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

Category Archives: Sunday Scribblings

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!

With The Sunday Whirl, wordler-in-chief Brenda posed the words in bold – a baker’s dozen.  Also, Sunday Scribblings wanted us to write on the word “Captivate.”  These are both Sunday-based poems, the second being a haiku.   Also posted at my poetic home away from home, Poets United.


Sunday Praise Service

Hot coffee to stir the ominous ache in her weary bones. 
She chooses an emerald empire-waist dress;
the illusion of a full front covers
the void of her shrinking frame.

Time to observe the celestial, to worship the Divine.
As her sandals flip, flop, flap into the sanctuary,
a kid jostles past her up the balcony stairs to sit with his mom.
She smiles, remembering her own scrambles up there;
the rhythm of life is upbeat and present
here in this church.

Church services are usually holy pantomime, but
not here.  The sermon moves her – and the music?
It rocks like the ages!

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil



Televangelists Are Full Of Crap

with delusions of riches,
Joel Osteen.

with tales of earthly wealth,
Graham Junior.

Hold captive
those prisoners of Rapture,
who crave flight.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Just a quick one. Sorry I am so terribly behind in responding to your comments… the Poets United article generated a lot of interest. I promise I’ll get back “on par” soon. (Groan – you’ll see why when you read my response to Sunday Scribblings‘ prompt, “Woods.”) Amy

Woodsman Lost

Tiger, Tiger, what the hell?
‘Twas a time you cast a spell.
Now you ache from stress and strain;
credibility down the drain.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

This is for Sunday Scribblings, which gave the prompt word, “Hitch.” Also at Poets United, my poetic home-away-from-home. Enjoy, movie buffs! Amy


Close-up, sloooowly, Grace leans in
and Jimmy Stewart wakes to a kiss.
Raymond Buff commits a sin,
but Grace and James still find their bliss.

Tippi Hendren, without words,
the schoolkids must deliver:
Running from the pecking birds
to a house where they all shiver.

Wartime Cummings, Saboteur?
Joel McCrea, war correspondent.
Ingrid, a provocateur,
leaves Claude Raines despondent.

And how can we forget the sight
of Janet Leigh’s ill-fated shower:
Black and white blood, one stark fright.
Tony Perkins’ finest hour.

When the planes swooped o’er the grain
Hitch made Cary Grant look tough.
We won’t see Hitchcock’s like again…
but Tarantino steals his stuff.

Alfred Hitchcock, Lord of Thrills,
his wife an aide in everything,
he still brings us stellar chills.
Screw “no Oscar,” Hitch is king.

Sunday Scribblings prompted a single word: Sweet. This past Sunday, I witnessed the event below. Enjoy! Amy   (Also posted, as always, at Poets United, a collective of dynamite poets.)


Anything Sweeter

Is there anything sweeter
than baby Cale at the baptismal font?
Mama hands him off to the pastor;
this child makes no fuss.

Once, twice, thrice
crossed on the forehead with water;
even as it drips down his nose to his chin,
he takes it all in stride.

And when the congregation applauds
this new member of our church,
Cale doesn’t cry.  Doesn’t even blink.
He looks as though he expected the ovation!

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Women, Woman

In a sea of Marthas
She remained the Magdalene
Neither wanton, nor wayward, still
different, misunderstood

Her gestures of sisterhood
looked upon as threats by
the many married mommies
who kept their men on short leashes, well-heeled

Had they taken time
to listen to her thoughts
How she cared for their town
How she admired their ability to maintain stability

They might have warmed to her
But women are women, and
wives are wives, gathered in hives
And single mothers lead separate lives

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Sunday Scribblings (“Flock”) and my poetic home, Poets United.

FIRST – a word from Amy. I am not ignoring your comments. My husband, Lex, was just installed (big ceremonial goings-on at our new church home, Lake Edge United Church of Christ in Madison, WI. His mom was able to be here; his friend Rev. Michael Ware (of Webster Baptist Church in Webster, NY) delivered a sermon than included “Amens” and even singing (the man is a force of nature and of the Spirit); and the pastor who introduced us and eventually married us, Rev. Cliff Aerie, who now does sacred jazz (, brought his sax and joined me and the praise band for music. It rocked, and this new church home has welcomed us with open arms. It’s like family. So I promise to get “back on the job” today or tomorrow, answer all your comments, and post daily once again.

Having said that, the prompt was “Surrender,” and this one is sort of not what you would expect to some from a joyful weekend, but that’s how it goes! Peace to all, and thanks for your patience, Amy


it’s being left behind
No matter how long the letting go
a piercing pain of loss permeates
every point of human contact
The look in their eyes
Phone calls from relatives you wrote off long ago and
acquaintances from bridge and board meetings
They’re all so sorry (they never really knew him)
They remember him (vaguely, but you never had us over to dinner)

The Viewing
A blur of
I’m sorry call me are you OK (duh) call me
he was such a good man what a loss to the family
the community
the world
call me

The Funeral
Same readings as your parents’ services
Same minister, even (wow, he’s getting old)
At the words, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms”
you break down, everybody cries, all fall down
Whoever wrote that part of the Bible
really understood torch songs

The minister drones on about our beloved
He didn’t really know my husband
This is more my church than it ever was his

If funerals are for the living
they should skip the eulogy

Soon The Box will be planted
but our love will continue to grow
through tears and healing and memories and stories we tell
He was just that good

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Sunday Scribblings (Surrender) and my poetic home, Poets United

Still following National Poetry Writing Month at Writer’s Island. Stumbled upon a prompt at Sunday Scribblings, “Design.” You can find this one at Poets United as well, along with many other poets.

Please feel free to comment with critiques if you wish – I really appreciate feedback.  Thanks! Amy


Delicate veins of climbing ivy
Creeping clematis and morning glory shaping
a heavenly, fenced-in fortress turned playground
“Come inside,” they whisper, voices of children.
“Linger awhile. You’re safe here.”
Yes, she thinks. I’ll stay in this haven
until I can make sense of things.

Safe from prying parents who
“only want to help you, honey…”
Yes, I’ll make myself scarce for a brief time-out.
Life is too confusing and no one understands.

Sounds easy, tempting, perhaps, to
hide in a high, wide, heather-rowed hedge
while hedging your bets.

Tracing paths within, flowers begin to
drop from their vines and rot
on the well-trodden, muddy path beneath.
The whispers have turned from beckoning sprites
to taunting, shrill fishwives.
She panics. Where am I now? And why are the voices
now vexing me with matters that do not concern them?
They speak of my secrets and shame and…

Soon time and the complexity of the maze
have overrun thoughts of escape, as isolation
becomes complete… an utter lack of options.
Vines twist around her neck, muting cries for help;
thorns pierce her flesh as morbid curiosity
secures another victim for The Labyrinth.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

At Sunday Scribblings, we were asked to create a poem around the word “befuddled.” Not “bewitched,” nor “bothered,” nor “bewildered,” unfortunately… but then, that one was already written! (That’s for my music buddies.) A little gender-bender limerick for y’all. Amy

The Right Stuff?

A man with whom I often cuddled
Confessed to becoming quite muddled
Our sex was okay
But he told me today
With Bradley, he’s far less befuddled

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For my third day of National Poetry Writing Month, I decided to follow a prompt, because it called out to me. Sunday Scribblings asked for poems about messengers. This is for my mother, who beat the devil and was sober the final 10 years of her life. She’s been gone 21 years now, but when I need her, just like Blanche (her mom), she is there for me. In her weakness and in her strength, so many lessons. Miss you, Mama.  Love, Amer

Message in a Bottle

For the first time in years
(and so welcome, this occasion)
seated across the kitchen table with Mom.

For the first time in years
(since I had headed west for a spell)
she was not drunk – not even tipsy.

There was a message in
the absence of a gin bottle on that table…
Gordon’s had been her steadfast companion

Now we sat and looked each other in the eye
“Amy,” she said kindly, “there’s a scratch in your voice.
You need to stop smoking pot.”

For the first time in years,
we spoke singer to singer, our voices had always been
our beauty, our careers, our all.

“I sobered up,” she said slowly, “cold turkey.”
It was true – too ashamed to go to a clinic,
knowing so many people in town.

Dad had gone to her door several times each day,
listening to the retching, passing in black coffee
and soda crackers for a solid two weeks.

But for me, quitting a joint a day was easy.
And so the message was clear: No more bottle for her,
no more buds in Buglers for me. Saved my life, she did.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil