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

Category Archives: Beginnings

Summer Treasures Remembered

Silence is for remembrance, thoughts of her childhood.

Summers… The dappled pony on Aunt Beth’s farm, riding at a canter back to the house. Shucking corn, peeling skin from squash, separating rind from dead-ripe melons. The tang of lemonade, made from scratch. Braised ribs from Moody, the steer who kicked and broke her wrist. Dinners on a platter; breakfast straight from Grandma’s cast-iron skillet.

There was no tomorrow, at least not until Ma came to collect her and the boys, back to the fast-paced, grimy city, home.

She switches gears to five years ago when, after careful moral inventory, she chose. Rejecting city life for the solace of the country cloister. Truth is transitory; choosing the habit over skinny jeans, long sleeves over skimpy T’s. Her chestnut hair fluttered to the floor, shorn like a sheep at Beth’s farm. Her simple cell: table with wash basin, lamp, bed, cross overhead.

A final goodbye to family as she enters the authenticity of spiritual life, simplicity over audacity. Ma lingers at the cloister gate, remembers how little Sandy (now Sister Joan) took catechism class so seriously. Sister Joan smiles from two floors above, then joins her order in preparing a home-cooked dinner to be driven into town for the homeless.

Shuck, peel, braise, remember.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

This was for Kerry O’Connor’s Get Listed at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads; words can be found HERE. Yes, I took liberties with the word “malinger,” but hey, my Iroquois name would be “Plays With Words.”  Kerry said to use two or three, but I went to town and used ’em all!

My BFF, John, was at one time a brother in the Franciscan Order; later, he became a priest. Now he’s thoroughly enjoying life as an ex-priest/healthcare worker, moonlighting as a piano bar player in Philadelphia. Man, John can SING. He even performed “New York, New York” at his ordination party (including key change, per his instructions to the band). Peace, Amy

 


Lucky Girl Child

Our second sister,
birthed still as stone

Never to serve as
our father’s very own

little plaything – then relive,
after years of self-doubt,

what evils her Daddy
had carried about

I think it lucky
she heard God’s sweet call

Was she not graced
by good fate after all?

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

As always, I speak on behalf of myself, not for anyone in my family. This is my truth, and I tell it willingly to help others.

As frequent readers here at Sharp Li’l know, I was sexually molested by my father. Long before I was born, my mother suffered a stillbirth during her second pregnancy. Fortunately for Charlotte, subsequent pregnancies went well; however, there were consequences regarding my father – which she finally acknowledged knowing about, during the last year of her life.

Sexual molestation is more frequent in families that most would acknowledge. Fathers, uncles, teachers, and friends of the family, of whom over 90% identify as straight men, are the most frequent perpetrators of pedophilia. If you know a little girl or boy who is easily startled, wets the bed past the usual age, seems unusually shy (or gravitates toward adult figures with inappropriate affection), or even tries to tell you about “bad touches,” please take notice. It may be nothing… or it may be everything for that child to be noticed and taken seriously.

For more information on the signs of child sexual abuse, click HERE.

This was written in response to the weekly Trifecta prompt, Lucky, with 33-333 words, including the third definition below.

LUCKY (adjective)

1: having good luck
2: happening by chance : fortuitous
3: producing or resulting in good by chance: favorable>

May the children near you, and all children worldwide, be freed of this tragic circumstance.  Until then, I bid you peace.  Amy


Wedding Night Waxes

He carried her over the threshold
of their bridal suite:
Room 5 at the local Super 7
(couldn’t afford the Super 8)

She said she had prepared
a “goodie bag” for their wedding night
“What kind of goodies?” he asked, and
she just winked and smiled.

The Marriage Bed, they called it,
laughing (the baby was due in May)
They sat on the edge, making small talk
by the light of TCM classics on TV

She grabbed the mystery bag
Vanished into the bathroom and
squeezed into the silken nightie
she found on Clearance at Victoria’s Secret
(a bit swollen, but still sexy)

At that moment
the TV flickered off and
lights outened themselves with a snick
“Babe,” he called, “power’s out…
You OK in there?”

Her answer, opening the bathroom door
She held a basket with wine, crackers and cheese
In her long red lingerie, she stood
bathed in candleglow

“When I said I put all we needed
in the goodie bag, I wasn’t kidding”
His answer, a low, appreciative whistle

A single candle, stuck in a precious bottle:
The very first Chardonnay they ever shared
It was in the cab of his truck
They’d traced constellations and snuggled
and the baby was probably conceived
under Venus’ approving gaze

Now wax stribbled down the green bottleneck,
obscured the label, pooled on the night stand
as wick flickered…
a newborn light

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Poets United’s Wonder Wednesday asked for poems about wax, candlelight, and such. Candles are the cheapest accessory for romance, so I thought about a young couple who didn’t have much but each other and took off from there. Peace, Amy


Our First Actual Date

I fumble pouring beer from the pitcher
We banter:  Work, our daily bread, church
His gentle way assures me that
he doesn’t expect this date to end up in bed

We’re long-time friends, he respects
my role as a single mother, and my kid likes him
Then a simple glance, and we realize
we’re meant for each other

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Dedicated to my husband and partner of almost 14 years, Lex.
For Three Word Wednesday (words in bold), and the heartbeat my collective work, Poets United.


ABC Wednesday is on (puff, puff) the letter “Y,” and even though I wrote this song a while back, thought it would be a nice addition. This one has never been recorded, or I’d give you a link, sorry!

Also posted at the poets’ collective, Poets United. Give that link a try and scan down the right sidebar for some incredible poets. And now (drumroll, please, Riley)…

I’d Say Yes (bossa nova)

We share a noontime table
There’s curry and coffee and a lump in my throat
I tell him all I’m able
But stop short at the popular vote:
‘Cause my girlfriends say, “Just tell him”
But caution tells me, “Don’t”
Now I’m nervous that the truth will come out
And twice as scared it won’t

He treats me like a sister
We have a long history of talking things out
He says he couldn’t resist her
But now that she’s left him, she’s left him in doubt
Now my instinct is to comfort
And my arms say, “Cradle him”
But I’d hate to blow a friendship
on an odd, romantic whim

He asked me once, can’t remember when
But if I had to do it over again, I’d say yes
Yes, it’s true
Yes, I am
Yes, I will
Yes, I do

It’s funny, how a friendship
can turn into love if you lower your guard
But if the love’s a secret
it’s such an unnatural state of the heart
‘Cause half of me’s talking logic
While the other’s lost her sense
And I’d hate to miss the fireworks
Straddling the fence

I said “no” once, can’t remember when
But if I had to do it over again, I’d say yes
Yes, it’s true
Yes, I am
Yes, I will
Yes, I do

He asked me once, long ago
But if he asks me in a hour or so, I’ll say yes
Yes, it’s true
Yes, I am
Yes, I will
Yes, I do

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


Two for ABC Wednesday.  Two divergent subjects:  Innocence and Iniquity.  First, free verse; second, another “snowball poem,” with a descending number of syllables, one through ten.  Don’t ask me why, but this form has me spellbound. Thanks to Joseph Harker for letting me know the name of the form!

Welcome

Welcome to the world
little wonder, who
worked her way
from my womb,
winding through the waterslide
into the waiting hands
of a woman who already knew
we two would make it work
without him.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

————————————

Witch

She’s
a witch,
there’s no doubt.
Vipers emerge
from her mouth; venom
paralyzing those who
get in her way, considered
inconvenient or bothersome.
You’d never guess, beneath her perfect
new frock lies a heart cold as charity.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Also posted at the poets’ collective, Poets United


Creation Circles

Circling dew-drenched winds
Particles settle, drawn into a core
Water seeps over to shore
and upward to the clearing sky

A sphere, then
Slowing moving, a circular wholeness takes shape
Revolving, arcing around a star
as other spheres form

In the waters, moving creatures differentiate
Unique beings, yet still part of the whole
They swim, consume, reproduce
as nature will allow

Some beings are drawn to the shore lines,
dwelling near coral reefs for eons
until fins lengthen, gills morph into lungs,
and land beckons them to a new home.

They reproduce as they did in the sea:
Those with penises plunge into waiting wombs;
babes pop from the penetrated and drink milk
from that parent’s body as they learn to live.

Some come to shore without gender.
They adapt as they must to continue the species.
Some beings take to the air, darting into water
to devour their forgotten cousins.

There is a Creator of all this fecund beauty
Whether it is Nature or God or Gaia or a
legend born of necessity to explain the world…
We will only know when we leave this place

Once there was a void of intermixed, intermittent
molecular flotsam floating, flung far and near
Now there is something so ancient, so precious,
all humans do is fight about where it came from

But I know this much…
It is and
it is beautiful and
it is worth preserving for as long as we deserve it

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For We Write Poems (Creation) and my poetic home, 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


Carry On Tuesday gave us an interesting prompt: Somewhere within our poem, we were supposed to use the phrase, “But that is the beginning of a new story.” I decided to write an account – only the names and genders of kids have been changed – of an actual story, told to Buffalo’s DIVA by DIVA: A Celebration of Women, a group of “gals” who glitz up and tell stories, sing songs, and raise funds for Cornerstone Manor, run by a wonderful woman named in the poem.

Learn more about Cornerstone Manor, and maybe even throw a few bucks their way!  Trust me, it’s worth every penny you can spare: CLICK HERE.

Gimme Shelter

Two girls with this man, and he let her bring her boy into the family.
He was so righteous (at first), so good with her son (before the whippings),
and kind to the girls (she caught him, that was the breaking point).

He had been the answer to her every prayer, the man of her dreams.
Now she realized that, with some prayers, the devil tends to
listen in on the party line, get in on the action.

Nowadays he nightly, neatly folded up their clothes, seized their shoes,
and put them under lock and key before going out to party every night.
This ensured his family would be there when he decided to come home.

This night, she could only see with the one eye not swollen shut.
He shut her up real good before slamming the door behind him
and going out to party with who knows who, who knows where.

Her son, still awake, said, “Mom, enough, OK?”
He’d tried to pry them apart; now, blood dripped slowly
down his chin, like a leaky faucet. He’d tried his best.

He was just sprouting his first proud whiskers and
thought he could take on The Big Man, but he found out
it wasn’t gonna happen. Not this year. He hugged his mother.

So they woke up the girls, wrapped themselves in bedsheets,
pried open the side window, and climbed out. Their feet fell
into three inches of Buffalo February, brutal snow and ice.

Mom carried baby Keesha and her son offered Kendra
a piggy back ride, sacrificing his own natural speed
to take on the growing five-year-old as his load.

They made their way to the women’s shelter two miles away.
Mom rang the bell and Dr. Laura (not that woman on the radio, thank God)
hustled them inside and drew the blinds. She called for help.

Soon, they were covered in blankets; their feet were washed
in warm water (Jesus washed his disciples’ feet). Injuries were
tended to (when I was sick…) and clothing found (when I was naked…).

This shelter for battered women and children had no scheduled
“date of departure”; families left when they were ready. In days to come,
the girls let go of some of the trauma and began to play with others.

Her son enrolled in a new middle school, hoping
he could stay under the radar and not be found by his stepdad.
And if found, he vowed not to give up his mom’s location.

Mom chats with her peers – they’ve all been there. Now they
begin classes on computers; they are coached for interviews
and given donated professional clothes for a new start.

These miracles are the blessings of Cornerstone Manor.
She found work downtown. Soon, her survival skills showed
a unique talent for relating to others facing trouble.

“What about social work?” she thought, as she leafed through
pamphlets for local community education programs.
But that is the beginning of a whole new story…

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


This is another double prompt, courtesy of two sites from Poets United: Poetry Tow Truck (my first time there) wanted a poem based on the beginning and ending words (in caps), two lines from “At the Doll Hospital” by Robin Ekiss (from the book The Mansion of Happiness) which, when read vertically, form a full sentence. That’s the best I can do in the way of explanation… just go with it!

Also on the Poets United page, I found Sepia Saturday, and these both blend to fit the poem that follows (sorry, I can’t figure out how to recreate the picture here, but if you follow the link you’ll see it there!). Enjoy. Amy
Blanche and Bill

AMONG the regulars at the café, WHERE
SOphie and Ruth frequently stopped, their friend WILL
(MANY girls fancied him) met Ruth’s sister, Blanche. SHE,
EYES big and brown, was considered a real FIND.
FIXED them up, Sophie did, bless HER.
IN June the Blanche and Bill forever sealed their TENDERNESS.
GLASS covers their wedding portrait, where they look a bit grim,
but they laughed the same laugh and loved like no couple since.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil Continue reading