Determined Swimmer

determined swimmer 001

Acrylic on canvas, 9×12 by Amy Barlow (Liberatore)

Determined Swimmer

She’s good in water
A determined swimmer
An athlete going for the gold
With each stroke, determination grows
Hope flows with coursing blood

(a flash of daddy’s face)

Swimming for her life
or because of it
Because water will wash away
traces of THAT
Wash her clean of past, passed

(what happened, over and over again)

Almost there
Air collapsing from her lungs outward
The sea, an effervescent bubble mass
of inside, now outside

(he’s dead yet alive, too alive and too strong)

The picture fades from view
Her eyes shine in a wide-awake stare
A limp doll sleeping
on solid ground
at last

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

The painting says it all, if you understand her determination. I have felt like this, too many times. May all who have been abused find peace… peace that does not need this kind of plunge. Amy

Outhouses and Holes We Dig

Outhouses and Holes We Dig

Back in the day,
Mom and Uncle Tom
went out back in the outhouse

Puncture the earth
Dig a big hole
Set the wood frame over it

When it’s full, throw on dirt
Cover the crap
Dig a new hole

Scott Walker’s Wisconsin
operates using much the same
“Business” model

Puncture the prairie
Extract tar sands
Sell to frackers

Puncture the unions
Extract core values
Sell out labor

Puncture public schools
Extract their funding
Sell out low-income students

Puncture The Wisconsin Idea*
Extract the principles
Cripple our prized universities

Puncture our values
Extract choice and hope
Call it free enterprise
Call it Right to Work (for less)

Dig a big pit
Call it a rabbit hole
Scott the Bunny says,
Follow me down
to a world of fantasy follies
Follow me to Washington
I’ll share my vision
with the whole country
and the world

Yo, Scott, that’s not a rabbit hole
It’s where the outhouse stood

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Wrote this a day before Walker’s incredibly awkward press debacle, now making headlines across the US. Roger Green sent me a link; click HERE to see the funniest response by Wisconsinites regarding the “I handled protesters, I can handle ISIS” yuckfest.  Clicking HERE for dverse Open Mic!

*From Wikipedia, a reason we moved to Wisconsin was this:
The Wisconsin Idea is the policy developed in the American state of Wisconsin that fosters public universities’ contributions to the state: “to the government in the forms of serving in office, offering advice about public policy, providing information and exercising technical skill, and to the citizens in the forms of doing research directed at solving problems that are important to the state and conducting outreach activities.” A second facet of the philosophy is the effort “to ensure well-constructed legislation aimed at benefiting the greatest number of people.” During the Progressive Era, proponents of the Wisconsin Idea saw the state as “the laboratory for democracy,” resulting in legislation that served as a model for other states and the federal government. Walker proposed changing the wording (I kid you not). According to the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel:

… the governor made the UW System’s mission to “meet the state’s workforce needs.” He also proposed striking language about public service and improving the human condition, and deleting the phrase: “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.”

Since he never even graduated college (take that, GWB and your “gentleman’s C” MBA!), he seems to care nothing about the University of Wisconsin, a gem of a college system.

MEANER THAN REAGAN.
DUMBER THEN BUSH.

Now you all understand Wisconsin’s pain. Amy

Tomorrow and tomorrow (dverse)

Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Turn the clock forward
Look toward tomorrow and tomorrow
First, let the shock set in, the sheer lack of
jetpacks, hoverboards, silver clothing
No Soylent Green, no Big Brother

Rockets long stilled by common sense
Conscience triumphed over nukes
Phallic skyscrapers are no longer the norm
Even in cities densely populated, there is
stargazing; children of the largest towns
know constellations not by book but
by sight, every night
“O Star…”

This is tomorrow
Where land’s expanse is not viewed as
Future Golf Course or Strip Mall
It is now treasured
Allowed to lay fallow for its own sake
Marshes unharshed, not tamed and smothered
by another load of concrete, nor
paved for enslavement to profit seekers

Where liquid groans of dinosaur bones
are songs sung only underground
No longer sucked by pipes and tubes to
lube mechanical mindlessness

Where all walks of conscience from faith to atheism
are neither hammer nor scythe; rather, a
measure of one’s capacity to love
and dwell in peace

Where confessional souls examine their lives
as they turn toward helping and healing
this wounded world
And war is a sorry-ass memory painted hideous
And rightly so

Where is this tomorrow?
In ours dreams, in our hearts
In the minds of children, who say,
“Of course it should be that way”

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Many thanks to dverse Poets Pub and TED Fellow Ben Burke, whose mind-blowing “poem from the future” can be heard on the site. He invited all dverse contributors to join him and take a trip to the future, to give our own interpretations of what that might look like. I, who possess a bitter, dystopian view of that coming day, took an ironic turn and went for the hope… hope which dwells in the marrow of my soul, overtaking my sarcasm and cynical worldview.  UPDATE:   Thanks to folks at dverse for suggesting I relink to their Open Mic after I missed the Linky!

