Inspired from the above photograph Rainbow by Helen Patience from the Hold Still digital exhibition, I wrote the following poem.

The Duchess of Cambridge and the National Portrait Gallery revealed the winners in 2020, which featured 100 portraits from 31,598 submissions during the project’s six-week entry period. The images aimed to record of our shared and individual experiences during lockdown, and have been exbitited in Times Square in London. 


Elephant tusks


Grey, What of grey?

A rainbow window. A little girl.

Upturning the gravel of her mind.

A lassie’s sunflowered Macintosh waves from a distance

bending towards her ma’s swan neck cocooned in a tartan scarf.

Amber, turquiose and carmene are easy to understand, but what about grey?

A woven net of grey weaves infront of her eyes, dangling on a stick.

Pencil on paper the girl composes a list:


TV aerials,


guitar strings,

tins of peaches,

hubs on the car,

water pipes,

elephant tusks.

Ma’s youthful face and silver hairs.

Da’s lead eyes crinkling at the edges.

Seals’ graceful stares.


To say your world is grey, she decides, makes it full of unpredictable things …

like in stories, where silver fills trunks guarded by saucer-eyed dogs.

It glints off wolves’ pelts amongst birch bark.

It pays the boatman across the River Styx.

Yet silver is not as sought after as gold or ivory.

Could be, like an elephant tusk, the colour of our soul is beautifully ashen.

The shadowy line between stealing a pound from Ma’s purse or not.

Grey, then, is even the hue of consciousness.

A rainbow window. A little girl.

Upturning the gravel of her mind, to seek coined fishes.

About Emma

Author Emma writes books about the people of Scotland. Her recent book (A Friendship of Thistles) is about the resilence of friendship. If you are looking for another book to read about sisterhood it might be for you …


Emma Parfitt

Proofreader for business and academic documents, translations, and English writing.


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