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

Category Archives: Activism

All That Glitters

A friendly, energetic employee
sits me down before my complimentary workout
She’s motivated
to sign me up for $29.99 a month
plus a “one-time $149 contract fee”
plus an annual $5 “enhancement fee”
(I asked. It helps pay for “cleaning and maintenance.”)

Rows of rowing and
shiny – if plastic – elliptical mills whirring
Designed to tighten sculpt lift renew energize
in classes or
in earbudded solitude

We’re sweatin to the Gold-ies
This gym, a starship enterprise
Squeaky clean, pristine
None of the primal potpourri afforded me
by my local community center gym

After pedaling pushing pumping up a sweat
I do due diligence in the changing room
A woman, quietly cleaning the bathroom
She, a little English
I, zero Ukranian
We talk with our hands and eyes

She mops up their leavings
Swiffers their sweat, and most importantly,
is not allowed to take tips
She is paid eight bucks an hour
Always on call, seven days a week

So who’s really sweating
at Gold’s Gym?

© 2016 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, The Tuesday Platform

It’s true. I went to Gold’s Gym with the shameless intention of getting one free workout, because our local community center is closed this week for an intensive cleaning! Madison’s Goodman Center pays their people a living wage, has no fancy frills, and houses a small – but totally adequate – workout room. The Center also has a senior café; an afterschool and summer program; a food pantry; a splash park and playground in summer; and a loyal, friendly staff.

When we visit a hotel or a restaurant, I always talk to the gutbucket staff. Those holding mops and bus trays. I ask about unions, about pay, about how well they are treated. And Lex and I consume services accordingly.

Stay human, folks. Amy


Response to Great White Whines

So sorry you’re perturbed
That your lunch was disturbed
by our chanting
in the hallowed halls of
the food court

Loud voices demanding change, laying down
bodies; a die-in to protest
killing of unarmed black men
We were faces of all shades
chanting in one voice:

“Black lives matter”
Indigestion? You had it coming

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

ABC Wednesday, Q for Quandary… I am called white; Anglo; WASP, even, which stands for the ubiquitous White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and I stand with Black Lives Matter protesters. This is a natural extension of following Jesus, an enduring symbol of love at its best, embracing everyone as family. I admit I have a hard time embracing bigots; it’s my Christian learning curve.

White folks often cloak their racism in whitespeak, without realizing they are being offensive and ignorant. A good example was this true story above, where a white woman complained to other white women at JCPenney in my presence. She said, “They have the right to complain, but… do they have to use the food court? I had to try and explain what was happening to my granddaughter.” I replied, as evenly as I could, “I was one of the protesters. If you need help explaining it to her, let me know.” She was shocked.

She didn’t want my help. She merely wanted to bitch about being inconvenienced in the smallest of ways… some noise during her fast-food lunch. And she didn’t listen anyway, so I wonder what exactly she told her granddaughter. If she had listened, she would have understood that this was an organized, peaceful exercise of free-speech rights, planned in conjunction with mall security, who were informed by the group beforehand. We were protesting the recent killing of Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed young black man with schizophrenia who had gone off his meds and was killed by a white police officer who discharged 14 bullets. Wisconsin – America – has a race problem, and it’s up to all of us to solve it.

Other Great White Whines:
Why do “they” have to tie up traffic during rush hour? (They? Really? Let’s start there…)
Why aren’t “they” nice like Martin Luther, King? The same people would complain about Dr. King if he was still alive. In fact, they would whine about any public assembly that calls for accountability, when it’s the white race being called out for unthinking privilege.)

My quandary is that I’m a white civil rights advocate. Racists, beige like me, assume I will tolerate their whining, when in fact I don’t, bluntly. And, at first glance, people of color see me as “one of the crackers,” which I’m not.

Many thanks to Mrs. Nesbitt for starting ABC Wednesday, and special thanks to Roger and the ABC gang for keeping those letters rollin’!  A great collective.  Amy


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


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


Words Fail Me

When I look at
the box to check that
asks me if I’m white
(like Apartheid, right?)
Words fail me

When I hear a slur
thrown at his/her
clothing on the street
(too butch or too sweet)
Words fail me

Then I remember what
my ancestry is, and cut
straight to the chase –
Whether it’s race

or “homoqueerdyke” –
Riley sure didn’t like
it, she took them on
Must have gone til dawn

Whatever the abuse
There is no excuse
I find my mind; suddenly
My words do not fail me

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

The great Brian Miller at dverse Poets asked for the theme “when words fail you.”

It’s one thing to be stopped in my tracks by utter stupidity, insensitivity, and hate speech. It’s another to let it pass. I will always calmly try to talk them in off the Limbaugh Lemming Ledge… even though we have “concealed carry” in this state. It’s worth the risk, if only to stand for justice and work for peace. And it always ends up with a moment of standoff and an apology. (Caveat: I don’t take on the clearly unmedicated who could do me real harm, because they are speaking out of their own illnesses.) Peace, Amy


Greedy Senator 001

An Inconvenient Seed

In the Senate men’s room
where Left and Right
meet in the middle
to piddle (and diddle)
my “magic beans” await

Every time a member
ignores the attendant
or doesn’t even tip,
my seeds spring into action
attaching to silk socks

Growing between their toes
vines twining up lazy legs
over pompous paunches
anywhere they can find
purchase

Buds bloom into small papers
the size of dollar bills
All his corporate sponsors are listed
for the world to see and to know
that this putz don’t know shit from shinola

After the lines are laced, the other shoe
gives way to a bud, a roll of
Kimberly-Clark toilet paper
(T.P. made by the Kochs)
and every square squawks

WalMart… WalMart… WalMart…

© 2014 poem and sketch by Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Shanyn at dverse Poets askied for our thoughts on seeds. Of course, Congress sprang to mind (on so many levels, ha ha ha).

Even though these are horrible times for our government, we must never forget the biggest villain of all: MONEYPOWERGREED. Peace, Amy


 

UNDER THE HARSH

Sleeping on a park bench
Living in a Chevy beater
Winter covers each with
an unwanted blanket of snow

Downtown, shoppers
pay them no mind; while
searching for deep discounts,
they discount these folks

Tonight, under starlight that
sets the frost a-twinkle with
thousands of crystals, remember
Jesus is sleeping under cardboard

not too far from here…

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Michael Crawford sings this song with heart, with understanding.  May we all remember the homeless during this HOHOHO season of frenzied gift giving, as we fatten our credit card balances buying crap made by child slave labor in China.

For ABC Wednesday, the letter U.  Pick one:  Underfed, Underemployed, Under stress, Under cardboard boxes.  Also “in the margins” at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads and Poets United.  Peace, Amy


Peace, the Unknown Commodity

Our world has been at war
since the eighth decade. EIGHTH

Constant bickering plus weapons
equals humans either dead or “victorious”

Where is the victory in bloody children
lying in the street next to their dead mothers?

Will it take violent protest to end war?
That would be quite ironic, but

marching hasn’t done it; even Lennon’s
music was decried as hippie drivel

All we are saying is give peace a chance
And yet the war machine goes on

A peaceful world takes LOVE and respect
A peaceful world means children go to school

A peaceful world means women are not battered
and adults are given meaningful work

In a peaceful world, the Halliburton crew
and Blackwater would have spare time.

Perhaps they could work on clean energy
and free health care for Americans instead

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

I know I wrote more about war than peace, but let’s face it, folks. As long as Stale Pale Males (emphasis on stale, as in same old crap) are large and in charge of the military/industrial complex; as long as we are dependent on fossil fuels; and, of course, as long as there are “American Interests” abroad, we will never know peace. “American Interests” is a catch phrase that does not mean people – it means Starbucks in Baghdad and McDonald’s in every nation! Beware the sound byte.

This is for Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ “Blog 4 Peace” highlight. I am so proud to be a “Toad” and to take part in this wonderful cause. I’m also posting this for dverse Open Mic Tuesday.  Peace, Amy



An actual fracking site in Warren Center, PA
The Marcellus Shale runs under my home, Binghamton, NY
Image courtesy of WikiCommons

Frackers (and the TPs who love them)

Takin no flak from
frack-attack NRA
plushies

Takin no crap from
gumflappin’ Tea Party
Rushies

Dittoheads filled with…
(no, that’s not nice)
misinformation

Sleazy pols with vols
pandering to their meandering
with dolls from the intern pool

Pools they listen to
more than constituents
Consequently, their

incontinent pieholes spew
FOX from their boxes
(the Constitution gets the axe)

Rights only for the Right
We get what’s “left”
Two Rights can make a wrong

Look at the NeoCon bromances:
Bush and Dick
Incestuous Koch brothers

On and on, while our tap water
becomes flammable, we suck
dino juice like it’s a teat

Money for war? Sure!
Forget wind and solar –
our gas is now Natural

So natural, it seems
the hometown of my dreams
will go down in flames

from its faucets

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

I’ve written about FRACKING before, but Sherry Blue Sky, a good friend and Canadian activist, produced an excellent report (click HERE) on how the frackers are taking over in Canada, too. Got my Irish up, but at least people rose up in protest… in the States, we think of Canada as a peaceful country, but their police have been learning since the Bush years and yes, through the Obama years: Rubber bullets in LaBatts country. What the hell is going on?

This is my cheery little Monday piece for the Open Link at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads!  Peace, Amy


I lost a week in there with oral surgery (no, they didn’t sew my mouth shut, but I know of a few people who wish they had!). But I used last week’s Sunday Whirl words, which I will share with dverse and Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Open Link Monday.

My friend Rev. Tisha is working on a program concerning violence against women. Please feel free to forward poems to me by email – either paste the poem in the message or attach. Here is an example, and I can only say that, as a survivor of a different type of violence, these girls huddle in a corner of my soul. Peace, Amy

SECRET TO SURVIVAL

Three girls
torn from the cradle of mothers’ arms
peering past bad circumstances

The secret
to their survival in exile was the stories
Pry open clues with claws forged of need

Pile bits
of memory, tiny green apples
as unripe as they. Their rash hope:

that spirits
would comfort them as they endured
man after man on a filthy mattress

The spirits
were their only treasure, clutching and reciting
concocted tales of their shared princess-like past…

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil