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

Category Archives: Daughters

One Last Good Day (for Mama)

One last good day
(seems like yesterday)
we sat in her hospital room
drinking coffee and
shooting the shit about
the old days and Blanche and
all that was impossible to believe
yet still hysterically true…

Crow’s feet clung to her eyes.
Her lover of 40 years, Bel-Airs,
left crack-etched scars on her lips
so rooted in her nicotine habit.

Next day, she eroded, the disease
wove its coma cocoon, strength
so scarce at the last.
This stasis, this vegetation…
Her body, temple turned cell,
imprisoned her soul.

Lord, in your mercy, you
rained down her release.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

The Sunday Whirl’s Brenda gave us an interesting list, and somehow it turned into this true story of my mother and me. On that last good day, I gave her permission to die, which she craved more than I knew until I said the words. She teared up and said, “Really?”

My mother, Charlotte, went through hell during her final hospitalization, and I’m glad she’s been at peace for 21 years. This also appears at Open Link Monday for Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, where I suspect Charlotte’s spirit is hiding amid the ferns, looking for a book of matches… Amy

Prelude to a Nightmare (a nocturne)

I remember bedtime prayers to Him
Resting in peace until
lifted on devil’s wings
by another Him and hidden
No cry in darkness,
only strangled fear
stifled invasion of trust

Today, I still pray
He rests in peace now
No longer do I fear
his dry hands, betrayal
Lifted on angel’s wings
Cry of forgiveness
in the blessed peace
of moonlit prayer

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Image through Wikimedia Commons: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

PTSD isn’t just for veterans, people who survived 9/11, or Katrina and Oklahoma victims. Night terrors and phobias often plague adults who were sexually abused as children. Years of therapy led me to the path of forgiveness. Dad no longer controls me, and my prayers at night always include him, for all the good things he taught me, including a love of words and poetry.

The rest is out there in a bubble, outside my body and my psyche, yet available for inspection, now that I’m stronger.

This was written for Kim’s prompt at Poets United (I remember…) and also for Kerry’s “Nocturne” prompt at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads.  Peace, Amy

Little Amy stereo
Image: From Amy’s personal collection, not to be copied without permission.
Amy next to the family stereo, circa 1965 (she’s workin’ that leopard print!)

Glued to Sis’ Transistor Radio

We had a stereo at home
One of those looks-like-furniture
big honking wooden pieces
It was fine, if you bought the records

But who bought every record,
and who knew what to buy until we
heard it on the radio, on my sister’s
tiny transistor, huddled round it

Bound to hear the latest
Beatles, Dusty, Petula Clark…
Radio was alive with sounds and
smooth voices on the intros

First time we heard a new tune, we’d
break into mad dancing, flipping the dial
until we found the song again, screaming
when the new cut was (ah!) Beatles-born

Today, I still listen, as videos turn me off
I like to create my own videos in my mind
With videos, it’s a full-out performance and
the musicians must lip-synch at concerts

trying to recreate the video moves, wearing
unearthly metallic outfits, arriving in plastic
eggs or flying over the arena like Peter Pan
on acid. There’s a word for that action:


© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, we were “treated” to a Rob Zombie song about “Dead City Radio.” The song was on a video, which made me think of the connections between the two. Many otherwise throwaway songs became classics because of the video performance via MTV. But Jo’s transistor radio was our savior, listening out back by the pool. Those tinny classics became some of our favorites. Then we’d go buy… the 45! This is also at my other poetic station, Poets United. Peace, Amy

Five BSODs (Blue Screens of Death, so, grammatically speaking, perhaps it’s BSsOD) in two days, and my computer was out for the weekend… and then some. So glad to be back.

About comments… I am hopelessly behind in replying! I’ll peruse and visit you all, but if I ever hope to get a chapbook together (and most people don’t read responses anyway, which is fine), I will take a break on the last few poems and start fresh. If anyone has a comment on that policy, please let me know. Hey, take it from me: Don’t hold back; tell me what you REALLY feel!

A peaceful Independence Day to my US friends, and prayers for folks in Colorado who are suffering with wildfires, as well as all who are in the grip of this heat wave. Peace, Amy


Mom’s crimson best, one sister
colors the other’s lips with the delicacy of Monet

Big sis hanging from
the branch of an apple tree

Small moments
The ways of children
A gesture, a look
Laughter caught in
grimaces of belly-aching joy

Little sis tries to puff powder
on the older girl, whose skin

needs no embellishment
but whose soul craves it

These moments
This places, close to heaven
A wink, a giggle, teasing
A kick under the table
An unforeseen hug from behind

They stand still for the Easter snapshot
Shoulders almost touching, like troops

The Christmas tree, stringing red lights
Middle sis rearranging tinsel “until it’s perfect”

Brief moments caught
by the old Ansco camera
Sweet, looking back
Who knew? Who could guess
how far apart they would grow?

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For dverse Open Mic Night – and for Poets United’s Poetry Pantry.


A girl’s first kiss should be
like baby’s breath,
not taken in the dead of
night by theft.

Her youth was stolen by
an old man’s greed.
She grew up certain that
to live is to bleed.

An angry woman from a
heartsick girl:
Her song is echoed
all over the world.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil (who looked a lot like the little girl on the left in the picture)

For ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter “X.” In this case, the saddest kiss of all was my first.  Also at my poetic safe room, Poets United.

PLEASE NOTE: To women, men, boys, girls: If this poem rings true for you, seek help, get counseling. If reading this hurts you in a vague, awful way and makes you want to drink or do drugs or seek other solace that’s unhealthy, try therapy – it’s worth the price to get your life back. 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.

Answered the call at We Write Poems (although we won’t post there until Wednesday) to write a poem that begins, “I’m willing to eat ____.”  Tried to avoid the most obvious noun (ha ha), because, although I have consumed a fair amount of shit in my life, rarely was it willingly!

Also posted at my NaPoWriMo home, We Write Poems, and at Poets United. Peace, Amy

Willing to Eat Worms

I’m willing to eat worms
or walk through fire for you
Shield you from harm
Comfort you when thunder
steamrolls over your sleep

Hold you when you weep after
someone calls you a name
Why? Because I’m your mother.
I’m willing to swallow all pride
…except my pride in you, kiddo

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Simply a meditation on power and overcoming its shackles. Amy

More Than This

She burned with the anger of the powerless.
That incendiary pissed-off-edness:
Light the fuse, fueled by years
wriggling under the thumb of
a cruel, oppressive man…

There must be more than this.

Seething through silent beatings
which left no marks, bruising only her ego,
mangling her tangled inner weavings,
thread by thread he delighted in pulling apart
the uniqueness she had once treasured.

There should be more than this.

When at last the reaching occurred
(God to her? Her hand outstretched to the Divine?),
the tinderbox of regret, hatred, guilt
burst forth in flame, melting away
tarred resins of the past.

There can be more than this.

Emerging from the fire,
refined to her pure self,
she took her little girl’s hand and smiled.
His pursuit was futile,
for she finally possessed an unbreakable truth:

There will be more than this.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Ah, the beloved Wordle landed once again at Big Tent Poetry. Like a Rubik’s cube of words, except there is no right or wrong way to assemble it. Check out Big Tent to see others’ work. Peace, Amy

Parade of Smiles (Big Tent Poetry)

The parade of smiles, boyish slips of things
that turn out to be teenage girls,
seems to defy explanation.

I gasp as they slump by,
stick figures who should be
waking to full womanhood.

I question silently their choices
of salad over Chinese in the food court
and hope they get enough protein and fats.

My daughter’s love of moccachinos speaks volumes
about her state of mind and body.
She may be a tangle of emotions…

but her body is aflame with curves.
Thighs with musculature and form;
she is aware of herself and fully awake.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Take a trip to Three Word Wednesday, where this week’s challenge was to create a poem using the words Dare, Practical, and Essence. Click on the links of other poets and see the variety that emerges!

This is not a true story, by the way, except for the term “dust rhinos,” coined by my beloved Lex before we were married – at which point, I handed him a broom and said, “Go for it!” Amy


She considered herself a practical person.
A place for everything; order ruled her world.
The little cup holding writing utensils was called,
“The Pencil Department,” setting a clear directive:
No scissors were allowed in that receptacle.

The essence of her need for these boundaries
came from (where else?) her childhood.
Mom was a gypsy tethered to a suburban home,
escaping for occasional adventures and
dragging daughter along for the ride.

Mom was not the housekeeper type;
her idea of ironing was catching Dad’s shirts
just as they came out of the dryer,
then folding faux creases in the collar and sleeves.
She only cooked frozen or canned foods.

The house was a mess, save the daughter’s room,
which sported a bedspread ready for
a drill sergeant’s quarter-toss and
neatly folded clothes, specifically spaced hangers.
All while Mom watched the soaps and drank.

Once on her own, the girl dared to let it slip a bit.
Her apartment was allowed to drift into disorder
until the day a dust rhino danced by her feet.
‘Twas then that her former, finicky self kicked into gear…
but every potential partner was repelled by her Pledge.

(c) 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil