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

Category Archives: Sexual Abuse

FATHER COMPLEX (Complex Father)

It’s tricky, sticky wicked
That piñata over her head
Follows her night and day and
especially late at night
Waking sweatshivering but
carrying HIS shame, unfair…
Quivering over vague memories or
screaming at every fire alarm,
My house is burning down
(as her young kids cower)

Piñata full of poisoned treats
Candied little deaths
One for every time it happened
It’s chockfreakinfull
Been that way for many
yeasty years, its yaw
occasionally pin-pricked
(precision meets sweaty palms)
but never baseball batted

The conundrum:
If she whacks it, will candy
attack her with what it is?
Will she binge on the bittersweets
and purge up the truth?
Or will the piñata float
over her like a raincloud
Rancid, restless, ever

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For ABC Wednesday, the letter being F. Also in the margins at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads and Poets United.

For all women who have not gotten to the truth of having been molested as a young child: this type of horror is usually perpetrated by a family member or close friend. For me, it was my dad, so I used him. Hell, he used me enough, why not?

If alarms alarm you to the point of screaming, if the surprise of a lover’s gentle touch makes you jump out of the bed… Think about seeing a therapist, NOT a psychiatrist, cause baby, this chigger can’t be chased away by chugging drugs.

A comprehensive article on the signs pointing to both remembering and finding the way to recovery may be read HERE.

You’ll go through hell in therapy, maybe need a temporary anti-anxiety med, but you just might be rewarded with a life worth living, and kids who are not scared of you, nor embarrassed by your public explosions.  Call Samaritan Counseling, they have a sliding scale.  And your issue may be something totally different, even a more recent event that still sticks to your muscle sheath memory like Elmer’s Glue.

I have a life thanks to therapy.  It does work, if you’re ready to dig deep.  Blessings to all, and may this never be visited on ar young person you know…  Amy


Bitter Silence

Five years old, small for her age
Dreads night’s flannel silence
She’s scared of flashbulbs and
cannot swallow medicine

“Let it float, like a boat,” says mother
Finally, the girl manages to
chew bitter aspirin and swallow
Her nightgown, often wet at dawn

Fragile, frail, third of three girls
Until age forty, she was able to forget
the reason for vague, haunting fears:
She was Daddy’s favorite pet

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Sunday Scribblings wanted poems about silence. There is peaceful silence; then, there is the conspiracy of silence which burdens small children with undue shame and guilt.

This is reworked from an earlier poem, “Bitter Fruits.” I’m amazed at how looking back at old work, seen with fresh eyes, is able to morph into something better. This is me, my childhood, and I’m glad that therapy and psychiatry have helped me overcome many obstacles that had me stuck in that “zany girl/catatonic girl” hell. I’m still fun, but I’m in control of my mood much more now!

TO ALL READERS: Not for the squeamish.  I have used another John Rainsford photo (credits below) because one was not enough.  Thanks, dverse, for turning us on to an amazingly talented photographer, web designer, and all-around artist.


He enters my bedroom;
I raise my eyes slowly
The unspoken message
unsettling, unholy.

Dad went and filled
his Viagra again.
What am I in for?
And how bad? And when?

No use attempting
to pull up the cover.
I wonder if Sue’d mind
another sleepover?

Cause I’m in the crosshairs
and he’s got the gun.
The battle is lost –
I am Dad’s “little one.”

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Photo © John Rainsford, courtesy of dverse poetry.
For dverse Open Mic Night.



Bitter Fruits

Five years old
She fears flashbulbs
Finicky about swallowing medicine
“Let it float, like a boat,” frantic mother
urges. Finally, the girl
chews the bitter aspirin.
Flannel nightgown often found wet at dawn.
Fragile, frail, their final filly.
Til forty, fortunate to forget
she was her father’s favorite pet.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

What can I say? Sometimes I have to tell the truth. Peace, Amy

For ABC Wednesday (letter F) and, as always, Poets United.

Abusive Remains

Each has their own version of What happened and How,
but most importantly, Why.

Emptied of shame, I still wonder.
Am I sure in my memories?
Have I scratched theme enough to bleed,
to tear a hole deep through to
the beating heart that still skips a beat
when HIS name is mentioned?

Did HE really hang the moon?
Was HE blameless,
HE was, after all,
Should I feel guilty? Was I mistaken?

Perhaps I was demon-possessed after all.
One good exorcism and I’d be like new.
One dip in the blood of the Lamb and I’d be reborn… or so she says.

Except, as I drift off to sleep on some nights,
my head still tilts back slooooowly and
my mouth opens and
I am choked in that brutal rhythm.

It was real.
It happened.
It remains.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Poetic Asides asked for poems on the word “Empty,” and ABC Wednesday, rather than reverting to another alphabet, started over with “A.” Also posted at the STELLAR blog, Poets United. Come to all these sites. Meet my genius friends!! Amy

Teacher Says

There was only one reason really to think about
going into fifth grade and start smiling about it

I was getting Mr. Hansen, the teacher I was hoping for

I’ve seen him in his classroom
so tall
so handsome
that five o’clock shadow always, even in the morning
like Don Draper
(Mom tapes Mad Man and I sneak peeks)

I sat up on hot summer nights
imagining chalk sliding across the board
in smoooooooth strokes
It gave me shivers, wishing the chalk was his hand
and I was the chalkboard

School started and I wore my new earrings
because Mom let me pierce my ears for my birthday

Last Thursday afternoon, I asked for extra help
with math – we’re starting to study all the different angles
(My sister calls me obtuse but I still don’t understand why)

He smiled and I could tell he liked that I asked him
For a few minutes, at his desk, just the two of us
Then he brushed his hand on my leg and said,
You shave your legs. That’s pretty grown-up of you.
I blushed and muttered thank you and tingled all over

We’re gonna do the math thing once a week
He said he’s got a way to show me how right angles work
but I shouldn’t tell anybody because the other girls
might get jealous, you know how young girls are, he said
I said, don’t worry, it’ll be our secret

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Wrote this today, no prompt, just something that was in that huge grab-bag of scraps I keep by my desk.  It’s like Felix the Cat’s Bag of Tricks – I reach in, pull out a few scribbles, and expand one of the thoughts into a complete poem.  Such is the work of this poet.  It will, as always, be on Poets United, the poets’ collective.  Peace, Amy

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

At Three Word Wednesday, the prompts were: Dainty, Haunting, and Tantalize. Took me days to get to this place… and not one I relish being in. But some things must be said. Amy

Desserts (3WW: Dainty, Haunting, Tantalize)

Petit fours, marzipan
Dainty cupcakes set
in a tantalizing row
each night for his consumption

Little girls on display
Sleeping delights to his watchful eye
This patisserie from Hell
is haunting me still

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

At Writer’s Island, the prompt was, “Secret.”   Something I know a little about…  Amy


Bound-up little girl
heavy with secrets
she never understood
or could quite remember.

Faint whispers in
darkened rooms.
Shamed feelings.
Questions without answers
danced in her mind
in recesses, shadows.

When her truth
was at last unveiled
and then conquered
the psychic straps
that held her captive
were loosed,
and she unfolded slowly.

A Japanese fan
expanding, revealing
dizzying glorious colors
for the world to see.

“Here I am,” says she.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

At We Write Poems, we were asked to write about a safe place, a refuge.  Sometimes the best refuge is actually more like a foxhole or a bomb shelter… not necessarily bringing comfort, but warding off the enemy who is ever seeking out the vulnerable.


When you go to bed,
always keep the covers tucked in
and lie face down between two pillows
with the sheets pulled up over your head,
hands clutching the top seam in a death grip.

He’ll never find you there.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil