Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘Rubies’ and other poems by Jean Fineberg

By: Jean Fineberg


Glistening ruby beads
on four parallel chains
parade across her teenage arm.

A shaft of sunlight
penetrates the drawn blinds.
Nighttime at noon.

Her shaking hand
holds a light bulb
and squeezes, squeezes until it shatters.

She drags its shards
across her pale wrist.

Beads of ruby red blood
bubble and drip
on her lap

One wet red string for her absent mother.
One for her real father.
One for each of her two trapped brothers.

Grateful for the numbing peace,
she will not mask these chains with sleeves,
nor flaunt them as a badge, for pity.


He Shot Somebody on 5th Avenue
I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody
and I wouldn’t lose any voters…Donald Trump

He shot somebody
on 5th Avenue.
Mothers ran for shelter,
others ran for help.

A Kent State photo was taken.

The shooter,
sporting a stupid grin
and stupider combover,
vaporized into gold dust.

He blew into his limo,
and arrived back at the castle
in time
for the evening news.

“Man commits suicide
on 5th Avenue,”
ran the chyron
on Fox News.

the shooter tweeted
thoughts and prayers,
although he had neither.

After a respectable day or two, all was forgotten.

When I read 1984,
I knew it could happen.
Truth is a potato chip in a thin glass dome,
guarded by mercenaries.

When the order comes
to smash the dome,
and it will,
what will replace it?


The Old Dancer

Where do the dances live?
In the old dancer’s attic?
Where time is a magazine,
days are in long meter,
and spring is the only season?

Catlike, still
the only way her slim body
knows how to move
Her trunk, the staff,
her limbs, the notes

Maple syrup eyes
shrouded in yellow gauze,
Skin of dry blue rivulets.
Knees creaking like screen doors.
Head held high.
The rhythms, chiseled in her bones,
refuse to leave gracefully.

Supple leather ballet shoes,
offended by disuse,
grimace, wrinkle and harden,
satin pink giving way to sallow gray

Mom stitched our glittery costumes,
top hats and canes,
and taught us a dance
to Me and my Shadow.

She doesn’t know us now,
or remember who she is,
but when my sister and I meet,
we still do that dance


Aunt Lilli’s Farmhouse

At Aunt Lilli’s farmhouse, every August,
my sister and I (two city girls)
drink sweet unpasteurized milk
and race our cruisers on country roads.

We hear the swoosh of her brush
as Lilli paints alien landscapes
with surreal flowers
and arching trees.

the trees
look more like skeletons
and the flowers, like fire.

We gather delicious piles of leaves
for jumping,
chase squirrels,
and lose ourselves in the corn maze.

Lilli transforms the attic
into a magical treehouse.
Two rickety cots,
each with a private window for spying.

Tiny translucent petals
float through the ragged screens,
spreading like summer snow on the sagging floor.
Lilli does not sweep, lest she disturb their diaspora.

The sun’s dying rays
shoot in one window and out the other,
like a golden bridge.
If you believed in angels, you’d see one here.

the adults sip homemade wine,
and assuming that we are asleep,
retell family secrets.

We sneak halfway down the attic ladder,
and catch hushed sentences
full of words
we don’t understand.

and incest.

At summer’s curtain,
as we pile reluctantly into the car,
our parents say we’re old enough
to know more about Lilli.

Finally divorcing
that lying, cheating, pilfering,
no good cheapskate of a husband,
Lilli sold the house

We head back to the city,
more thoughtful,
more grown up

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