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

Category Archives: Prompts


Going on ten p.m.
Ready to relax… reflect… boot down
Don’t forget tomorrow’s appointment,
which means:

Get up early (but I won’t sleep)
Take a shower (so I don’t reek)

But first, tonight, I must
clean up kitchen mess from dinner:
Meats, sweets, culinary treats
Counter’s a bloodbath of
beet juice, nibs, rice shards

Now to bed – first, cat fed
Now to bed – wait, take med
Now to bed – oops, brush teeth
Now to bed – shit, no sheets!
Now to bed – yoga first
(muscles stretch and tension burst)
NOW to bed – meditation
Plug in phone, pull up station

Guarantees a good night’s sleep
(takes two hours and three repeats)

Soothing voices, never boring
Long night’s journey into snoring

© 2016 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, K is for kerfuffle.

We (I and my bipolar) are currently in manic phase. I downloaded the free “Insight Timer” phone app, and they have everything from soothing music to calm voices talking me through various relaxations. Anyone with insomnia, GET THIS APP!

Unfortunately, when the manic is in sway, I can get through the whole thing with my body buzzingly relaxed and happy, but my mind is still running circles and twisting about. So yeah… my therapist says I may have ADD, but frankly, the bipolar, PTSD, and OCD are quite enough, thank you.  Amy


And he makes a good living
Preaches the Gospel of Abundance
like it’s all about actual money

Mistakes manna for mammon
Money managers for martyrs when they
lose it all in the latest crash

Dave says the poor have bad habits
Tosses Bible verses like piñata candy to the
starving, staring sycophants who pay for the privilege

Dave is so white in his chambray shirt
(Get it, he’s a blue-collar guy with
a blue-blood bank account, all cash)

But being white is a given in his world
Because Jesus was clearly a white Christian
who whispered the Holy Password to Dave

Dave can unlock the Vault for y’all
But first, like it was with the Pharisees, you have to
change your money at the temple door and

sacrifice to a False Idol in denim

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Imaginary Garden With Real Toads gave us Oliver Sacks; rather, his titles serve as a jumping-off point for our poems today. YES! While I will always question the presumed wisdom of psychiatrists, there is room for a little Dr. Sacks in my world. Of course, it was The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat that caught my eye.

Dave Ramsay is a shyster who once had some very good ideas about paying down debt, but that quickly morphed into a pseudo-preaching addiction. We took a seminar, and it helped, but there was a lot of Fundie crap to ignore. And Dave himself, a blowhard of the first degree… who would not recognize White Privilege if it bit him on his Dockers.

I was going to write something along the lines of The Candidate Who Mistook Me For Someone Who Gives a Shit, but the Republicans have gotten too much ink…



Not what I thought I’d paint this day
Not at all, the dizzying colors and
figures from last night’s dream

I tossed the covers
Stirred the maid from her rest
Even woke my wife in the next room

A dragon gave chase and I
was naked screaming running
Bare and barely missing his fiery, explosive tongue

Now the dream is slowing settling on wood
The creature and my whirling flaccid flesh
And a phrase I still don’t understand: Barney & Friends

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Imaginary Garden of Real Toads gave us this Rembrandt, “Artist in His Studio.” I put myself in his cobbled boots and decided to give him a little scare… and myself a chuckle! Amy


She is a perfectly wound timepiece
Impeccable, pristine
Her every movement serves a purpose

No effort wasted
Pristine, aglow
Admired by those who
value clean lines, precision
Who see time as precious, noting
her ease in handling each task in turn

And yet she dreams of
and tarnish

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

William Carlos Williams was a master of metaphor (and also a fellow Virgo, if I’m not mistaken). I can only wish… and admire. Kerry at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads had previously posted this prompt; I am daydreaming with admiration for Mr. Williams and other Imagists today. Amy

People Talking Without Listening

Once more into the campaign crapper
They talk; we must endure
They espouse; we eschew, usually

They say why; we wonder “why not?”
They say how; we know they are lying

They say they are listening to us
They promise they will make it all better
like the US has a boo-boo, whether it’s
the economy
or climate change (if they admit that’s a thing)
or those pesky women who
insist on getting health care
or The Gays and their Agenda (like all gays have the same one)

They aren’t listening
Who can listen with
all that Hurrah and Howzitgoin Hoodoo
and sly glances in every passing window
to make sure the flop sweat
doesn’t show

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Poets United wanted us to listen to “Sounds of Silence” and pick a line as a jumping-off point. This was easy, as Simon and Garfunkel’s classic is on a disc I listen to as I go to sleep… my personal answer to tinnitus buzzing all about me. Their song resonates to this day. Timeless, relevant, and a perfect record.

As for the subject, I was also inspired by another great song, their “Mrs. Robinson,” especially the line about campaigns:  “Laugh about it, shout about it, when you’ve got to choose… Any way you look at it, you lose.”

I am taking a break from Facebook until after the 2016 elections.  Between the climate change deniers, the not-so-veiled racists and homophobes, and the Planned Parenthood haters in my own family, it’s not worth the pain.  Amy

Dear Straight Guys,

It’s not like darts
Not if you’re smart
Not “point and shoot”

It’s not like b-ball
Not at all
She’s more than a rim to hit
and webbing to fall through

She’s neither mark nor target

The real woman lies beyond
what you’ll see
when you see her

As much as she wants you
(and make damned sure she wants you,
or we’ll have more than words, little man)
she needs even more

What lies within us is a world
An ecosystem
A universe of the delicate sublime,
of intricate, meandering passages

She’s a labyrinth and you must
must must must
caress the key, finesse the lock
with time and care, the kind
you’ve never shown your own

So talk to her
Let her guide you
She has places that need
the same soft kisses you place on her mouth
down south at the delta

And just in case you still think
you hold all the power, here’s a thought

After you don the raincoat to
dance in the lovely dew, think about this:
Whose parts will disappear in the meeting?
Who welcomes in, and who is swallowed up?

She has unfathomable fathoms
of phantom bliss
Remember that
from the very first kiss

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, we are on the letter F. That’s for “finesse,” you naughty children. Also on the Tuesday Platform at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads! Amy


This bundle of cells
inside my body
must be protected
from me

This knot of matter
matters more
than the human host

My uterus must be guarded
lest my brain decide otherwise
since my brain is flawed
because I am only a woman
and you know better
and babies must be born
and intra-uterine ultrasounds are cool
(not a form of rape)

Even though the condom broke
The Pill failed
The boyfriend abused
The husband wanted and took
The father fathered
The stranger raped

Even though I know I
cannot raise this child in love
in security and hope
and the schools you provide
will never educate
and the help you will offer
is skewered by bitter judgments

After all that, you have
no words of condemnation or obligation
for the sperm donor
for the “father”
(who will never be a father)

My uterus must be protected
from my logical brain

Lord, save me from Christians
who believe pro-birth is pro-life

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Sometimes it has to be political. Sometimes it’s so obvious.  You are welcome to comment, but please don’t SCREAM AT ME IN ALL CAPS.  And no foul language, because everyone knows what a prude I am!

For ABC Wednesday, once they post today, E for Extremist.  Also for Poetry Pantry at Poets United, where you will find an abundance of diverse voices.  Give these sites a try.  Take the leap!  Amy

The Face Behind the Mask

Safety lies in firm foundation
hiding eroded skin, the wrinkles
that bend around her mouth
Immeasurable moments of
yearning for time to stand still

Clots of inky mascara pebble
her lashes, yet she holds fast
to youthful illusion… every
new conquest a king, every bed
suppled by silk sheets

Then comes morning, mask
peels off to reveal clay skin
Lines that were hidden last
night; her flame of youth
doused by shivering reality

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For The Sunday Whirl (click the link to see the words) and also my poetic lilypad, Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, where Grapeling challenged us to write about masks. I’ll write more about this woman another day… and no, it’s not autobiographical! (Hell, I let it all show, just like my grey. I earned every wrinkle; in fact, some have names!)  Peace, Amy

First off, I had the pleasure of chatting with Isadora Gruye (AKA Izy) for a featured interview at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, where I am now an Official, Honest-To-Goodness Real Toad! Izy, our resident correspondent, asked some candid questions, and I did not hold back. Hope you like the interview – CLICK HERE TO READ.

Meanwhile, at my other poetic home, Kim Nelson at Poets United wanted offerings about the universe. Here is mine. Peace, Amy

The Universe Within

Deep inside our outer skin
Underneath that layer, within

Past the muscle, stretching leather
and our arteries’ coursing tether

Deep within our very bones
a universe that cries and groans

Waters of our bodies’ form
Chemicals upset the norm

Feel the balance quiver, shake
Know that inner, dark earthquake

Hormones, drugs in all our meat
Stay within us, to compete

Weak, our natural defenses
Only diet recompenses

Choosing the organic way
Balance will once more hold sway

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

The effect of CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, also known as Factory Farms), where animals are captive and packed tightly together, means not only growth hormones but antibiotics in grocery store meats are partly stored and partly excreted into sewage. Meanwhile, Monsanto continues its stranglehold on the produce farms, expanding to a point where their air-sprayed delivery of (sometimes human waste) fertilizer is threatening to migrate onto organic farms. Your best bet? Buy local, organically grown produce – and support small, family-run farms.

Peace and health to all, Amy

Of Bloodlines and Such

She carries her lineage in the
small of her back, just above
the bustle which would surely
be part of her attire, were she
of their day, her ancestors.

Mayflower women are proud,
even haughty, never naughty;
and if so, seldom caught (perish
the thought of the “madam”
in New York City, years ago).

They are of noble blood and
starchy stock. They gather in
Upper East Side ballrooms to
show off their new jewelry.
They are drinkers of tea who
find delicate delight in light
lunches: scones and fruit.

To admire them is to pay
homage to everything that
built America: Robbing and
enslaving indigenous people
and Africans by way of “trade,”
insider stock tips, country clubs
with signs discouraging Jews,

the Junior League, whining
about illegals while employing
them to do yard work for no
real money. I should know.
My father’s ancestors arrived
aboard the Mayflower, and
I’m still trying to live it down.

I shall never wear DAR prim
white gloves; never parade in
fancy hats; and certainly, I shall
never forget that, when my
mother’s family came to these
shores, they were met by signs:

No Irish Need Apply.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Trifecta, who asked for a poem about blood, specifically the definition which includes bloodlines, noble birth, and that sort of hogwash. My Aunt Caroline was a member of the DAR, the Mayflower Society, and all that other “Ladies Who Lunch” bunkum. She’d never have said “shit,” even if she had a mouthful – but she blithely exploited Spanish-speaking maids, thought the poor “lazy,” and had nothing good to say about anyone who wasn’t rich and “well-bred,” especially my mom’s “pigs-in-the-parlor” Irish relatives. They, in careful New England fashion, mocked my mother mercilessly (Dad didn’t notice; it takes a woman’s touch). Therefore, this is my present to Charlotte for Mother’s Day, this being my 21st without her brilliant presence. Also to Riley, who understands why being a snob is counterproductive – and for her, counter-intuitive.

I am my mother’s daughter, proud to be living proof that Black Irish Laughlins from Council Bluffs, Iowa, could have more empathy and common sense than all the Mayflower babes put together. As my Grandma Blanche said, “Show me a member of the DAR, and I’ll show you a woman who is frustrated, spoiled, and desperate.” I have nothing to add to that! Amy