Amy Barlow Liberatore… stories of lost years, wild times, mental variety, faith, and lots of jazz

The Man Who Mistook Jesus For An A.T.M.


And he makes a good living
Preaches the Gospel of Abundance
like it’s all about actual money

Mistakes manna for mammon
Money managers for martyrs when they
lose it all in the latest crash

Dave says the poor have bad habits
Tosses Bible verses like piñata candy to the
starving, staring sycophants who pay for the privilege

Dave is so white in his chambray shirt
(Get it, he’s a blue-collar guy with
a blue-blood bank account, all cash)

But being white is a given in his world
Because Jesus was clearly a white Christian
who whispered the Holy Password to Dave

Dave can unlock the Vault for y’all
But first, like it was with the Pharisees, you have to
change your money at the temple door and

sacrifice to a False Idol in denim

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Imaginary Garden With Real Toads gave us Oliver Sacks; rather, his titles serve as a jumping-off point for our poems today. YES! While I will always question the presumed wisdom of psychiatrists, there is room for a little Dr. Sacks in my world. Of course, it was The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat that caught my eye.

Dave Ramsay is a shyster who once had some very good ideas about paying down debt, but that quickly morphed into a pseudo-preaching addiction. We took a seminar, and it helped, but there was a lot of Fundie crap to ignore. And Dave himself, a blowhard of the first degree… who would not recognize White Privilege if it bit him on his Dockers.

I was going to write something along the lines of The Candidate Who Mistook Me For Someone Who Gives a Shit, but the Republicans have gotten too much ink…


SONG: Livin’ On The Minimum Wage

Livin’ on the Minimum Wage
© 2014 Music & Lyrics by Amy Barlow Liberatore/Beehat Baby Words & Music
Dedicated to the fight for economic justice in the USA

Livin’ on the minimum wage
Slavin’ for the man who don’t need more
Bet he never felt what it’s like to be poor
My life’s a story of this sad age
I’m livin’ – givin’ – livin’ on the minimum wage

St. Vinny pray for me and mine
Jeans and sneaks and hoodies I’ve gotta find
Squeezin’ every dollar ‘til the eagle screams
Fight in pantry lines for the rice and beans
Where’s my golden ticket? Want a golden ticket!
Where’s my golden ticket? Need a golden ticket!


Does my congressman know what it means
WalMart and McDonald’s don’t pay beans
Put ‘em all together, it’s full-time work
If my kids get sick, then my boss is a jerk
“Doncha got a sitter? You should have a sitter!”
If I had the money… SURE I’d have a sitter!


Waitin’ in the clinic with the kids today
Cut off my Medicaid, now I’ve gotta pay
Why they tryin’ to tell me I make too much
Daycare, rent, food, gas, and such
Man, they make it harder. Why they make it harder?
Life is getting harder… I won’t be a martyr!


I wrote this song (think “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?” vibe for music… sorry, I don’t have a recording) for a Justice and Witness Ministries event at our United Church of Christ here in Madison, WI.  Have we all worked minimum wage/maximum effort jobs?  Sure, in our teens, our twenties, maybe… But nowadays, I see parents, grandparents, all slaving for a buck.

We need to do better by our workers.  This is America, a country of immigrants who seem to have forgotten that we stole the whole deal from the Tribal Nations and then “imported” human beings like cattle to build it up for free.  We need to regain a sense of humility and compassion.  That’s my Labor Day prayer.

For ABC Wednesday, I for Income Inequality!  Amy

Studio Quandary (ekphrastic)


Not what I thought I’d paint this day
Not at all, the dizzying colors and
figures from last night’s dream

I tossed the covers
Stirred the maid from her rest
Even woke my wife in the next room

A dragon gave chase and I
was naked screaming running
Bare and barely missing his fiery, explosive tongue

Now the dream is slowing settling on wood
The creature and my whirling flaccid flesh
And a phrase I still don’t understand: Barney & Friends

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Imaginary Garden of Real Toads gave us this Rembrandt, “Artist in His Studio.” I put myself in his cobbled boots and decided to give him a little scare… and myself a chuckle! Amy



She is a perfectly wound timepiece
Impeccable, pristine
Her every movement serves a purpose

No effort wasted
Pristine, aglow
Admired by those who
value clean lines, precision
Who see time as precious, noting
her ease in handling each task in turn

And yet she dreams of
and tarnish

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

William Carlos Williams was a master of metaphor (and also a fellow Virgo, if I’m not mistaken). I can only wish… and admire. Kerry at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads had previously posted this prompt; I am daydreaming with admiration for Mr. Williams and other Imagists today. Amy

People Talking Without Listening

People Talking Without Listening

Once more into the campaign crapper
They talk; we must endure
They espouse; we eschew, usually

They say why; we wonder “why not?”
They say how; we know they are lying

They say they are listening to us
They promise they will make it all better
like the US has a boo-boo, whether it’s
the economy
or climate change (if they admit that’s a thing)
or those pesky women who
insist on getting health care
or The Gays and their Agenda (like all gays have the same one)

They aren’t listening
Who can listen with
all that Hurrah and Howzitgoin Hoodoo
and sly glances in every passing window
to make sure the flop sweat
doesn’t show

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Poets United wanted us to listen to “Sounds of Silence” and pick a line as a jumping-off point. This was easy, as Simon and Garfunkel’s classic is on a disc I listen to as I go to sleep… my personal answer to tinnitus buzzing all about me. Their song resonates to this day. Timeless, relevant, and a perfect record.

