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

Category Archives: Amy: The Lost Years

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.


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

Writer’s Island wanted Celebration poems. This one is lighter of heart than my last… guess who I am?


I started off so fulsome
carefully dressed in white
that clung to my body
like Travolta’s ice cream suit.

OW! That burns,
but I am comforted by kisses
lips caressing me,
I am passed from friend to friend.

I’m the life of the party.
Aglow, the star of the show,
as the lava lamp flows,
bloop… bloop… bloop…

Minutes later, spent.
They’ve used me until I’m
a scrap of my former self
Now, the final indignity.
Out comes the roach clip
to pierce my remains.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Previously published at Poetic Asides

Anyone who’s thought of writing poetry should check out Three Word Wednesday. That’s the heart of it – you get three words to play with, once a week. If you have a blog, link your poem to the site and get visits from other poets, then visit them back… if you don’t have a blog, click on the names listed, and you’ll see what they have done! It’s a nice way to get started in poetry. Also: Leave a pad and paper in three places: In the bathroom (!), by your bed, and next to where you usually waste time watching reality TV! You just might come up with something! Peace, Amy


We the hardscrabbles
etched our names on our forearms
lest we be found in a ditch
with no one to utter our names

The nights in dim pubs
speaking easily of all we intended to do
dabbling in art, thinking youth and inspiration
would always be on tap, like Guinness

Those were the leaner times
Now most sit in cubicles or
stand in unemployment lines
remembering the joy of possessing nothing

…save inspiration

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

I finally got around to creating a chapbook, self-published and quite the attractive little pamphlet, if I do say so myself.

Dance Groove Funhouse is a group of 23, count ’em 23 poems in an environmentally friendly format of 8 pages plus cover (I know, the purists say “one poem per page,” but I am not psychologically equipped to kill that many trees in the name of self-expression).

For just SIX BUCKS (including postage), you can thrill to poems about:

Dance Groove Funhouse (where anything goes)
Memories of washing clothes “the old-fashioned way” with Mom
A lark that morphs from songbird to a complete pain in the ass in two stanzas
Stargazing in upstate New York
A love poem to my husband (Nothing graphic. I said “love poem,” not “sex poem”!)
Amy Island (more of anything goes, but there’s beer on tap in this one)
The fork I found in the middle of a road… an actual fork. On an actual road.
My mother’s progressive comments on black musicians going in ‘the back way,’ circa 1940s
A locket with two views of my daughter, both entertaining

…and (as they say) much, much more!

I don’t have PayPal or any of that high-tech stuff, so let’s do some snail mailing, shall we?

Send a check for $6 (also covers postage) per copy and received your PERSONALIZED, AUTOGRAPHED COPIES soon. Order for friends! They also make great bathroom reading – ask my husband and neighbors!

Make the check out to Amy Barlow Liberatore and mail your request to:
Amy Barlow Liberatore
48 Main Street
Attica, NY 14011

…and don’t forget to include any dedications you’d like in the autograph. You know, “To Polly, for the bottom of your birdcage, Love, Amy” and stuff like that. Seriously, thanks for supporting this Sharp Little Pencil! Amy

This one was inspired, in a way, by the Kafka Metamorphosis, but… well…  GAFBers, this one’s for you!


I started off so fat
carefully dressed in white
that clung to my body
like Travolta’s ice cream suit.

OW! That burns,
but I am comforted by kisses
lips caressing me,
I am passed from friend to friend.

I’m the life of the party.
Glowing like the star of the show,
as the lava lamp flows,
bloop… bloop… bloop…

Minutes later, spent.
They’ve used me until I’m
a scrap of my former self
Now, indignity. Out comes the roach clip.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Our word at Sunday Scribblings this week was CURIOUS.


She trudged through our high school halls, lost
Aimless, claiming no one as her love,
let alone as her friend.
Defenselessness, defensiveness, born of low self-esteem…
Her mirror reflected no redeeming qualities – only questions.

She never knew we admired her aloofness.
It seemed like proof that you could survive high school
without a claque to back your every utterance

Graduation for Georgette was a slam of her parents’ back door
and a bus to the Left Coast.
The most she could score was a waitress gig,
but the tips were sometimes rolled in papers
or powdered, in neatly folded, palmable packets.

This was bliss. The otherworldly state, what was missing.
Communal living, easy giving
A belonging, a sense of family at last.
She offered her body to many men and
contracted various venereal diseases.
Still, she was pleased that she was wanted (though warted).

Dabbling in acid: Placid conversations with river frogs.
She produced artwork – optical delusions infused with
confused contortions of her new reality.

The hissing kiss of hashish in a hookah led to opiates of a wide variety,
side-winding her to limited life choices.
Not heeding her inner voice
(with its annoying mantra: “CAUTION!”),
she finally gave way to the needle.
Super Georgette, the heroin of her own life story.

Curiouser and curiouser.
Down the hold, harasses by nasty queens (and other tarts)
who wanted their money, honey.
Mad slatterns offered a spot in their stables,
and she complied… lied to her parents when she’d call for money
“I’m behind in my rent”
(I make rent using my behind)

smaller and smaller georgette shrank
until one day, shanked and shriveled,
she ceased to be at twenty-three.

Curiosity killed the kitten.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Another “Seven Sins” theme for Jingle Poetry – this one, acrostic.

S.E.V.E.N. S.I.N.S.

Volcanic temper

Nodding off in church

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

We were asked by Jingle at Jingle Poetry to create around the theme, Seven Deadly Sins. Here’s my take, and you can view other great poets by clicking on her link! Peace, Amy

SEVEN SINS I HAVE COMMITTED (in no particular order)

Wanting more
Staying too long at the party
Clinging to possessions I don’t need
Looking right past nature’s everyday beauty
Chocolate (need I elaborate?)
Giving too much to men who wanted more
Ignoring God (until the Spirit smacked me upside the head)

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


First up and around in the house
Brewing coffee for The Beast
who will turn into my mother after her first cup

She stumbles down the hall
First Bel-Air in hand
I make my breakfast and my lunch

Even at seven, I knew this cycle
would never end
Keeping Mom happy enough to live with

In later years, after I had indulged, passively by
breathing others’ smoke in late-night jazz clubs, and
actively by drinking, snorting, and toking

I decided there was another path
and that this merry-go-round of “self-careless”
must have an exit

Today, smoke-free, drug-free, booze-free
I know she was caught on that carousel from Hell
and that choosing otherwise was possible
© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

From the Poetic Asides prompt, “Setting The World On Fire.” Remembering some great gigs!


Spotlight’s hot tonight
Fresh coffee on the side table
My fingers touch the cool ivories
and all hell breaks loose

Thumping the bass line
Reaching deep, drawing out
the raw fire of jazz within
Souls of legends aflame as I call to them:

Feed my soul, strike the match
Light a fire under my piano bench
til I burn with desire to shout it true
Til the keys melt at my touch

Hellzapoppin at this piano bar
Crowd heats up and calls for more
Coffee’s cold, neglected
but I’m a pyre of pure jazz afire

(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil