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

Category Archives: Social Justice

Crucifixion, Texas Style

Gov. Perry had a choice:
Listen to the appeal of experts who proved
the man did not start the fire which took
the lives of his children…

or think about his upcoming re-election.

Most Texans don’t take kindly
to governors who commute death sentences.
The Guv could have looked above.
It appears he chose to look the other way instead.

And now another innocent man
walks down the final hallway to his
sanitary, efficient doom.

Strapped down as the doctors ready the dose
of lethal legality, executing “humane” judgment.

Curtains are yanked open to reveal the scene.
Curious how this drama is presented
like a peep show from Hell.

The needle will pierce his skin
and another soul will be loosed
by the State of Texas.

The view from the chamber ceiling
is that of a man
tethered to a cross.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil for Three Word Wednesday (appear, dose, pierce) and Poets United.

This poem is based on the execution of Cameron Willingham, who spent 12 years on Death Row.  Many experts appealed on his behalf as to the pattern of the blaze, but Willingham had a history of abusive behavior and a 10th grade education, which don’t play well in courts, no matter how the facts are presented.

It’s not only Texas – many states have the death penalty; some have prisoners on Death Row, just waiting for the day the penalty goes back into effect. Texas does tend to execute the most people; in fact, when George W. Bush was governor, he “okayed” 152 executions, the most in recent history by any governor. I remain opposed to the death penalty, and the facts are in favor of pacifists:  More and more DNA evidence is proving the innocence of people on Death Row across the country.

ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter, “Z”! (Do we start on the Cyrillic alphabet now?) Also at the poetic collective, Poets United.

This poem is based on the phenomenon that effectively destroyed my piano-bar career… Amy

Zithromax (Think Before Lighting Up Indoors)

A smoky club, the trapped wait staff
take your orders and get the shaft.

While you puff a cig or two,
others do just as you do.

You can leave and breathe fresh air;
singers, barkeeps, stuck in there

Low-wage job with no insurance;
Z-pac samples help endurance.

When you blithely light that match
think of what the workers catch.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Poetic Asides had an interesting prompt:  Sound.

I don’t often indulge in haiku, but Sensational Haiku Weds. on You Know… that Blog? posed a single word: Wish.

So it’s one cynical and one hopeful. Both are also at the poetic collective, Poets United, where I think my interview is still posted as well! Peace, Amy

FOR POETIC ASIDES (also posted on their blog)

Snap, Crackle, Plop

The sizzle of a full-pound burger hitting the grill
The crackle of a Snickers bar just dropped in a deep prayer
The burble of Mountain Dew as it glugs from a 2-liter bottle
The pop of an opened Pringles can

The crunch of hot, salted french fries.
The hiss of whole milk foaming for a macchiato,
another hiss for the extra whipped cream
The snap of a third or fourth Twix bar.

The plop of millions of butts onto sofas
for “Dancing With The Stars,”
plus whatever else will fill a full four hours
of family television viewing.

The click of the computer mouse
as Facebook meets Farmville.
The thumbpunch on a keypad, texting
from a comfy chair at the Internet café.

The huff-puff of labored breathing
and murmured swears as the businessman
struggles to climb a single flight of stairs
(elevator out of order).

These are the sounds of obesity.
The sounds of Americans feeding not only their addiction,
but the corporate coffers of people so rich, they
laugh all the way to their next liposuction appointment.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil



Wishing and Doing

Wishing on a star
mimics prayer, save but one thing:
Invoking God’s name

Praying for world peace
Will not ever be enough
We must work for it

We must all cry, Stop!
Take it to the streets, until
real peace is world-waged

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

OK, I had a HUGE blast of energy after the sun came out, my cough abated, my lungs cleared, and I rode a bike for the first time in 7 years! THREE, count ’em, THREE poems today, so scroll all the way down. One haiku, one thumping Trump (hey, who doesn’t wanna do that?), and a final meditation to bring it all to a proper close. Peace to all who visit this blog, and remember, the Mayans didn’t predict Cortez, so quit sweating 2012!   Amy

First, for ABC Wednesday and that pesky letter, “O,” as well as Sensational Haiku Wednesday:

“O” is for Obama

Birthers, just admit
since proof of birth has been shown:
You hate his black skin.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


Now, this is for ABC Wednesday and any blog that included prompts about idiots, f***wits, greedy rich straight white men, and egotists in general:

Obnoxious and Overbearing

Reporters live for this crap
(as Murrow turns slowly in his grave).

The brave blond/redheaded billionaire,
multiple times bankrupt
(and that’s just financially speaking)
arrives in his airbus.

Airbrushed hair sculpted to his scalp
(paging Mr. Softee!).
Face like a sphincter
mind like a gumball machine
mouth like a garbage disposal
spewing mindless accusations about
Place Of Birth and how Proud He Is Of Himself
that He forced the airing of Proof,
the truth that our president is…
well, our president.

TV reality show host,
scion of the sleaziest game in town:
Casinos (the house always wins,
but he still manages to go belly-up again and again).
Three wives (so far), but he’s rich again;
there may be more.

Anderson Cooper’s,
Jon Stewart’s, and
Stephen Colbert’s
collective wet dream:

Trump/Palin 2012!

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


Finally, for Three Word Wednesday, using the words, Foolish, Mercy, and Relish. It’s Threefer Friday. Freaky Friday. A good Friday. Peace, Amy

Dry Bones

Bones weathered, dry, sun-bleached
Souls weary, drained, damaged

Who will raise them?
What will give them life, the power
to give and to receive love?
How will they rise from death?

Miracles happen.
The Bible says Ezekiel witnessed
the stop-action resurrection
of a thousand Jack Skellingtons.

Miracles happen
when we see ourselves
in the eyes of the homeless, the starving, the addicted.

Miracles happen
when we see past
our plasma screens, Starbucks, Mastercards
the restaurants we relish,
the foolish ways we overextend ourselves…
and show mercy to those who have nothing.

Miracles happen
when we listen to
our better angels.

Look past things of this world,
take on the burden.
Walk that mile.
Reach out to those who need your touch,
and your sorry, dry bones will be renewed.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Also posted at my NaPoWriMo home, Writer’s Island, and at Poets United. Thanks to Rob at Writer’s Island for giving us all a prompt-free space for posting. Allows all of us to use prompts and ideas from different sites, as well as free writes from our own musings. A real blessing to me this year! Kudos, Rob.

My second April “Poem A Day,” which I am posting at Writer’s Island as well as here. Check out more poets at the Island and at Poetic Asides, which offers a prompt a day as well. Sitting in a cafe, trying to balance our checkbook (and only off by a couple thousand dollars right now…), this came to me. And thus, the clicking on the keys stopped and the lovely, organic scritch-scratch of pencil on paper began… Amy

The Revolving Balance

Balancing finances, fell off wire
Landed in mesh, entwined in string
as random numbers bounced about the calculator
Makes no sense, these dollars

Balancing meds, try not to trip
by “missing” highs and skipping dosages
or using other yummies to alter mood
My hold on the pole determines my dynamics

Balancing “mad at government” with happy home
Guilt over our plenty, while others starve
Well, radiation got to the Midwest – we’re sharing that a bit
It snowed yesterday. He said, “Look, honey, nuclear winter.”

I have to laugh at depressing thoughts to keep my balance
despite the fact the Gilbert Gottfried tweets tastelessly
despite our struggle to bolster union and human rights
despite Japan, Katrina, the Gulf, the war, and rumors of more

Balance is a gift from God bestowed through vessels:
Doctors, friends, therapists
my church family, my FAMILY family,
and by patience in the process of breathing… of being

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Two – count ’em – TWO limericks (R.J. Clarken is rubbing off on me, clearly – and that’s a good thing, as you can tell by my sidebar, I Love These Poets, where she is listed under Light Verse) for ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter K.   And neither of them mention the Kama Sutra!!  Amy

Kow-Tow Boogie (ABC Wednesday, K)

To Madison Tea Party’s credit
They found out Scott Walker “don’t get it”
At first they did guard
this greedy blowhard
And now they admit they regret it!

Knowledge = Power

G.E. pays no corporate tax
Yes, these are the cold and hard facts
But lawyers finessed
to have G.E. blessed
with two billion in gov’ment kickbacks

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

This takes some explanation.  To begin with, my generation has a problem with the word “queer.” It ranks up there with the “n” word and the 6-letter “f” word in our sense of disparagement of people who have to work much harder in this world, controlled as it is by white, straight men.

Joseph Harker, one of my favorite poets (see his blog on “Poets I Love”), posted to a prompt to “answer” a poet of yore. He chose Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We So Cool” with an interpretation that included the word “queer.” My daughter, Riley/Laura, taught me that I am the first to chide people for “not changing,” and that since she identifies as “gender queer,” I will have to adapt. So my understanding of the queer world (and well as the “Q” word) has indeed expanded. Parents, it’s not always YOU teaching your kids – it goes both ways!

Then someone posted a homophobic rant about “Village People” and damnation, so I replied in a poem, riffing off Joseph. Long explanation – loaded with controversy – I welcome any and all comments on this one.

You Are Queer (with love to Gwendolyn Brooks and Joseph Harker)

You are queer. You
are dear. You

live free. You
please me. You

speak out. You
whisper, shout. You

are loud. You
are proud. You

were dates. You
find mates. You

live longer. You
grow stronger. You

catch hate. You
know fate. You

are shoved. You
are loved.

(c) 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Here in Madison, we are fighting for unions and for fairness – PEACEFULLY.  Don’t believe the FOX BS.  There have been no laws broken, except by the Governor and the Legislature.  Please read and remember – I have been there, on site.  I tell you the truth:  There are no marauding throngs of thugs (unless the Gov. decides to plant them, as he has admitted on tape to considering); there have been NO windows broken at the Capitol Dome (that report was retracted.)  In fact, the Gov. ordered the window jambs sawed off to prevent them from being opened, patently illegal and a safety risk – this is why the “cleanup” of the Dome is up to $7M.

Yes, I’m an activist, and proud of it.  So sue me.  Make a lawyer rich with another frivolous lawsuit!  For ABC Wednesday.  Amy

Here, Heroes

Have you heard?
Hope is heralded here in Madison.
Hands up if you heed the Constitution.
Hands up if you’ve heard about Mother Jones,
Headlining the cause of unions
with the heart of a lioness.

Heading to the Capitol Dome,
heeding our call as citizens
to have our grievances heard.
Head of Wisconsin, the poster boy
for hubris, hedonism, and dishonesty.
Have you heard?  Do you care?

Heads up:  Greed is heading for
your hometown next.
Wisconsin is ground zero:
It will halo out from here.
Jesus said, Help the hungry, the homeless…
or are Hannity, Beck, and Hagee your only heroes?

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Three Word Wednesday asked us to create a poem using Educate, Object, Silence. Mine seemed to go toward the political side of the spectrum. Interesting that “object” takes both the verb and noun forms.


The object of failing to
educate our youth
is to silence dissent

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


In opposition to corporate domination,
three options are clear:

Educate those around you
about the history of abuses;

Object publicly, speaking
truth to power; or,

Keep your silence, avoid roiling waters…
and wait for them to come for YOU.

(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Another take on the Sunday Scribblings “December” prompt, but also for Jingle, Poets United, and other friends. This, in memory of houses and people facing neglect. Amy


Chipped clapboard snags bits of falling snow
The sagging porch, bulwarked by drifts
Cats wander in and out from underneath
through the hole in the latticework
ripped back in 82 by Greg’s whisky-fueled Ford sedan

The eaves troughs droop under weight of icicles
A sure sign of neglect
Bad insulation breeds stalactites
The poorer the family, the longer the crystals

Fernbeds of frost, delightful even on broken panes
Nature’s articulation of frozen beauty
Footprints a sign of life within these walls,
clomp clomp up the stairs, bristled Welcome mat
tracked by carefully brushed boots

Inside, the old man reads every word of the Pennysaver
It was their Sunday pastime years back; now it’s his alone
He clips coupons for items he will never buy
and gazes out, waiting for the gas company
to turn off his heat, the bastards.
He could do without the cable, even the electric…

Tonight he will sleep in their four-poster and let go.
The house senses this; from the crumbling chimney
comes the mournful whisper of a sigh

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil