Heidi Mordhorst is hosting Poetry Friday at My Juicy Little Universe. The optional theme this week is climate change.

Happy Poetry Friday!

I think everyone knows by now, one of my favorite poetic forms is the portrait poem. Maybe it’s because I studied dramatic writing as an undergrad, but I think there’s something magical about bringing a character to life  in the space of a small poem.

My poem for this week was inspired by my recent trip to Israel with PJ Library and the Harold J. Grinspoon Foundation.

We spent the first few days traveling in the desert, including a strenuous hike, a visit to a Bedouin encampment, stargazing from the bottom of a crater, a visit to solemn Masada, and kayaking on the still blue water of the Dead Sea — over 1,300 feet below sea level.

Under the Old City — we walked on an ancient paved road that once led to the Jewish Temple.

From that vast landscape and all of its profound experiences, we moved on to Jerusalem.

Although I had visited Israel once before, I didn’t spend much time in Jerusalem on my last trip. I fell in love with this city. Modern, yes, but also ancient and undeniably spiritual.

One of the sites we visited was a dig below the city where an ancient road, dating to at least 2,000 year ago, is being excavated.

I think that’s why — when we finally arrived for our final two days of the trip in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv — the man in the green suit made such an impression on me and my traveling companions (all fellow children’s authors).

Photo by Mark Shulman. Beachside promenade, Tel Aviv.

There was nothing of the desert and its silence or ability to make one feel small about this guy. None of Jerusalem’s inward focus. His polished look was the opposite of effortless. I think that’s what made him so noticeable — at least to us.

I jotted down a poetic sketch later that same night. Luckily, my friend Mark Shulman snapped a photo, which I’m posting here with Mark’s permission.

The Man in the Green Suit
By Laura Shovan

Smooth as sunset,
out for an easy
stroll. Who can take
their eyes off that
fresh haircut, sleek
Gucci bag, Blue
Tooth in his ear?
He’s the master
of the “I look
good” saunter. Sharp
shoes. Thin gold tie.
The sun hits his shades
and he turns
to see who’s watching.
Duh. Everyone.

18 responses to “Poetry Friday: The Man in the Green Suit”

  1. He’s the modern Israel set against all of that holy history. Thanks for sharing a bit about your trip and for sharing your poem.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hmm. For me, it was more that here was a self-aware (self-absorbed?) person you might find in any modern city — Rome, Paris, Tokyo. It was our trip’s particular focus on history and tradition that made him feel — to me, at least — incongruous.

  2. Oh, the ending of this made me laugh out loud! Thank you, Laura. I often think about your portrait poems, and now you have me wanting to write one. And what a glorious trip! I so hope to learn more about it and will now go back through your posts to see what I may have missed… xxx

    • Laura Shovan says:

      It was such a BIG experience, Amy. I only feel able to write about it in small chunks. At some point, I’ll go back to the beginning and think through each day of the trip.

  3. Linda Baie says:

    Even in the still pic, I see your ‘Smooth as sunset,” look, Laura. He wanted, and was happy you were looking, I guess. Nice to read the poem and all the wonderful things you saw on your trip.

  4. I’m so sorry I didn’t get to hear more about your trip yesterday, Laura–but this post and your poem-portrait carries a lot. Thanks for sharing this sharp-shoed dude!

  5. I too laughed out loud at the last lines. Duh is such a perfect word for this dude’s assumption that he’s in everyone’s sights. Oh, you must know how much a portrait poem appeals to me. It’s that capturing of a person’s truth for a moment that is the trick. And, I think you’ve definitely done it with this guy.

  6. Alice Nine says:

    Love the last line. It says it all! I’m looking at the picture and thinking these two characters are the perfect visual juxtaposition.

  7. What a right on description of this man, Laura. He is dapper but perhaps in an egotistical sort of way. He does look out of place but that must be on purpose. I really like this format of creating a portrait of words.
    It has been a hectic month so I am sorry that I have not joined you for the foodie poetry writing group lately

  8. Mary Lee says:

    What a contrast he is to all the rest of your trip and to the setting! You captured him perfectly.

  9. Tabatha says:

    That sounds kind of like how the halls of high school can feel…who’s watching? Have I created the effect I was looking for? (Normal there, but a bit out of place in your setting.)
    He looks to me like he should be pulling a rabbit out of a hat or asking what shape you want your balloon animal, which is probably not what he was going for…

  10. Wow, what a trip!!! Your portrait poem is spot on, Laura. That ending is killer.

  11. Tara M Smith says:

    The ancient and profound in juxtaposition to the “modern” and ridiculous, IMHO. Love the way you concluded! It sounds like a most marvelous trip, Laura, on the other hand.

  12. What a fantastic moment to capture and portrait waiting to be painted with words–wonderful job.Love your matter of fact description of him, especially the “Duh” at the end!
    Hope we’ll hear more about your trip too, I’m enjoying it–would love getting there someday!

  13. Catherine Flynn says:

    Thank you for sharing more about your trip. Star-gazing from the bottom of a crater sounds amazing! I love your poem and the too cool for school attitude you’ve imagined for this green-suited man.

  14. Rebecca says:

    Love the ending of your poem! It looks like it was a fantastic trip!

  15. Ruth says:

    Nice! I love this!

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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