I see you,
downcast eyes
steeled, a shield
to disguise
wounds unhealed.

I feel you
on the edge,
wedged between
and aspiration.

I hear you
try to excise
and minimize
your violation
with negation.

I watch your
stature, refined,
your ragtag shadow
shuffling behind,

I see you as a
seed, your need
mud-caked, scraped,
raked across
a field of weeds.

I sense your borrowed
calm, see your totem rune
in your fisted palm,
hear your mournful
tune and whispered psalm.

Only in anxious dreams
with blurred cognition,
pain uncaged, you grant
yourself permission
to scream and rage.

Jean Fineberg


I lift you
from your velvet bed,
your heft welcome in my hand.

Your brass skin
sports a patina earned from
so many choruses of the blues.

My fingers settle into
gig-worn grooves
on your mother-of-pearl keys.

Our papery interface,
today’s fickle reed,
invites a timbric challenge.

A Ray Charles love song,
an Ellington tapestry,
a Cannonball romp.

We bellow and wail,
deconstructing Cold Sweat,
inventing new notes.

You are the sacred voice
of pain
and protest.

You speak my irreverence
with howls that would singe the air
if voiced in words.

Come earthquake or fire,
I’ll grab my cat,
and you.

Jean Fineberg


Beware the fiend we fear and yet embrace
The tiny voice that hisses in your ear
The one which even time cannot erase
The one which second guesses your career

“The words you write are really not your own
They’ve all been written many times before
Your paintings and your melodies are clones
What makes you think your pieces will endure?”

Why spend another hour, another year
To add your voice to those who met the beast
Compelled to tell the world that you were here
Your muse invoked, Calliope unleashed?

If you believe you’re born to do this work
Fulfill your destiny and do not shirk

Jean Fineberg


Yesterday I fed my mother applesauce.
She smiled but she didn’t eat. Today
she lies dying in my arms, frail as a fawn.

I want my young mother who cradled me,
braided my hair, played four hands on the
piano. I want my young mother who
embarrassed me teaching square dancing
at my middle school. I want her to come
again to my graduation and tell everyone
I was first in our family to go to college.
I want her to sit in the front row at my concerts.
I want her to meet her granddaughter and sit
in the front row at her piano recitals.

I shout these things
in my car
in the shower
in my bed

I want, I want, I want

I tell my daughter, when I’m dying,
please feed me applesauce.

Jean Fineberg


Sometimes, when the fog
descends like the credits
of a film noir movie,

I put on your black sweater,
your long black raincoat,
take your black umbrella,

and walk by the East River,
pretend it’s the Thames, the
Brooklyn Bridge is London Bridge.

I amble past the clocksmith,
gaze at broken cuckoo clocks,
pendulums waiting to swing again.

I peek into the pet store, and
every black kitten is “Midnight”
starting another life.

I stop in a café, order black tea and
a tart, write glum sonnets and hope
I don’t run into your new wife.

Jean Fineberg