Carry On Tuesday gave us an interesting prompt: Somewhere within our poem, we were supposed to use the phrase, “But that is the beginning of a new story.” I decided to write an account – only the names and genders of kids have been changed – of an actual story, told to Buffalo’s DIVA by DIVA: A Celebration of Women, a group of “gals” who glitz up and tell stories, sing songs, and raise funds for Cornerstone Manor, run by a wonderful woman named in the poem.

Learn more about Cornerstone Manor, and maybe even throw a few bucks their way!  Trust me, it’s worth every penny you can spare: CLICK HERE.

Gimme Shelter

Two girls with this man, and he let her bring her boy into the family.
He was so righteous (at first), so good with her son (before the whippings),
and kind to the girls (she caught him, that was the breaking point).

He had been the answer to her every prayer, the man of her dreams.
Now she realized that, with some prayers, the devil tends to
listen in on the party line, get in on the action.

Nowadays he nightly, neatly folded up their clothes, seized their shoes,
and put them under lock and key before going out to party every night.
This ensured his family would be there when he decided to come home.

This night, she could only see with the one eye not swollen shut.
He shut her up real good before slamming the door behind him
and going out to party with who knows who, who knows where.

Her son, still awake, said, “Mom, enough, OK?”
He’d tried to pry them apart; now, blood dripped slowly
down his chin, like a leaky faucet. He’d tried his best.

He was just sprouting his first proud whiskers and
thought he could take on The Big Man, but he found out
it wasn’t gonna happen. Not this year. He hugged his mother.

So they woke up the girls, wrapped themselves in bedsheets,
pried open the side window, and climbed out. Their feet fell
into three inches of Buffalo February, brutal snow and ice.

Mom carried baby Keesha and her son offered Kendra
a piggy back ride, sacrificing his own natural speed
to take on the growing five-year-old as his load.

They made their way to the women’s shelter two miles away.
Mom rang the bell and Dr. Laura (not that woman on the radio, thank God)
hustled them inside and drew the blinds. She called for help.

Soon, they were covered in blankets; their feet were washed
in warm water (Jesus washed his disciples’ feet). Injuries were
tended to (when I was sick…) and clothing found (when I was naked…).

This shelter for battered women and children had no scheduled
“date of departure”; families left when they were ready. In days to come,
the girls let go of some of the trauma and began to play with others.

Her son enrolled in a new middle school, hoping
he could stay under the radar and not be found by his stepdad.
And if found, he vowed not to give up his mom’s location.

Mom chats with her peers – they’ve all been there. Now they
begin classes on computers; they are coached for interviews
and given donated professional clothes for a new start.

These miracles are the blessings of Cornerstone Manor.
She found work downtown. Soon, her survival skills showed
a unique talent for relating to others facing trouble.

“What about social work?” she thought, as she leafed through
pamphlets for local community education programs.
But that is the beginning of a whole new story…

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil