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

Author Archives: Sharp Little Pencil

Back then every morning broke both ways. Salty and sweet

Head already splitting sitting up, sliding into bell bottoms, frayed hems fringed over faded espadrilles

Peasant top, you know how it was, a roach clip on a looooong feather clipped into frantic loopy hair

Sip of last night’s to get me out the door, down to Ruby’s

Step out near the canals, the shaggy likewise join the journey

Who’s holding? Lights up, the high travels along the line of linked arms like a fuse

Snickersnorting to the boardwalk, Jingles and Frank ready for busking

All the lovely boys building bodies to bodacious on the beach, sand sticking to evvvvvery sinewed limb, pump pump bump

Now we can smell the coffee smell the bacon smell half the customers too, or at least their smoke

The clatter of breakfast – and always smiling Ruby (“somebody hit the juke for Ray Charles!” and his voice, “They saaaaay, Ruby, you’re like a dreeeeeeeam…”) She was 100% movement but never rushed us

Lazy, luxurious breakfast, runny eggs, and how they got bacon that crispy while retaining every bit of grease that came off the hog is a mystery of faith

OJ from the carton (back when we still called it that) not fresh, but we only drank it for the sugar hit

And so Sunday began. We were together. We had survived another Saturday night. And as we ramshackled back onto the mostly deserted boardwalk, it never occurred to us that something else might happen. That soon, Ruby’s place would turn into Starbucks; all the trash on the beach would become all the Eurotrash in the tragically samesame cafes; and eventually, Jingles might get a ticket for loitering.

Not yet. We didn’t have a clue that it was coming: the encroachment of developers, the diaspora of cool. I can still smell Sunday morning, the sweet greasy and the sweat weedy.

Thanks to my old friend Roger Green for kicking me in the butt to post something! He’s at

People have lots of opinions
about religion
about politics
about morals
about what a family should look like
and who should be allowed to Thanksgiving dinner

But I never realized how opinionated people could be
until I told them about our plans to retire in a tiny home

The astonishment, the disbelief
And then it really begins… the inquisition, the condemnation
The comments that show just how little people care about your feelings

-Tiny houses are a fad
-They are crappy structures, I saw that on HGTV
-Are you going to just roam around the country for the rest of your lives?
-Don’t you want a REAL HOME? (House as Pinocchio)
-They’ll make you live in a trailer park (this insults all the cool folks who live in trailers and RVs, frankly)
-You don’t really buy into that Green New Deal stuff, do you?
-Do you really want to compost your poop?

The answers:
If it’s a fad, we’ll bring it round to being sensible (and wonderful)
We want to leave the world a little less crappy for our kids
Homes are as real as people allow them to be
Home has been hundreds of apartments for decades
for both of us, as well as our child, for as long as we can remember,
and we always made it work

It’s only BS if you buy into the paradigm
And sure, managing composting toilets is tricky
But again, leaving the world less crappy is kind of the point

So spare me the whining
or you won’t get invited to experience the fabulousness of it all

(c) 2019 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, the letter is T
T for Tiny, T for Tremendous
T for ‘Take That, Naysayers’
T for Trust

Lex and I spend hours poring over websites and drawing diagrams. The biggest problem will be which city and where to park it. Our list of Must Haves gets shorter and shorter. We are “three hots and a cot” people, always have been. Hell, I stopped counting after 40 moves! (Of course, some of those were couches…) As long as Lex and I can figure out the snoring thing and the ‘Mommy Needs A Fan All The Time’ thing, we’ll be fine. Peace, Amy

Looking forward to old age, to age-old dreams
We decided to Go Tiny
Buy a little crackerbox and live the Keebler life

It won’t be for a long while
But I have started shedding stuff
it peels off daily
Flotsam off the shelves
Out of closets
So much stuff

Stephanie said, “But you don’t have much stuff”
I so, SO get what she means
We are actually simple people
Complicated but unencumbered

It’s part of the pastoral couple thingie

And yet, daily, I find piles to move along
Clothes I will never wear
Art supplies I have not used
(Sure, I might take up painting again,
but the acres of acrylics
the pall of palettes

So St. Vinny’s (patron saint of people who just moved into a new place and really need stuff) takes on my burdens
I will burn a candle at his altar

Fly, my pretty things
Fly and roost on someone else’s house
Our nest will be empty (mostly)


(c) Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

She was a shy little girl

But the years saw her follow a dazzlebright dream

Sometimes salty with her tears, but free and blazing and true, that spotlight
the place where fear faces down a mighty shout
and the shout wins

Keeping it upright for so long, night after night, year after year, life after the death of innocence and rebirth into a style that was right and real

She had more class in her little finger than those girls from school had in their bigass suburban bedroom closets

She was a gold mine of good stories and
the kind of crooked wisdom that comes from living out loud and voraciously

“This life is mine,” she said

“This room is better for having me in it,” she breathed

And they knew she was right
© 2019 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For The Sunday Whirl, the words were style, finger, light, mine, shy, salt, collide. Also follow, cats, and a couple of others, but I didn’t have the wherewithal after a full day of church to get them all in!! Peace, Amy

The first time I saw an apple doll was in a picture book

Kids in the suburbs don’t have homespun toys – but that particular book, from our school library, was one of those “Back in the OLD DAYS when people didn’t have SHOES so they walked 12 MILES to school BAREFOOT” kind of books, the ones your grandparents swore was written about THEM

The doll’s head was an apple
(well, sure, or else it would have been a Prune Doll or some such)
An actual apple, dry and old and quite wizened up, used up

The face was dead
Not peaceful, died-in-their-sleep dead
More like starved-to-death or “Bitten By A Brown Recluse Spider” dead. all sucked in on itself, so dry I could almost hear the parch

And the reason this came back to me one night while we were watching TV
(this bizarre tidbit from the Bipolar Lock Box/bat haven)
It was his face

His face as he put his crusty hand on an actual Bible
and swore an oath to do a bunch of stuff we all know he won’t do
does not intend to do
assumes he is above bothering with it at all

That dried apple yawned open, then closed
It never kissed its wife
It had few. if any, words for its own young son

When it blinked, bits of peel seemed to shard off and
float the astroturf carpet below its feet

A desiccated, ancient thing
Perhaps it had been vital at one time, but it was never top of the bushel

The apple a grocer hides in the pile, hoping some unsuspecting shopper
will pick it up along with the other, shinier ones
A wormy, mealy apple
Fruit of a poisoned tree

(Thoughts on the inauguration of Donald J. Trump)

(c) 2019 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, “L” is for “licentious” and “lecherous.” And “lousy,” “loathsome,” and on and on.

Truth: I wrote this the night of Trump’s inauguration but didn’t post it until now, because I have spent the last three years (plus) freaked out by the fact that this pustule is actually president of the United States. PTSD takes its toll on survivors of sexual abuse, and the Access Hollywood tape, along with all the other insults to practically everyone who is not a straight, white, Christian, Republican male… Well, yeah, that’s why I have not blogged much since then.

I am disappointed in myself, that I could let one man steal that much joy and power and enthusiasm from me. But see the comment above about my childhood sexual abuse. I learned, very early on, that one man could, indeed, steal my innocence and trust, so why not joy, power, and enthusiasm, too? I mean, he is the president. And he does believe he is all-powerful. (Just don’t look behind the curtain. That fat king is buck naked.)  Amy

A chance conversation with a stranger
leads to both of us feeding the Hungry Cup on the sidewalk

A smile on my face, returned
by someone else
leads to just that – our grins

The new couple on the block
passed by with their
which led me indoors to
appreciate our lazy cat a bit more

The phone call from an old friend
that was actually a text, but quite effective

A prayer answered, the one you didn’t know you needed

Unexpected blessings are the whole point

(c) 2019 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, the letter U. I must admit, that letter prompted a poem about Ugly, Ubiquitous trUmp, but I thought better of it.

Concentrating on those blessings each day. Trying to get the hang of happiness.


Simple Summer Pleasures

simple things
seeing sunrise after a good night’s slumber
strrrrrretching to the tune of birdsong
Smell of Sumatran coffee, steaming and silky

A decent back scratch, administered by someone special
Some time in the garden amongst slinky, slimy worms and snickering birds (beaks full of seeds just strewn)
Sitting on the porch, swig of beer, clack of dominoes, sunset smiles

Snuggled on the couch, where in our house,
“Netflix and chill” means
watching an actual movie with the air conditioner on high

Sweet dreams, beautiful summer day
See you at sunrise

© 2019 Amy Barlow Liberatore, Beehat Baby Publishing

Thanks to Roger at ABC Wednesday for this prompt, the letter S. Was just out in the garden, surveying my new raised bed, built for me by Lex and our friend Stephanie. Will probably wax poetic about that little garden soon. Amy

Damn, It’s Cold

I moved to Wisconsin voluntarily – but at this moment,

a simmering resentment is the only thing keeping me warm

Irony: My husband flew out to a conference San Antonio last Sunday

(we may still be married by the time you read this)

Fact: Stir-crazy, I went out to put in supplies (yup, I have a chuck wagon and EVVVV-rything)

People were stocking up on Wisconsin ABCs (Alcohol, Bratwurst, and Cheese)

Out of the market, into an Arctic infarction

A wind that topped out at 50 Degrees Below What The Fuck

It slapped me in the back and swept me off my feet

(Not in a romantic way. In another way.)

And the cold

The cold

Did I mention the cold?

Cold that freezes the snot in your nose

Cold that makes the wax in your ears harden and rattle

Cold that causes panic and anger, makes people drink more than usual (and scream between steins for no discernible reason)

This is the cold of Jack London, of science fiction after the sun dissolves

The cold you tell your grandkids about and they never believe you

Colder than charity

Colder than Melania Trump’s gaze

Damn, that’s cold

© 2019 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, the letter is D. So, yeah, DAMN! I do love Wisconsin! The snow stays pristine white days after the storm (which beats the cruddy runoff of Manhattan winter). The people are great – and my friends feel SO MUCH BETTER since we voted the revolting Scott Walker out of our lives and into obscurity (unless Trump gives him a job and then fires him).

My problems with this cold snap are minor – so minor, I can find humor in them. But there are folks out on the street. Make sure you send a donation to a shelter, today. Even if you are not in the path of the Arctic Blast, folks need your help. Amy

It’s been awhile since I posted one of my songs. This is about the time she sees her old love at a party and they end up making out in the coatroom. (And most of this story is gloriously, embarrassingly true.)

CLICK HERE  Loving You Today (song by Amy Barlow)

#singer #songwriter #OldGirl #GAFB #StillGotIt #strangerthanfiction

The bravura president
Toad-bloated and spewing
Managed to piss off Australia on his very first day
(I mean, who does that?)

The emperor has no clothes
(now, that’s one image I wish I could unsee)
We are fully clothed but we feel naked
Hopeless, fatigued, bone weary of the blather

He speaks
We are slack-jawed
and waiting for this mistake, this miscarriage,
this miscreant to go away, anywhere, anyhow

Anyway, we wait

(c) 2018 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday – the letter is U. Thanks to Roger Green, as he came up in my thoughts today. The last time I posted was a year ago (yup, talk about your outrage fatigue: I have been poetry-dry for a long while), the letter was also U. Man, I need to stop letting this crappy president get to me. Amy