As for the subject, I was also inspired by another great song, their “Mrs. Robinson,” especially the line about campaigns:  “Laugh about it, shout about it, when you’ve got to choose… Any way you look at it, you lose.”

I am taking a break from Facebook until after the 2016 elections.  Between the climate change deniers, the not-so-veiled racists and homophobes, and the Planned Parenthood haters in my own family, it’s not worth the pain.  Amy

Dear Straight Guys… (adult swim!)

Dear Straight Guys,

It’s not like darts
Not if you’re smart
Not “point and shoot”

It’s not like b-ball
Not at all
She’s more than a rim to hit
and webbing to fall through

She’s neither mark nor target

The real woman lies beyond
what you’ll see
when you see her

As much as she wants you
(and make damned sure she wants you,
or we’ll have more than words, little man)
she needs even more

What lies within us is a world
An ecosystem
A universe of the delicate sublime,
of intricate, meandering passages

She’s a labyrinth and you must
must must must
caress the key, finesse the lock
with time and care, the kind
you’ve never shown your own

So talk to her
Let her guide you
She has places that need
the same soft kisses you place on her mouth
down south at the delta

And just in case you still think
you hold all the power, here’s a thought

After you don the raincoat to
dance in the lovely dew, think about this:
Whose parts will disappear in the meeting?
Who welcomes in, and who is swallowed up?

She has unfathomable fathoms
of phantom bliss
Remember that
from the very first kiss

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, we are on the letter F. That’s for “finesse,” you naughty children. Also on the Tuesday Platform at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads! Amy

Pro-Life For Dummies (Tea Party/Fundie Trigger Warning)


This bundle of cells
inside my body
must be protected
from me

This knot of matter
matters more
than the human host

My uterus must be guarded
lest my brain decide otherwise
since my brain is flawed
because I am only a woman
and you know better
and babies must be born
and intra-uterine ultrasounds are cool
(not a form of rape)

Even though the condom broke
The Pill failed
The boyfriend abused
The husband wanted and took
The father fathered
The stranger raped

Even though I know I
cannot raise this child in love
in security and hope
and the schools you provide
will never educate
and the help you will offer
is skewered by bitter judgments

After all that, you have
no words of condemnation or obligation
for the sperm donor
for the “father”
(who will never be a father)

My uterus must be protected
from my logical brain

Lord, save me from Christians
who believe pro-birth is pro-life

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Sometimes it has to be political. Sometimes it’s so obvious.  You are welcome to comment, but please don’t SCREAM AT ME IN ALL CAPS.  And no foul language, because everyone knows what a prude I am!

For ABC Wednesday, once they post today, E for Extremist.  Also for Poetry Pantry at Poets United, where you will find an abundance of diverse voices.  Give these sites a try.  Take the leap!  Amy

Dance of the Vessels (Imaginary Garden With Real Toads)

From the Brooklyn Museum; photograph by Margaret, used with permission

Dance of the Vessels

They wait to be asked
asked to dance
asked to grab coffee
asked to participate

in the dance of the vessels
each filled in her turn with
disappointment, with joy
with whatever he chooses

They were told that if
they waited long enough
and stayed shiny, attractive
they would be chosen

See the restless vase
rustling her dust
edging closer to the edge
She will fall and break, in a

glorious shower of shards
and a mischievous giggle
They will clean up and toss her
Better to jump than to fall for it

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Margaret Bednar is a Toad.  Well, a member of the Imaginary Garden With Real Toads…and for this prompt, she offered up some lovely photos of vases.  I chose the group on shelves, but there are quite a few images of vases at the site, along with links to some dandy poets.  Why not head over to the Garden and try your luck?  Thanks, Amy

Bossa (Getz, Gilberto, Jobim)

Listen to Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto interpret Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “O Grande Amor”


The beat is bossa
Songs with names like Dindi, pronounced ‘Zhinzhi’
Like fingertips stroking a five o’clock shadow

Stan Getz on sax, the American who
fell south and south again into Brazil
and landed in the lap of
hypnotic undulations of la bossa nova

His singular sax
wobbly, clarinettish vibrato
smoking breath of a dryer reed
(listen to Dusty match that menthol
on “The Look of Love”)

Here, meeting the challenge
of Gilberto and Jobim
(‘Zhilberto’ and ‘Zhobim,’ say it)
O Grande Amor

Chords minor and descending
never resolve until that solo,
the punchy, punchdrunk Getz

the aaaaaah of post-coital cigarette ash

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

I landed “north and north again” into the land of cooking from scratch and scritching in my notebook, sketches that are on my Instagram account, @amybarlowjazz. If you enjoy ink drawings of anxiety attacks, well, hell!  You’ll love my stuff!  Also political commentary using an old airplane barf bag… it’s complicated.

My first poem coming back on the scene is for ABC Wednesday, with thanks to Roger Green, who always stays in touch, even when I’m not posting.  Peace, Amy

THINK. (Midnight Rambles Art)

THINK drawn collage 001

Double-click to see full version, created by Amy verrrrry late one night during the Yikes! Cymbalta! Cycle, which is still going strong – forecasted to continue at least four more months.  For ABC Wednesday, the letter is TThanks, Rog and the Team…


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