Apalachin (vernacular poem)

Little Amy Squnting 001


No, it’s not Appalachia
It’s Apalachin
Like apple achin’
In the sticks, with
cows munchin’ grass
over back of Lisa’s house

Kitty caught a mouse
and laid it under
the rear tire of our car
The guts went squishin’
I’m wishin’ Beth was there
She’s one for the messy stuff

There was a mob meeting
years ago, the REAL mob,
the Mafia, on the other side
of town and police raided them
for tax stuff, I dunno, but
Mom says we got a reputation

The Klan was real busy
two towns over, and Mom said
they are fools who wear
dunce caps and I think she’s
right because she’s always right
and you better know that…

Otherwise, you get The Squint
or get called “Sadie” or
worst of all, really, is when
she says, “T’ain’t funny, McGee,”
(some old radio show) and then
you know you’re in trouble, kiddo

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

dverse called for poems that are uniquely ours. This is I, the queen of lofty speech, speaking from the front yard of 55 Brookside Avenue, Apalachin, New York, in 1962. (I was already scared of cameras, afraid they’d flash; early sign of PTSD.) The only thing I couldn’t get in was Mom’s Midwestern way of saying “roots” and “roof” with a short “oo.”

Also “in the margins” at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads and Poets United. Peace, Amy

43 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mary
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 15:02:42

    Hi Amy, you have captured not only the language but the situations of those former days. I surely wouldn’t mess with the Mafia OR with the Klan either. Your mother sounds like a wise woman….as most (it seems) are! And you may enjoy my poem using Wisconsin language. Smiles.


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Dec 17, 2013 @ 22:07:11

      I saw that one and laughed because I’m just getting used to the vernacular here. I’m still (and will always be) considered “an East Coaster,” even though my mother was from Council Bluffs, Iowa and raised us in the Midwestern tradition. Amy


  2. claudia
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 15:16:37

    that was a glimpse not only into your language but also into history… very cool… ugh..read about the klan in books and frightened me to death… your mom sound cool…


  3. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 15:22:08

    What a fabolous glimpse and talk about a neighborhood having everything.. really quite interesting… remember klan tales .. and on the TV there were the pictures of the 60’s… great to have a mom, giving wise advises.


  4. http://vivinfrance.wordpress.com
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 15:42:19

    A wonderful slice of your history – so entertaining.


  5. freyathewriter
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 16:10:46

    Language and history are utterly intertwined – you illustrated this so well.


  6. lupitatucker
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 16:28:35

    This is a fun poem … remembering how things happened back then. Cool, Amy!


  7. Linda Kruschke
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 16:47:42

    Mom was always right, for sure! :) I like that we both wrote poems with Mom in them today. Peace, Linda


  8. brian miller
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 16:58:27

    haha i like your use of language…i imagine the klan was big around here as well…oy…not so much the mafia in my neck of the woods less it wuz the redneck mafia….smiles….and smiling at the memories as well…


  9. kaykuala
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 17:15:49

    The beauty of spectacular words and spectacular pages of history like no other. The beauty of Amelita is invariably anecdotes that tell spectacular stories.One will be given offerings with a different slant with the wit and humor all in plain words hard-hitting most times. Isn’t that you Ma;am! Beautiful write as always!



    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Dec 17, 2013 @ 22:23:43

      Hank, it’s funny… I’m a life-long learner, and yet my language has never strayed into the “five dollar words.” I’m pretty plain spoken, I guess because I want everyone to know what’s on my mind, when it’s fresh. Thanks so much for all your wonderful comments, Hank… on my way to your side now! Love, Amelita


  10. Glenn Buttkus
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 17:28:18

    Perhaps we never fully discard or shake off the vernacular of our parents, our friends & neighborhoods. I once was actor, before becoming a teacher, & I collect phrases & pronunciations that are regional; thanks for sharing.


  11. Dawn Paoletta (@breathoffaith)
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 17:39:35

    Truly that covered a lot of ground…I love the way you handled the prompt. That was excellent…I really need to try to stretch my poetic muscles more…I get so darned intimidated. You have me considering…and thanks for the visit and your words. Yes, we are sojourners on a similar path. Thanks for the inspiration, Amy.
    I think I have a blog on WordPress that I tried before blogger and it just sits there…I should delete it, but …I haven’t.


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Dec 17, 2013 @ 22:50:09

      Dawn, use one blog as a passageway to the other! Just post “Visit my new site HERE,” and imbed the link for the other blog. That’s my only presence on Blogger!


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Dec 17, 2013 @ 22:54:06

      As for intimidation, remember this: No one has lived your life. It’s a zen thing, where no two people have had the same experiences. It’s all from one’s point of view. I started out trying to rhyme things, trying to master forms, and said, “To hell with it! I’m a free verser at heart.” Keep at it. Don’t be afraid to push the outside of your personal envelope – you are a good writer. Keep the faith, Amy


  12. Nara Malone
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 18:20:48

    You did a great job painting a portrait uniquely you. I love that you made us hear the words as well as understand them.


  13. sentinelofnight
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 18:56:16

    I love the richness of the vernacular. Of the place itself. We only had “yins” (tr. you plural) and “wursh” (tr. wash).


  14. Gay Reiser Cannon
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 18:59:43

    So interesting – you give so much here with so little. I imagine the Europeans might be somewhat puzzled but I’ve seen those films where they picked up the mafia on newsreels at the movies; I saw those fools in dunce caps during and since Jim Crow, I know the good people of the mountains, I saw the Dollmaker (and read the book), and I’ve been there, heard the music, felt the clouds drift over the mountains and watched as the sumac and mountain laurel went through the change of seasons. (By the way, we listened to Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio here in Texas too – and everyone said “It ain’t funny McGee”..ha takes me back. Lovely use of language – your folks spoke the old English – they sounded like Chaucer and were singing songs from the Broadsides when the folklorists got there after WWI.


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Dec 17, 2013 @ 23:05:04

      Gay, all in all, you sound like a kindred spirit. Even though I didn’t hear Fibber and Molly until I found a record of their old broadcasts, Mom would talk about the old radio days, how Billie Holiday was not allowed to sing on a radio show because the sponsor was Ivory Soap and she was not considered “clean.” Mom also knew a great deal of history and tutored us on WWII and Hitler, loads about the Depression. A lot of my poems are about the Depression in Iowa, as seen through the eyes of Charlotte (my mom) and her mother, Blanche. Peace, Amy


  15. oldegg
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 19:55:19

    I see you dressed up for us today! Even in the UK where I was dragged up in Surrey they spoke real funny over the county border in Hampshire and that was only 9 miles away. A mouse got caught in trap at home and was still wriggling so Mum being squeamish got me to drown it in a bucket! Don’t see many in Australia.


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Dec 18, 2013 @ 17:13:21

      Ha! Robin, this reminds me of the infrequent house bats in Attica, NY. They scared the hell out of me, triggered my PTSD, I was a screaming meemie! I sympathize with your mom. Hey, I know we’re supposed to respect all God’s creatures, but when vermin get in the house, I say, “YOU DIE, JOE!”


  16. kkkkaty1
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 20:38:25

    you really have the right rhythm down and this flows nicely ….great flavor in your language…


  17. a spirit of simplicity
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 04:44:27

    she sounds like a very smart mum!!


  18. hypercryptical
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 04:46:44

    Excellent Amy – a perfect capture of childhood.
    Anna :o]


  19. Roger Green
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 05:12:33

    Although I HAVE heard that Binghamton was the northern edge of Appalachia. Yeah all sorts of stuff you wouldn’tb think would happen in THE NORTH happened in NYS. Great telling.


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Dec 18, 2013 @ 17:31:02

      Yeah, and we had a John Birch Society, too. Every time we drove by their office, Mom murmured, “Assholes” under her breath. This from a woman who wouldn’t say “shit” if she had a mouthful!!!


  20. Brendan
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 07:18:03

    You scooped up the vernacular and poured it back out wonderfully here. What that achieves is a sense of place that cannot be lost. Great stuff.


  21. ihatepoetry
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 10:04:38

    Ameleh – a great snapshot of a world I’ve only read about.


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Dec 18, 2013 @ 17:39:01

      Just as well, Mosk. We had one Jewish family in a school of 1500 students. Needless to say, first time I was destined to marry a Jewish guy, if only to help tip the balance a bit. Now, if I’d married Sammy Davis, Jr., I would have really been doing my part…! Ameleh


  22. The Transcanada Poet
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 15:49:04

    you took me there with your words… marvelous write Amy…


  23. stimmyabby
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 17:04:12

    I love it. It has wonderful voice, and I love sort-of rhymes. :)


    Dec 13, 2013 @ 19:43:05

    a beautiful ode to simplicity ~ marvelous Amy! Faithfully Debbie


  25. Lisa A.Williams
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 21:17:11

    Just wonderful Amy.


  26. Akila
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 22:20:26

    Pieces of history remains with us isn’t it? even if they were passed on in stories and narrations..perhaps the power of the language, the stress ha! how much we carry? interesting!


  27. J Cosmo Newbery
    Dec 14, 2013 @ 04:28:58

    “T’was entertainin’, McGee,”


  28. wkkortas
    Dec 17, 2013 @ 09:40:23

    Ah, the land where the college is called “sunny” and the big river is the “Seskehanna.” Fun stuff, indeed.


  29. Sharp Little Pencil
    Dec 18, 2013 @ 17:52:27

    Oh, and at first, they called Harper College cum SUNY “Hebrew U,” which I could not understand. What a rich culture developed when Long Islanders moved up there. Hadn’t heard of a bagel until the 70s!!


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