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

Category Archives: Health Care

OK, I know I’ll get heat for this one… another “stacking” poem for Poetic Asides.


What is holy about the Holy Land?
The Dome dominated by one faith
as Americans do little except contribute
to Israel’s continued building of a wall
choking off Palestinians under slabs of
mentality and political polemic.

“It’s in Israel’s defense and protects American interests.”
It prevents Arabs from getting to the doctor.
How Christian, how Jewish, how holy is that?
And Americans, who cannot feed and clothe
and care for their tired, poor, hungry,
are footing the bill for the contractors.

People who defend Palestinian rights
are called “anti-Semites,” even the Jews who
choose to show mercy on Islamic people.
As though the heads of the State of Israel
speak for all Jewish people around the world.
Tell that to Jews who think Zionism is just another power grab.

Apocalyptics take joy in much of this,
feeling we’re stealing ever closer to the Rapture,
sure they know the year, if not the day and hour,
surer still that they and they alone
will ascend with Jesus, patted on the head,
and to Hell with everyone else!

Until true Godliness prevails, when
Jews, Christians, and Muslims remember
they all worship the same God,
Jerusalem will remain divided at its heart.
So many languages, so many translators,
but no one is listening in Babel.

Spare me your prophesies and Revelation.
If you really love Jesus, you have to love us all.
If you really follow the Torah, you have to love us all.
If you really follow the Prophet Mohammad, you have to love us all.
Israel is not real estate; Israel is a people.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


It started off like usual, boy and girl meet,
make the trip to City Hall, marry.
Start a family with a beautiful boy.
Then Mom relapses, synapses lost to
crack addiction come back to haunt her
like Jacob Marley, chains and all.

Dad bails, few details known of his whereabouts,
so Mom goes to work and leaves Gregory in the house.
When the State workers came, they found him,
three years old, still in a crib, pillows packing him in
“to keep him safe,” mutters Mom, as she is
taken into custody (so is her son).

A year passes; Gregory waits for foster parents,
but he is no poster child for adoption. First,
they see his bright blue eyes and big smile…
then ask, “Why doesn’t he walk around?”
Workers explain that he just learned to crawl;
crucial development of muscles was delayed by the crib.

All potential parents pass him up like a misfit toy
until one day, the right couple comes along.
They see him as a creation of God, worthy, worth the fight
to take him to therapy, get him walking upright.
Take him to worship – he’s the church’s bright, shiny penny.
Pastor says, “You can’t spell ‘congregation’ without ‘Greg’!”

Finally, the big day, the whole church goes to court
to support the new family, to make it legal. Gregory looks
regal in his little suit and tie, smiling, smiling…
The joy on his face, applause when the papers are signed.
Gregory was put on this earth by a sick mom and a deadbeat dad,
but he knows he can always count on his two moms.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Our Poetic Asides challenge was “Forget What They Say.” My kind of prompt, Robert! Click on the link to see what others came up with. As for me…


Old age ain’t for sissies, said Bette Davis
and she was doggone right
Boobs hanging so low I have to
set ’em in rollers at night
and shoved into “woman-friendly” bras daily
The way they swing wouldn’t make Frank
sing “ring-a-ding-ding”

Took up yoga to get flexible
advice courtesy of my physician
(not “Physical,” thanks anyway, Olivia)
Noticed that, in the Down Dog position
my skin of my thighs draped off my legs
like a curtain valance, but at least
I kept my balance.

That is, until the Salutes to the Sun,
when I grandly and loudly fell on my face,
laughing so hard I snorted at my own contortions.
This got other 50+ women chortling and
soon we were all flat on our mats doing
what older girls do best: Sharing a laugh
about ourselves, on our own behalf.

We finished class and Betsy blurted:
“A latte! Who’s with me?”
Soon around a table filled with decadent desserts
(which we dutifully split, counting calories somewhat)
we decided: Stay with yoga class, stretch at night,
walk in pairs or groups, eat (almost) right.
But never skip dessert: Old age ain’t for sissies,
nor for grumps, nor frumps. Just real women,
having our say and doing it (cue Nelson Riddle):
“Oooooooour Waaaaaaaaaay!”

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Two girls in one… both of them me before I got the right mix of meds and therapy.  A not to folks who have the same condition, please know I’m not making fun of those struggling with the manic part.  It’s OK for me to laugh at myself, but I’m NOT laughing at you, truly.  I’m part of NAMI Stigma Busters.  Amy



Leaden footsteps dog my pace
Straining, forcing smile on face
Gravity has conquered me
Hard to muster strength to… be

Wheels are grinding ever slower
Ten more steps to my front door
Dropping bags and sloughing coat
Sitting in a sinking boat

Wow I feel great I’m late for work but it’s
not my fault this jerk on TV was sooooooooo
fascinating I had to watch this invention
and the audience was soooooooo enthusiastic
about it just twelve payments of $19.95 plus
shipping so I called oops that credit card
is maxed, went through three before I hit
the jackpot it’s a juicer that also vacuums
your cat whattaya think about that? Gotta
run run run I’m late for work wait there’s
the Dunkie’s need coffee and a doughnut
first catch you later what’s your name again?

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

At Poetic Asides, the prompt was the word “agree.”
This poem questions the ‘right/wrong’ assumptions… especially for fellow followers of the teachings of Christ.


This I have been called
and rightly so
for insisting that Jesus
never charged co-pays for healing
never turned away the poor
challenged us to take care of
those less fortunate than ourselves
to pray for our enemies
to accept people for who and what they are
(love your neighbor as yourself)
to never judge, pointing out another’s splinter
without inspecting the log in your own eye
to shun violence
to turn the other cheek, and
that condemning any part of God’s creation
or any person God created
is to condemn a part of God

Yeah, I’m pretty disagreeable sometimes
but I never seem to run out of friends

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Dedicated to all women who have lost their hair fighting cancer and other illness.  It’s a hard thing to endure, as we tend to look at ourselves in the mirror with a certain defining viewpoint…


Panic set in when radiation exacted its toll
Nauseous moments, endless drives to the hospital
All this she could endure; her faith was strong

But she called me in the dead of night
pleading, “Come downstairs, I can’t find my scissors!”
Was she going to hurt herself? End it after all?

Padding down back steps in PJs and slippers
I found her weeping on a kitchen chair
surrounded by long strands of hair, a nest of fallen beauty

“Quick! Braid what’s left and cut it off!”
Tea-rstained plea of a women for whom
her waist-length tresses were a source of pride

Gently weaving, endeavoring to leave undisturbed
the bounty still holding fast to roots,
carefully rubber banding both ends.

“Are you sure you want me to cut it?”
She grabbed my scissors, handed them off
like a scalpel: handle first

“They’ve poisoned and burned me.
If all I have left is this, it’s enough.”

Twenty years of lovingly tended hair
lay in her hands in a braid. She cried, mourning,
“And he never even noticed, I kept it long for him…”

Warning!  This is about condoms and sexual responsibility and the futility of abstinence education!! Hey, I tell the girls, “No umbrella, no singin’ in the rain!”


In this age of The Pill
Please remember, the thrill
isn’t all it is cracked up to be

While you scope out the cuties
Do be mindful that cooties
will be waiting if you’re condom-free

There are Abstinence teachers
and well-meaning preachers
who will tell you to marry ‘fore “sailin'”

If you take my advice,
you will think once or twice
about abstinence and Bristol Palin.

It’s not only the babies
but some toxic “maybes”
passed on through that condom-free sex

HPV, Herpes, AIDS
the Incurable Shades
will haunt all who do not “man up,” Tex.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

After the debates in the NYS Gubernatorial race, I was soooo pleased that Poetic Asides posted the prompt, “What I Like About…”  This is an equal opportunity offender!  Even the Dems get it in the butt!


Sure, Cuomo’s in
but I watched the debates anyway
Hoping to see Paladino explode
but he ran offstage to do his exploding in the men’s room
He must have been tranquilized
I didn’t hear a single remark about gays being damned or that his son is STRAIGHT, dammit

I have no horse in this race
since the all-but crowned winner
is same old, same old
and his daddy held the office first
and I saw how that played out in the White House

But the also-rans were great
A former madame for the Anti-Prohibition Party
who, while endorsing legalized marijuana and casinos,
did not endorse legalizing prostitution
Now there’s a confused person

I swear, I couldn’t make this stuff up
Col Sanders is now black
And while rent may BE high
I cannot in good conscience give them my vote
Because the correct name should be
The Rent Is Too DAMNED High Party
I hate bad grammar

Loved the Greens cause they love the earth
Great agenda on the environment
They understand that ‘hydro-fracturing’
is actually ‘hydro-chemicals-including-methane-fracturing’
You can’t frack without chemicals
As Starbuck would say, “Don’t frack with me”

Libertarian, suitably stern
Would privatize everything
and we’d watch our houses burn
if we didn’t keep up our fire dept. payments

Cuomo, silk-suitably smug
Talked like a weiner
I mean winner

There were more candidates, I think
But these were the standouts
I’m going to start my own party
and call it:
The Price Of Prostitutes Is Too Damn High/Don’t Frack With Me/Legalize Pot/Tax The Rich Til They’re Poor/Health Care For All/If You Want To Wear A Hijab or Other Arabic Dress In Public, Juan Williams Will Have To Get The Hell Over It


Remember when TV had real news reporting, truthful coverage, and fewer ads?


In the beginning was creativity
Watch This – brought to you by
Buy This
This pattern morphed over time in sinister ways
as Buy This bought out the creators of
Watch This
Buy This now dictated the watching
Watch This was shuffled about according to Buy This trending

Our only anchor was the anchorman
the Network Evening News
Buy This pulled up that anchor and we were adrift

Then Buy This created
Watch This Happening Now
which became
Watch Only These Bits, then
Watch Only These Bits And Think This About Them

Buy This also went from choosy moms and see the USA in your Chevrolet
to eyes narcotically glued to the tube
Plasma spasm
Minds restless, but legs so lazy they got their own syndrome
and consequently their own drug
well-advertised, saturating the market like Crisco
and every bit as healthy

In the beginning it was
“Watch This, then
Buy This.”
This pattern morphed in sinister ways
as the creators of Watch This
were bought out by Buy This.

Buy This dictated what we’d watch
Watch This was shuffled about
according to Buy This trends.

Our only anchor was the anchorman
(to our sorrow, no more Morrow)
Buy This took over the news department

Watch This Happening Now
Watch Only This Part We’re Showing You
then whittled down to
Watch Only This Part, and Think This About It

Buy This also went from choosy moms and peanut butter
to couch potatoes with legs so lazy
they got their own lazy syndrome
and consequently, their own drug.

To be fair, Buy This does mention the side effects:
Dry mouth, dry South,
desiring more sex but
unable to harden one’s resolve
and urges to gamble
and drive while asleep at the wheel

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

WHATEVER COMES (for Poets United)

Whatever you think about me
I am human
I have feelings
Feelings that have been stomped on
or caressed
depending on the person and circumstance

I am an American from Europe
whose white skin
and heterosexuality
and youth in the suburbs
gave me advantages
over those who weren’t dealt the same cards
or even given cards from the same deck

I am a woman who still doesn’t have
the same Constitutional rights as males
but who can vote and speak her mind
who doesn’t have to wear a burqa
who doesn’t risk being stoned to death
because she dared leave the house without her husband

I am not threatened by TV personalities
who admit they don’t believe half their hate speech
(they are just doing what their sponsors tell them)
who have no degrees in journalism
(one a college dropout, the other a deejay)
They don’t speak from their hearts
but from their wallets
and they freely admit it
Sure, it’s mercenary and incites violence
But it’s a living

Powers of such as these are limited
only by the willingness of their listeners
to be sheep, to blame the least in our society
for their current woes
(this time it’s Mexicans and gays; last time it was Jews;
before that, Armenians, before that…)

When Jesus was surrounded by “unclean” street urchins
he told the disciples not to chase them away
but to let them come closer
He didn’t want them deported to another town
He didn’t call them unclean or unworthy
He didn’t charge co-pays when healing the poor
He acted out of love

He also raised a ruckus
that resonates to this very day
for to love one’s enemies is an almost impossible task
and to love one’s neighbor,
harder still when he brags he ran them over,
but they were “just Mexicans”

Jesus was hung because of words
and all his words were loving
If our poetic world was only Whitman, Dickinson, Dickens
bereft of Ginsburg, Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks
how poor this world would be

Provocation is healthy
What makes one’s blood course faster
makes one’s mind more nimble
Sure, I get provoked
But I stand by my right as an artist
to call out powerful hate-mongers

Plato banned poets because
he claimed they drew their inspiration
from imaginary worlds

Those of us who draw from the real world
do so in the name of justice
of compassion for the Other
regardless of religion or color
regardless of the consequences
in spite of whatever comes

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil