There was a prompt on dverse called “Missing You” that, of course, I missed linking to. To which I missed linking. Linking missed did I. Whatever! Fortunately, Imaginary Garden With Real Toads is hosting Open Link Monday, so thanks, Kerry!
During Advent, I remember large and small kindnesses, and I think about those I’ve lost over the years. “And of all these friends and lovers, there is no one compares to you.” With a nod to John Lennon, here a a poem about the person I miss so much.
NOTE: All poems regarding my relationship with my father are about me and me alone. I make no claims, nor do I speak for my sisters.
The coffee shared at the cigbutt-scarred
kitchen table (my workspace now).
The stories, especially when you were
drunk as a skunk, rambling on about
our noteworthy obscure Irish lineage.
Our family totem: Gordon’s and an ashtray.
Grandma Blanche exacting revenge
on Bill, who cheated with her best friend.
Wish you had taken a picture of his face
when he walked in, realizing he was busted.
The nights you went off to sing, scent of
Tigress cologne, the black sequins and
paste jewelry from Blanche, I called them
“dime mints,” the teardrop earrings you wore.
The teardrops signified more: Breakfast
wearing sunglasses, Dad hit you the night before
after doing me in a fit of jealousy – Dad sure
you were fooling around at your gig, you dig?
Next morning, to church, choir director… first,
vodka bracer, no lie detector, I’d never tell
Your secrets were safe with me and my
secrets I didn’t know until after you both died.
Mama, you told me we were both descended
from sirens. I didn’t think you meant
ambulances, yet backward glances tell me
(in the hindsight that trumps your own truth),
you were a mess, and so loveable, and so
weak, and so in need, and so on. I know.
I’m the dark mirth of the Irish, the mother of
a savant, the keeper of memories, of the love.
© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
My mother was an enigmatic, persuasive lioness who occasionally retreated to helpless-kitten states through alcohol. She drank because she didn’t want to be “crazy” like her mother, Blanche, who was bipolar like me, but because of the times, was institutionalized and Frankenshocked through the 30s and 40s. Charlotte drank because she didn’t want to “notice” Dad sneaking up the hall after his little girls had gone to bed. And she drank to warm up her razor-sharp memory for “the telling of the stories,” our family history. Some people tell the same stories over and over… which start out like funny mice but, over the years, morph into elephants. Not Mama. I was her witness, and I know she would be glad I write about all the mess, the booze, the music, the tears, and the bellyaching laughter… and yes, even the abuse.
Hug your parents tight, if they are with you. My depression comes and goes, but hers was long, tortured, and I thank God that now, she is at peace. Miss you, Mama. Love, Amer
Photo taken by my Grandpa Bill in August 1959, during a visit to Mom’s home town, Council Bluffs, Iowa. Copyright is with me.
December 4, 2012 at 4:12 pm
Amy, you have such a gift for painting with words, and such heart-rending/opening emotions. Hugs to you ❤
December 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm
at my moms right now so i will give that hug…you give us all the texture to her, to them in this…the happy and well the secrets….def felt the emotion through it…and sorry you missed the link…but feel free to drop it at OLN which is going on right now…
Sharp Little Pencil
December 4, 2012 at 4:23 pm
Will do! Thanks, Brian. And Sara, much love atcha. Amy
December 4, 2012 at 4:37 pm
You write such hard truths Ames and with such a generosity of spirit (I think for that reason alone, your depression should be lifted…I’m just sayin’)This is wonderful – I love it when you write about your Mom …
December 4, 2012 at 4:37 pm
There is just so much truth here–makes me want to cry for my own mom and for me
December 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm
I am touched with your personal share…those last four lines hit me hard ~
I am sure your memories of her are thru the eyes of love and compassion ~
December 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm
Yeah mothers are grand indeed, and such emotion you convey, wonderful, truthful write at your bay.
December 4, 2012 at 6:08 pm
i feel it. i feel it.
“paste jewelry from Blanche, I called them
“dime mints,” the teardrop earrings you wore.
The teardrops signified more: Breakfast
wearing sunglasses, Dad hit you the night before”
the nostalgia is vast and full of painful love. i feel like i’m sitting at a table, sipping coffee, and begging you to tell me more. beautiful, painful, yet matter of fact.
Sherry Blue Sky
December 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm
Oh Amy, have you ever written a fantastic poem here. I come from the same kind of “mess”, the drinking, the beatings……..your two closing lines basically sank my ship right out of sight, that is how deep they are. Thank Goddess you are “the dark mirth of the Irish….and the keeper of memories.” Make sure to write them all down, it’s amazing how much one forgets at my advanced age. I wish now I had written them all, every single one.
December 4, 2012 at 6:49 pm
It read painfully excellente. Words were shape, as truth is, but you shared these shape things with such maturity and replection, understanding and love. A great fantastico write.
December 4, 2012 at 8:50 pm
You write it true, Amy. The way it is. All of it. Your mom would be proud. I know she would. Keep it real, Amy….and keep writing. My best to you, my friend.
December 4, 2012 at 8:51 pm
This post was all of what is best about you… honest, real, holding nothing back, and above all, ,being able to find what was good and precious amidst that which was dark and painful. I love you for loving your mom, warts and all, just as my grown-up kids love me. How very blessed that is. Only when we ourselves are grown up do we realized just what their lives were really like, our own lives put theirs in perspective. This was an awesome tribute, I know your mom is somewhere close and smiling!
And thanks for that tip off on my bad WordPress link, you are the only one who took the time to track me down and let me know! It’s fixed now! 🙂
December 4, 2012 at 9:27 pm
You don’t hold back, Amy, and that’s why I always love your writing. I hope your Mom knew a bit of what a strong and beautiful daughter she had. I can relate to the “messes” too…there was alcoholism, loud, screaming fights and general chaos to grow up in…I can relate, sister. But I still have trouble seeing the light in all that darkness…I admire you.
December 4, 2012 at 10:00 pm
God, I should come here every day, just to see what’s new in your world, Amy. And to soak up the treasures of your talent
Rather than “learn” from your writings, I just enjoy without stress. I love to read about love–and of the kinds–but there is really (IMO) only one species of love-it involves receiving, not possessing, and passing it on giving it away. All with no thought or expectation of personal gain.
I’ve not attained this height of love, but now know what it is, and awareness can move me in the direction…..
December 4, 2012 at 11:33 pm
Without knowing that every word is true, this poem stands on its written merits, the ability to create a setting, people it and draw on a sense of human failure that continues to dig below surface level until the reader is brought to a new sense of awareness about human fallibility.
December 4, 2012 at 11:38 pm
You have a gift Amy and I so appreciate you sharing yourself~ I am so sorry for what you have endured~ (((hugs))) Your poem is so vivid, I felt like a fly on the wall
December 4, 2012 at 11:48 pm
oh my…i bow humbly because of the way you managed to write this..such generosity even in the not so easy circumstances.. my dad used to drink and i so often felt so helpless
December 5, 2012 at 12:59 am
This must have been so hard to write, and yet you write with such generosity of spirit about hard times. I hope you are clawing your way up out of the low you were in.
December 5, 2012 at 2:30 am
and every now and then Amy your writing just blows me away. Kudos again sister across the waters. xxoo
December 5, 2012 at 6:28 am
It is amazing with what strength and precision, with what openness and reason you share hard experience.
Hugs, Amy! ❤
December 5, 2012 at 9:20 am
You have always written it as it is, Amy! The openness, direct with all sincerity . The frankness makes the narration very vivid that many can well relate to. It’s a great tribute to sometime dear to one’s heart!
December 12, 2012 at 5:45 am
Correction:… to someone dear to one’s heart!…
December 5, 2012 at 11:45 am
emo content which i can believe in: so i can invest
and let the shape take hold as it develops
in this excellent cut 🙂
December 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm
great piece…sorry for what happened that made it so. did you ever find peace with your mother while she was still alive? I try and keep mine as far from me as possible, and while I forgive, I don’t forget. I just don’t feel safe having her around my kid, you know?
December 5, 2012 at 3:46 pm
Amy, what an honor it is to witness your personal courage…telling the stories from your experience, the fierce love you felt and still feel for you mother, how you miss her. Thank you for your honesty. Your poem is beautiful because it is pure and true to your memory.
Gay Reiser Cannon
December 5, 2012 at 3:51 pm
Deeply affecting. I agree it stands on its own merits without regard to personal sharing, and soul-baring; yet, that very ability to plumb the depths of your history and find within it “dark mirth”, bonding and closeness is the currency that communicates to your readers on that same personal level. Deep and exacting work. Well done.
December 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm
Amelita, you are an astounding lady. I love your ability to connect us with your world. Thank you. An open and very honest write.
December 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm
It is very difficult to say any words that are of comfort. All I can do is hold your hand in an understanding silence from thousands of miles away.
December 7, 2012 at 1:12 am
welcome to the garden Amy.your deeply moving share was rather unsettling and yet so true for many more.and yes, the poem does also stand on its own.keep writing and I wish you peace.
thanks also for your generous comments.
December 7, 2012 at 12:38 pm
Powerful stuff Ms Pencil ~ well-crafted and emotionally on the money.
December 8, 2012 at 9:05 pm
My heart goes out to you, Amy…it’s commendable the balance that you maintain in the telling…a work of art and a means for gathering hope in what can feel hopeless. I hope that for you it is healing…it seems that whenever I begin to let myself write about trauma I fall into a dark place but for others it may be the opposite…I don’t think keeping it in the dark helps but then shining the light on it somehow, feels like it gives it more power…speaking for myself on this though. Any way, it’s not about me I’m just always interested in how it all works and I feel that the word, “balance,” is important…something you managed in this piece amazingly well…hugs and smiles to you, Amy.
December 9, 2012 at 3:44 am
Why do people have to suffer so much? How great that you can write about it! I wish you love and peace of mind.
December 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm
…we were both descended from sirens, I didn’t think you meant ambulances…
Such cleverness in light of the subject matter is the mark of a true survivor.
December 11, 2012 at 8:37 pm
UGH! I know of two adopted little girls who had a dad sneak up the back stairs… We considered him a good man! Little did we know. He is in jail now. This poem tells it as if from a distance – I guess because it is told so matter of factly, not ranting and raving. And perhaps that is why it hits one hard in the gut!
December 12, 2012 at 12:36 am
your every word shines with strength, with love…and you manage to convey the harsh truth so matter-so-fact, so beautifully..
December 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm
My Dear Amy~
I would love to see all of these childhood recollections and reminiscences pulled together in one volume. Submit, Girl! They are SO good!
December 13, 2012 at 7:59 am
It’s very remarkable that your writing can display a kind of distance and objectivity in being so truthful about things that must still affect you so profoundly. This is a fine achievement. It’s not a poem to be “enjoyed” in any conventional sense, but I can certainly admire it, and you for writing it.
December 15, 2012 at 5:24 pm
Incredible poem of raw honesty, Amy.
December 25, 2012 at 9:04 pm
Right down to the core you hit us with your personal reality; another outstanding
poem, your “Missing Charlotte”…
Lisa A.Williams poetry
March 16, 2013 at 7:13 am
Such a painful story, written with such honesty and strength. It brings tears to my eyes, reminding of all the children who experience such things in their families. Superb writing!