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

Category Archives: Pain

Migraine Final

The Migraine Speaks (much to my dismay)

Yes, that ball bearing behind your right eye
It is I
Thief of thoughts
Barbed-wire butchery
Trailing tacks and nails and
prickly pins
I’ll stick in your head
‘til you wish you were dead

I strike with little warning
and lots of retching and tears
and pulling of the blinds

I am your migraine
You are my prisoner
(until the meds kick in)

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

I have not shared much in the way of my artwork, but lately I’ve taken up drawing as therapy. The picture above was drawn during a migraine, so it was quite a feat for me.

For Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Open Link Monday, plus dverse Open Mic, and ABC Wednesday later this week… “M” is for migraine.

Hellish Mind Music

Exquisite pain
Migraine music

Satan’s symphony
starts slowly

Building, blinding
to crescendo

Muted applause
at its end

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, all permissions given by Searobin, creator

At Poets United, Kim introduced us to William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow,” a simply gorgeous poem of only eight lines and no punctuation. Read it HERE. She asked us to build in the same form a poem in which every word matters. I woke up with said migraine, so it became my subject! Ah yes, art is pain… pain is art…

This also appears near the hedges bordering the Imaginary Garden With Real Toads. Peace, Amy

Dentists and Origami

Dentists cling to
ass-slinging phrases:
“Only $3,000,” and
“We prefer implants,” or
“It’s easy, and it’s only $2,700!”

You are entering a world of pain,
paralyzed in their sterile chair,
these hair-raising inestimable estimates
tossed off like freshly folded
origami vampire bats
circling the cubicle,
jugular-bound to bleed you dry

Count the scales on
his alligator shoes
Take notes, the personal pix
of Peruvian vacation with
family, a long row of
perfect pearlies

The iron-clad irony:
We pay,
they play

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Isadora at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads asked us to use one of our favorite movie lines in a poem… Just saw “The Big Lebowski” for the first time in years, and although it’s irredeemably filled with swearing – haven’t heard that many F words since labor – John Goodman’s line, “You’re entering a world of pain,” seems so appropriate here!

My empty tooth canal is stuffed with clove oil-soaked gauze and it’s still 85 degrees at midnight and I cannot go outside because the humidity is too much for my lungs, like breathing warm pudding. “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you find the play?” Amy

If you are not prepared to read about sexual abuse of a child, please skip this poem. If you have nightmares of being “invaded,” this poem may help you to seek therapy. Your call. Scroll down for the poem.  Peace, Amy


My Turn Tonight

Door opens, cringe-creaking
Covers pulled over my head
Keep still, stay quiet
Someone else’s turn instead?

No, I’ve drawn the unlucky card
Trembling as he turns my face
to face the unfaceable and
endure this sick disgrace

Morning, choking back chalk
Sheets dampened by sweat and the sinner
I’m pretty quiet at breakfast
But he grins like a Derby winner

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Three Word Wednesday: Dampen, Keep, Tremble
Also at my poetic haven, Poets United.

NOTES: Through therapy, I made the journey from remembering to understanding it wasn’t my fault to shrieking truth at the long-dead man in the empty chair to acceptance, and ultimately, forgiveness. Once I forgave, the whole thing became a bubble over in a corner of my mind, where I could examine it on my own terms. The journey took 15 years, and I write about these events to help others connect. May incest, child abuse, child pornography… all die away, and love prevail.

If you suspect a child you know and love is being sexually abused, whether by their father, uncle, brother, teacher… be it a boy or a girl, let that child know they can talk to you about anything at all. Tell them that no matter what, grown-ups should never make a kid keep secrets, especially secrets that scare them. You could save a young person from suicide. Trust me. I was almost there. Peace, Amy

Three Word Wednesday gave us Gag, Maintain, and Omit.   Also at Poets United, my poetic community of friends. Peace, Amy


Who’s Crying Now?

The only way he could shut her up
was to gag her with a bandana.

The only way he could maintain control
was to try tying her to a chair

The only mistake he made was to omit
searching her pockets for pepper spray.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

This is for my friend M., with whom I had a conversation today. Some days are like this; others, much better… Peace, Amy

Quiet House Riot

Alone, left at home.
Isolation is
cold consolation.
Then the storm moves in.

Soon floodgates open;
silent shrieks fill cracks
in fractured places.
Sea salt shores it up.

Building castles of crystalline tears.
The Dark Ones hand me a shovel.
They say, “Dig it.”
They aren’t hip – they’re talking about my grave.

Maroon lagoon
of sodden gloom.
So low,

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Also at my poetic home, Poets United.

No Limit To Tears

Powerful, the cry of anguish.
Happens at the end of your rope.
That heaving, full-moon cry,
the howl of a wounded animal.

After Death has taken another,
the scythe merciless and swift…
or sometimes wielding a precise,
torturous scalpel.

When Death strangled Mom, my tears
fell faster than ducts could release them;
my head filled with salt water,
clogging my brain, my mind.

Tears poured forth in a torrent,
flooding the room.
I floated in that pool for hours until,
gut-sore, I was washed back to my room.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For We Write Poems (Take it to the Limit), and Poets United.

The prompt at NaPoWriMo was to write a poem using words you hate. This covers a wide spectrum from one part of my life. I miss you, Jeff. Love, Amer

Panel from the Memory Project

Pneumocystis Pneumonia (PCP)

Prone on the steel-back chair.
Probed straight down the gullet.
Cysts and rancid breath emerge
as he lay stupefied.
He will awaken and count the hours.
Tick, tock, curse the clock.

Swabs grabbed cultures.
Petrie dishes cook up the fetid truth:
He has it.
He has full-blown AIDS.
It is 1985.
He is 32.
Tick. tock, curse the clock.

Skeletal soon enough, too soon.
Patches of scabs peel off his scalp.
Bactrin on every sink so that
if he barfs, bleeds, or brays
we can wash it off.
Tick, tock, curse the clock.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Also posted at Writer’s Island (Day 28) and Poets United.

Two in a row for We Write Poems: “I do my laundry when…” One fun, one serious.

These are also at Writer’s Island and Poets United. Peace, Amy

Laundry (haiku)

I do my laundry
when I damned well feel like it.
I am self-employed.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


I Do

“I do.” My laundry:  When he needs his lucky shirt
for Dart Night with the guys.
And despite my long hours at work,
I end up cooking every meal.

He reclines his spine on the sofa
without a “thank you” for the chips and dip and beers I
serve his buddies while they sit and swear at the ref’s bad calls
and don’t call it a day until after 10 p.m.

“I do” sealed my fate until the swearing
was no longer aimed at the refs, but at me and
the bowl of dip just missed my head
falling in clinks and plops to the just-mopped floor.

Darts no long reserved for the board:
He’d found a new target.

It wasn’t always like this. In our early days,
kisses and promises of blissful years ahead.

Words I believed until my lips met
with his fist; until sunglasses became basic makeup.

“I do” sounds lovely at the altar, but so hollow when
promises melt and mingle with the salt and blood at my feet

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Poetic Asides offered an interesting prompt, “Never again.” This is a hard one to read, but I hope it will give someone, anyone out there second thoughts if they ever consider taking their own life… Peace, Amy


Bloodletting bride of
Over-rated solution to
Delusion tells you it’s
the only way out
(“Please proceed to the nearest exit”)

Psych meds assuage the
Numb it, dumb it down
But for the dedicated
Hounds of hell at their
In the end
it’s the end.

A final farewell to friends, family
Never mind who finds you
Don’t worry, your mom will bleach
the bathtub
But the sight will frighten and
haunt them forever

Never say never – again, I say:
Pick up the phone
Make the call
You are loved

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil