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

Category Archives: Amy: The Lost Years

Laundromat

Wasted the night before,
I’d screwed the chance
to do my dirty laundry.

Doobie ashes on the floor
Discretion cracked open,
my values in a quandary.

“Don’t do strangers,”
was always my creed,
but he’d been on my couch

‘cause he possessed dangers
highlighting my need…
Granite jaw, killer slouch.

Now, in desperation,
I’m at the Rinse ‘n’ Spin
‘til cleansed, my clothes are done.

Cheap soil eradication
but it won’t remove sin…
A revolution!  Fridays are fun!

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For the Sunday Whirl, with thanks to Brenda; Wordle words are in bold. THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION. Strangers were never in my romantic repertoire! Amy


Precipice

Teetering on the rim
of crystal so thin
a butterfly’s wing could
send her tumbling back
down, down, down
into the glass carnival

Where distorted lens
meets bloodshot eye
Where feet lose footing,
sliding on the gloss
Where beating on the wall
can cut you to the bone

Where they can look in
but she is alone
trapped in prisms
of sunlight’s whim
Where is she’s not careful
she will be burned to an ashen memory

The limits are clear,
but not so the options

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, the letter “P”; for We Write Poems, “Take it to the Limit,” and, as always, at Poets United, the home of so many wordsmiths, for Thursday Think Tank: Monsters. If you visit these blogs, either click on the “comments” button to access the work of plenty of amazing poets, or at ABC, simply click on a face! Peace, Amy


Absolutely true story, and managed to write it in Poetic Asides’ 10×10 form as well. My cousin Gregg and I are a lot alike: Complete unimpressed by celebrity, and able to get off a one-liner without cracking up (until later). You go, cuzzy!

Carradine vs. Laughlin (0-1)

You’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead
But this one’s too funny to go untold

David Carradine, in his “Kung Fu” days
Came to a rest’rant my cousin Gregg ran

Carradine went barefoot a lot back then
and Gregg said, “Sorry, no shoes, no service”

All puffed up, the star went on to protest
“Don’t you know who I am? Any bistro
would be glad to serve me, barefoot or not!”

Gregg deadpanned, “I suggest you go find one.”

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Also posted at Writer’s Island, my NaPoWriMo home, and at Poetic Asides, plus, as always, Poets United.


At We Write Poems, a prompt went out: Write a poem about writing a poem. You never know when or where the inspiration will strike. I’ve long since given up on sitting down and deciding to produce something… and yet, the more I write, the more I want to write!

This poem is also posted at Writer’s Island, where I’m posting daily for National Poetry Writing Month. Amy

Prelude to a Poem

Teapot screams meeeeeEEEEEEEE
demanding attention
Drip of the French Press into the mug
Pressing grounds through as
ground falls from under my feet
taking me back to that cafe in the Village where…

Drifting with the breeze down State Street
Lots of UW students hang and hacky-sack here
Whole lives ahead of them
One potent whiff of a fattie gives me
a contact high and suddenly I’m on Venice Beach…

We march in solidarity with unions at
Madison’s Capitol Dome
The golden statue atop is called Miss Forward
The governor inside is called Mister Backward
My anger at injustice boils inside my gut
I plop down on the pavement and start to
scribble on the back of my sign…

Startled awake, sweating, full-body tremble
recalling those nights when
a little girl was tucked in tight until
HE decided it was her turn
I switch on the light – it’s NOW, dammit, not THEN!
I pick up a pen…

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


At Poetic Asides, the prompt was, “Maybe _______.”  (Fill in the blank.)  After realizing I’m 54 and there’s so much behind me, this poem spilled out like tequila.  I even ate the worm!   Amy  (P.S. I am officially posting all NaPoWriMo posts at Writer’s Island.)

Maybe Now

If not then
when time was fluid and forever
when ripe fruits were there for the picking
and flowers spilled out our window-boxes
as palms shuddered in the warm California breeze

If not then
when every day was an adventure yet to come
when we were fools
and innocence had run from us, scared
and jaded juices thumped in our veins

Maybe now
now that we have grown older
now that we have learned the meaning of “folly”
we will look back with the leisure of age
and see it all had meaning

And our worst mistakes are behind us
or not

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


For my third day of National Poetry Writing Month, I decided to follow a prompt, because it called out to me. Sunday Scribblings asked for poems about messengers. This is for my mother, who beat the devil and was sober the final 10 years of her life. She’s been gone 21 years now, but when I need her, just like Blanche (her mom), she is there for me. In her weakness and in her strength, so many lessons. Miss you, Mama.  Love, Amer

Message in a Bottle

For the first time in years
(and so welcome, this occasion)
seated across the kitchen table with Mom.

For the first time in years
(since I had headed west for a spell)
she was not drunk – not even tipsy.

There was a message in
the absence of a gin bottle on that table…
Gordon’s had been her steadfast companion

Now we sat and looked each other in the eye
“Amy,” she said kindly, “there’s a scratch in your voice.
You need to stop smoking pot.”

For the first time in years,
we spoke singer to singer, our voices had always been
our beauty, our careers, our all.

“I sobered up,” she said slowly, “cold turkey.”
It was true – too ashamed to go to a clinic,
knowing so many people in town.

Dad had gone to her door several times each day,
listening to the retching, passing in black coffee
and soda crackers for a solid two weeks.

But for me, quitting a joint a day was easy.
And so the message was clear: No more bottle for her,
no more buds in Buglers for me. Saved my life, she did.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


A last gasp for Three Word Wednesday, here at my computer on Monday morning! This is an “Amy: The Lost Years” SoCal poem. Remember… and learn. Amy

Mellow Times (3WW: Mellow, Breeze, Tickle)

Mellow times, man, those days
that stretched into nights into
breakfast served up by Ruby.

Stoned to a stupor, we’d loop-de-loop our way
into that café at daybreak. The breeze held
a lingering languor of cannibestest ever.

It tickled my throat, but instead of a cough,
it coaxed from me a bawdy chorus of
“Gimme A Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer,”

right there on Brooks Court as we
sidewindedly search for that java and huevos rancheros.
Hash brown mornings, hash pipe nights.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


At We Write Poems, we were asked to write about a guardian angel. I have always known mine, but in this particular circumstance, I do believe she nearly saved my life. Filed under “Amy: The Lost Years.”

Who Did I Hear?

We’re hangin’ out back
in a converted garage
that is tacky but serves
as a home, for now.

Rafters overhead hold
mic stands that belong to
The New Riders of the Purple Sage
(I can’t make this stuff up).

I’m comfy on a couch but
suddenly extremely thirsty.
Someone offers me a beer
from the lukewarm coffin,

but I need something cold.
RIGHT AWAY. Can’t say
what’s in my brain, but I
jump up and go out the door.

Two seconds later, CRASH!
And looking at the couch
where I was sitting moments before,
a mic stand had fallen, base first.

If you ever lifted one of those suckers,
you know they’re damned heavy,
plus it shattered a framed picture
on its way to my former nest.

Something, someone told me,
YOU NEED TO MOVE NOW.
Must have been my grandma Blanche,
who knew all about brain trauma…

…and the need for a really cold beer.

(c) 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


While I am editing several poems on the public protest over workers’ rights here in Madison, I need to take a break and answer a call to a prompt. Too much politics leads to personal unrest, and self-care is a huge part of successfully managing my manic depression… so meditation and writing are a big help!

At We Write Poems, we were asked to write about “safe places.” I was a rover in my twenties, and these are but a few of the places were I laid my head to rest…

Safe Havens

An unheated, leaky garage at an old rocker’s compound

A couch in a flophouse

The egg-crate pads laid on the floor of a nudist commune

Haystacks in a barn, as we helped with the harvest

Marcia and Jesse’s closet, the door unhinged (as was I),
the most comfortable vortex of all…

The beach in Venice, where I lay under an umbrella of starts
watching the slivered silver moon dance through my tripping eyes

An SRO, hot plate heating Chunky Beef Soup

Looking back at these havens, all were safe
Some were filled with love.
others with the scent of cow patties
and the sweat of an honest day’s work.

And still others bore the sweetness of smoke
from Mendocino County’s finest…

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


Home, sweet home, Madison, WI and Lake Edge UCC. What a lovely reception for us both – you’d think I’d have a more uplifting poem today, but I felt compelled to put this entry in.

This is a cautionary tale… any teen who thinks Pharming is cool and that shoving substances up their nose is fun should think twice. I know; I’ve been there, and this entry is, sad to say, all too true, from many years ago when I was incredibly stupid (and, of course, immortal – weren’t we all?). Parents, talk to you kids. Cop to what you did and let your kids know what’s out there is King Kong compared to the spider monkey shit we did.

NIGHT SHIFT AT TONY’S

Silence of the grave.
The dissipated, pasty-faced coke dealer in his lair: A
hermetically sealed apartment.
No light, save lamps; no breeze, stale air.
No windows open, lest the cool breeze
of Venice Beach disturb piles of priceless product.

It’s all about balance, really.
Delicately spooning precious powder
from bag to scale, wordlessly persevering
during each transaction. Accuracy rules.

Tony’s in the zone.

His place stinks vaguely of chemicals and
days-old takeout – plus a trace of evil.
I mule for the whole crew back at work.
He accepts the cash, hands over the stash.
I smile; he grits his teeth and says take the back stairs.

Tucking the baggie in my bra, I make my way back to work
behind closed doors. Tamp the coke onto the mirror,
razor it into proper sections; every granule counts.
I obsessive-compulsively trustworthy,
entrusted to split the parcels.

Why do I make the run? Because I’m so disgustingly honest.
I fill, never spill, never nick off the till,
and emerge with portions of potion for
my anxious co-conspirators.
We scatter like roaches for hidden dark corners and
restroom stalls, emerge smiling,
frozen-gummed and destined to perform at peak
for at least an hour.

Once Tony cut the stash with laxative and we all
spent our high on the toilet, but we still went back for more.
We paid good money for this slavery and couldn’t make our way past it.
Not in those days, the blinding midnight sunrise of Colombia on Westwood.

Then there was Sam, shaking hands spilling his stash.
He ended up snorting it off the filthy men’s room floor.
I mean, really.
How low can you go?
Try cocaine and you’ll find out.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil