has a new look

Go to the new

Poetry by Rena Lee 

Rena is a retired Professor of Hebrew from the City University of New York, and the author of twelve books in Hebrew and many magazine publications in both Hebrew & English. 

She lives in New York City.



© 2011 Rena Lee





Modigliani’s Wife*


She is the woman behind the portraits:

Jeanne Hebuteme, artist and model who let all lights shine

on her beloved. She stuck by him through thick and thin,

in health, and mostly in sickness, despite her family’s fierce

rejection of the man they regarded a Jewish debauchee. 


She is the woman behind the portraits:

Jeanne with hat, Jeanne with necklace,

Jeanne with hat & necklace,

Jeanne with wide brim hat. In yellow sweater…with red scarf.


And in all of these, that typical Modigliani neck, graceful as an

alabaster column, yet so extremely fragile, somewhat tilted,

as if carrying the head proves to be too much of a burden.

Ah, that typical Modigliani swan neck!

If you listen carefully to its silence, you may catch at any time

the latent notes of the forthcoming swan song –


In a late portrait – black top, red skirt – one may spot a slight

curvature, which the future viewer, well aware of what has

already happened, will take as sign of early pregnancy.

However, the woman in the picture knows not yet that both

mother and baby are doomed, that this child is destined

to stay unborn, forever buried in a painting,

sealed in oil colors.



*Modigliani’s wife (Jeanne Hebuteme) pregnant in the ninth month,

jumped to her death from the fifth floor two days after her husband’s death.





All work is property of Rena Lee.




[back to top]  [home]

© 2011 SubtleTea Productions   All Rights Reserved