our own way. Seek out a way to focus yourself. Find a teacher if you must.

  3. I’m glad a finally stumbled upon this poem through John Merrow’s blog. It’s a beauty and one to remember! Happy to see it’s been floating about for the past 30 years!
    Austin Haeberle

  4. Dear Alexis,
    I’m writing on behalf of the Center for Courage & Renewal, an educational nonprofit founded by Parker J. Palmer. We adore your poem, “Purple” and find it echoes one of the core principles of our approach to personal formation – that it’s vital to let people choose how to express themselves, and to affirm their decision no matter what form it takes (even if it’s nothing).
    And so we are requesting your permission to share “Purple” in our email newsletter, which invites readers to reflect on poetry and how it intersects their own service and leadership. We would gladly link to your website, twitter, author page, or whatever other links you’d like us to include so as to encourage readers to further explore and support your work.
    Please let me know as soon as you can whether we have your permission to reproduce the poem. Thank you for your consideration.
    Kind regards,
    Karen Rauppius
    Center for Courage & Renewal

  5. I’d love to print the poem in a literary magazine that several friends and I put out every other month. We have about 70 people on our mailing list. We include our work and the work of friends. It is a way for friends to share with friends. If you would allow us to print Purple in Words From Whimsey House, we’d really appreciate it.

  6. The poem “Purple” is absolutely beautiful, it made me weep as many times i’d heard/read it. I would love to share it on Facebook is it allowed?

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