A bow to Robert Frost with a simple phrase that echoes in every corner of my dreams, “O Star…” I hope the future is Lennonesque, best viewed through circular shades, with lots of hand holding and hugs. And with that, as always, I wish you peace. Amy

Dawg, Nuns, Tits & Groooovy

Goldie Hawn in Huckabee’s… dreams

Dawgs, Nuns, Tits & Groooovy

Huckabee Hound for President?
We know cuz his book jest came out
Southern Dawg gonna show the
Yew Ess of A
what them values are all about
Specially all you wimmin

‘Nuns’ is the easy one, fer yer teens
Nun o’ this and nun o’ that
Cept is she goes to a frat party
Then it’s her fault fer bein a slut
(And you better keep that baby, girl)

‘Tits’ is even easier – the bigger they are
the more babies they kin feed
Not bad to look at neither

‘Groooovy?’ Mike wishes us girls’d
be like that little cutie Goldie Hawn
Not the Oscar-winning actress
Not the movie producer
The one with grafitti smeared on her
scanty-panty go-go dancin’ bod
Betty Boopin’ on Laugh-In

Swear to God, I saw it on that Kelly girl’s
FOX show, Huckabee said it on the air
Said all us wimmin shouldn’t swear and
his Southern- fried values include hootchie dancers
Mike’s Values = Deep Discounts for females

Seriously, I wonder if he knows he has a
teenage crush on a Jewish Buddhist
who has had several kids out of wedlock
and advocates for freedom of choice

Can’t you hear Goldie screaming,
“What the F***?”

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

I’m back and, as usual, I’m irritated at politics of the Far Right Extremists.  Megyn Kelly, the Great Blonde Hope of FOX News, slammed Mike Huckabee during an interview promoting his book/presidential bid, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy (I know, don’t get me started). She cut him off, saying that New York women not only swear but smoke, drink, and use contraceptives for their premarital sex. She had also previously “accidentally” referred to him as Mike F***abee” on the air (pretty obvious way to get the clip into cyberspace and boost her ratings.) That clip was run again, along with a clip of Hawn in the 60’s. Groooooan.

When you’re FOX, that’s edgy. When you are the rest of the world, you realize she’s not talking about casual hookups, smoking pot, lesbian or transgender women… or what the options are when the condom breaks or the Pill fails. And the women in question are undoubtedly white, probably tragically blonde, and definitely straight.

Huckabee is another buffoon, right up there with (my state’s governor) Scott Walker (AKA “Walkandchewgum,” thanks to the Solidarity Singers). Kind of Jerry Falwell without the Jaysus emphasis.

As for Goldie, she fought the Laugh-In stigma for years and has been open about the sexual harassment she endured in her early career. Sock it to him, Goldie.  And find this and many other diverse poems at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Open Link!

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Cacophony (Artwork)

Cacophony
Cacophony © 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil (Click to enlarge, lots of detail)

My Wednesday night, up until 4 am, still fritterminded.  Shared with ABC Wednesday.  Miles to go before I sleep…or even shlep!  Amy

Zentangled

Zen Tangle 001

Zentangled

Doodlers delight in empty margins
Empty spaces need a bit of this and that

My teachers hounded me for scribbling
Riley suffered the same fate in school

Only difference: She became a bone fide artist
while her mom still doodles oodles of oddities

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

ABC Wednesday is on Z, and I am into Zen tangles just before sleep. Such a calming pursuit, helping me to let go of the day, simply allowing my mind to follow my pencil as it meanders.

I know serious Zen Tanglers work in pen, but you know me… This blog ain’t called Sharp Little Pencil for nothing! Happy New Year and peace, Amy

Awash (for Suzanne, New Orleans)


Scherzo (acrylic poured on canvas) by Suzanne LaFleur, used by permission of artist

Awash

Sprawling surface awaits her first pour
Thirsty for colors to caress
Thick acrylic syrup on parched canvas

Today is a lively melange
Cobalt and crimson, a bit of honey
In her mind, they crackle with life

Red tastes of ripest berries…
That lovely boulangerie last fall
as she lounged by the Seine

Blue, that glass sculpture, sheer perfection
She spent an hour gazing at the world
through its evening light

To be inside her head as she creates…

She is Artiste (Personified)
Effortless, this, while others bend over backwards to
pursue The Image

Her chiffon scarf danced between us
as we glided arm in arm down Julia Street
searching for abstracts, finding
last-minute Basquiats
Too much art, not enough time

New Yorker and European
by taste and by temperament
Awards are nice
but she thrives among others
who, too, hold art as sacred

Glamorous
Glittering
Glorious
Suzanne the Abstract

(c) 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Suzanne LaFleur (yes, do click and see her work!) is another force of nature I met during my stay in New Orleans. She is an award-winning artist specializing in abstract art (like I said, click the link!), a classy-as-hell dame, and possesses that extra oomph one needs to succeed in the arts. I know we will stay in touch, and I look forward to seeing her continue to blossom.  I am linking this to ABC Wednesday for X (X-quisite!) and to the sidebar at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads.

Folks, I regret not posting this sooner and perusing your blogs, but the Perfect Storm of computer changeover, malware on new computer, and That Old Gray Magic That I Know So Well (winter depression) converged and quite blew me out to sea.

Better days are coming.  I look at Suzanne’s art, all your blogs, and know smoother seas are ahead.  Peace, Amy

Cronifiscence (For Rose)

Cronifiscence (For Rose)

Used to be, we rough and ready, time-tested but never bested
full-breasted, not-begging-your-behested ladies
were frowned upon, looked down upon as
past our prime
‘More to be pitied than sensualed’

But now we gather in pools of lactic estrogen
to reminisce about dime phone booths
penny candy and two-bit boyfriends
our first quarter centuries marked by
debauchery, doubtless laughter
the ember of roach-clip glowworm
impromptu meetings on the streets
so far below downtown, we were crowned by
halos of cannabis smoke rings

Might be on city subways with melted portraits in windows
crashhurtling then lurching to stinky stop stations

Or southern streetcars harvesting magnolia scent
sliding over tracks greased by funk and fancy

We hail from many lands, form a tribe that
transcends countries of origin, societal strata
We are crones in the best sense of
that beleaguered term – we defy restrictions
Protest “wrinkles as afflictions”
Deny quaint references to “women of a certain age”

We ARE Women of a Certain Age
Certain that we have been there
Certain that we burned our bras and will do so again
if our daughters and all fertile women are denied
choices and voices – we will make noises, so watch out, boyses
We are certain that the world is better with us in it

Our experience has honed us into
magnificent, beneficent, sensible, sexy creatures
We have earned our crowns
We don’t do boundaries or borders

We are found art

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Just in:  Added to Poets United’s Poetry Pantry for Sunday!

Rose Preston is a jewel. She lives in New Orleans, born in South Africa. She’s the kind of woman who will save a lovely object d’art for years until she finds the person who needs it… in this case, a lovely card with shining giraffe for her girlfriend’s birthday. I, too, collect bits of this and that (often sending to my old buddy Sidnie), just waiting for the right time, the right hands into which I place that little treasure.

Rose lives. I mean, this woman is traveling home in two weeks, then she’s going on SAFARI! Holy schmoley, that’s living. She was once charged by a baby elephant and, defying odds, snapped “my National Geographic photo,” only to later accidentally delete it… when she was high. I mean, really, kids, this is my kind of girlfriend. God willing, neither of us (nor any of the other fantastic women I spent time with in New Orleans!) will ever grow up, never stop ranting and raving and reveling in our lives.

Now if only I could download the damned pix off my “smart” phone, I’d include her picture.  Later, I shall have to edit her image in. Peace, Amy

Swing, Sway, Pay the Musicians!

Swing, Sway, Pay the musicians!
(New Orleans)

TOURIST SAYS:
“We flew down here to New OrLEENZ
Oh, that Berbin Street’s a racy scene
White people, black people
Al Hirt’s closed but I got
a real hurricane glass at Pete Fountain’s
And the music! There was a white singer
who did that gravelly voice on
‘What a Wonderful World,’
so authentic, he sounded just like
Lance Armstrong!

 

LOCALS SAY:
…‘cept she wouldn’t know real jazz
if it sashayed up
slithered along her inseam
and chomped down on her skinny butt

Buuuut… we love them, the tourists
in their Mardi Gras beads
They stay on Bourbon so’s not to
imperil themselves, and
sure as God’s name is on a dollar bill,
the Lord rains that green on our
Katrina-ravaged, race/grace savaged,
road-buckled, pothole-pimpled hometown

Tourists nurture the city, rain the green
on the parched heads of bartenders and servers,
taxi drivers, musicians – from our bevy of
audacious, bodacious singers to brass ensembles and
buskers to second-line bands – plus mule carriage men and
bicycle carters, all manner of trade here in N’Orleans
Hell, they take that bread and spread it all over town

Tourists don’t know the real goins-on
‘less they got good friends hostin, boastin on
their chicory-roasted tasty toasty town
The dark side streets pulsing late-night R&B,
roots jazz, Kid Ory’s ghost, all those
greasy good sounds after the Bourbon Street gigs
are done, the paddleboat is docked, long after people
who clap on the one and the three (bless ‘em) have retired to
their hotels…after the Top Five Louis Tunes go to bed

That’s when the hunger is sated, when gates open to
a positive, righteous flood no Army Corps of Engineers
could ever fuck up, this outpouring of soul
dredged in Creole hot sauce nasty goodness
It’s what they’ve been dyin to say, dyin to play all day
all the way down from The Land of the Green, source of
the rent and new shoes and toys for Christmas

Payin gigs ain’t even foreplay
The cab ride down steams every hungry body up
Jump out the door, slide into sensual surreal
so-real recesses of excessive compression
to achieve the blissful explosion
swaying sweaty bodies
contorted faces
building building to

The excruciating mindbending orgasm of
hot humid homegrown harmony

And to that I say, Laissez les bons temps rouler
“Let the good times roll!”

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Yes, New Orleans was a treat. I will be recounting these stories for the next few posts. Thanks to Rickie Lee for inviting me down… to Lex for telling me I had to go… to Rose and Suzanne for their sweetness… to Alfred for being Alfred and trading the piano bench with me… to Amanda for hosting my Second Phase… to Brother Robert, and you best call him, I’ll give you his number later, if you need a cab… and to the wonderful assembly of artists, musicians, and just plain folk who made up our Second Line parade in celebration of Rickie’s birthday.

We will have words about Brother Robert, a smidge of the gorgeous art of Suzanne La Fleur, musings on my new friends and old ones as well. And yes, there will be clips once I get my Smart Phone hooked up to my hard drive. I am in love with NOLA, but my somke-sensitive lungs are glad to be back in Wisconsin!!

For ABC Wednesday, the letter was S.  Sweet sweaty salty swimmin in satisfaction.  Yeah.  Peace, Amy

Ghost of Mama, Passed

Ghost of Mama, Passed

Damnedest thing, this smell
Can’t get it out of hair
nor clothes nor bedding

Cigarette smoke
That shit cost me a career

Two weeks of stench
clinging like a needy ex
stalking me like that one guy who…

Here comes freakazoid strange:
Niece calls me, nervous, feels like
“Grandma is trying to say something
to me, it’s important”

Now, I was Charlotte’s listening daughter
But Kati was Grandma’s smoking buddy
They sat and puffed for hours
while I choked in the next room
(but grinning because, hey,
Charlotte smoking and hacking was
still better than Charlotte drinking)

Twentysome years Mom’s been dead
After so much time, you think?
Charlotte clouding me with smoke
and Kati still puffing, could it be?

Mama, we are listening
Tell us what to do

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

At Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, we’re playing, Play it Again, Toads! Going back to an old prompt. First came Ella, invoking Halloween; then, there was a site of lines from ghost poems, one of which we must incorporate into our poem.

One struck me, from Ghost by Paul Mariani: After so much time you think… although I rephrased it for effect.

The experience in my poem is real. It could be weaning off a psych med, although the side effect was not confirmed by my psychiatrist. Maybe some old secondhand smoke finally draining out of my sinuses, like old toxins? Possibly a denim jacket from St. Vincent de Paul that I didn’t launder enough before wearing a few days in a row? It could be something ‘brainiacal,’ and for that I will consult my physician Monday.

But I think it’s Mom, I really do! (Especially because I washed the bejeezus out of the jacket and used a Netipot on my sinuses…)  Guess I’m calling Kati tomorrow after church!  Peace, Amy (although now I freaked myself out and I probably won’t sleep much.  Such is the questionable wisdom of creating ghost stories before bedtime!)

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