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

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The first time I saw an apple doll was in a picture book

Kids in the suburbs don’t have homespun toys – but that particular book, from our school library, was one of those “Back in the OLD DAYS when people didn’t have SHOES so they walked 12 MILES to school BAREFOOT” kind of books, the ones your grandparents swore was written about THEM

The doll’s head was an apple
(well, sure, or else it would have been a Prune Doll or some such)
An actual apple, dry and old and quite wizened up, used up

The face was dead
Not peaceful, died-in-their-sleep dead
More like starved-to-death or “Bitten By A Brown Recluse Spider” dead. all sucked in on itself, so dry I could almost hear the parch

And the reason this came back to me one night while we were watching TV
(this bizarre tidbit from the Bipolar Lock Box/bat haven)
It was his face

His face as he put his crusty hand on an actual Bible
and swore an oath to do a bunch of stuff we all know he won’t do
does not intend to do
assumes he is above bothering with it at all

That dried apple yawned open, then closed
It never kissed its wife
It had few. if any, words for its own young son

When it blinked, bits of peel seemed to shard off and
float the astroturf carpet below its feet

A desiccated, ancient thing
Perhaps it had been vital at one time, but it was never top of the bushel

The apple a grocer hides in the pile, hoping some unsuspecting shopper
will pick it up along with the other, shinier ones
A wormy, mealy apple
Fruit of a poisoned tree

(Thoughts on the inauguration of Donald J. Trump)

(c) 2019 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, “L” is for “licentious” and “lecherous.” And “lousy,” “loathsome,” and on and on.

Truth: I wrote this the night of Trump’s inauguration but didn’t post it until now, because I have spent the last three years (plus) freaked out by the fact that this pustule is actually president of the United States. PTSD takes its toll on survivors of sexual abuse, and the Access Hollywood tape, along with all the other insults to practically everyone who is not a straight, white, Christian, Republican male… Well, yeah, that’s why I have not blogged much since then.

I am disappointed in myself, that I could let one man steal that much joy and power and enthusiasm from me. But see the comment above about my childhood sexual abuse. I learned, very early on, that one man could, indeed, steal my innocence and trust, so why not joy, power, and enthusiasm, too? I mean, he is the president. And he does believe he is all-powerful. (Just don’t look behind the curtain. That fat king is buck naked.)  Amy

A chance conversation with a stranger
leads to both of us feeding the Hungry Cup on the sidewalk

A smile on my face, returned
by someone else
leads to just that – our grins

The new couple on the block
passed by with their
which led me indoors to
appreciate our lazy cat a bit more

The phone call from an old friend
that was actually a text, but quite effective

A prayer answered, the one you didn’t know you needed

Unexpected blessings are the whole point

(c) 2019 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, the letter U. I must admit, that letter prompted a poem about Ugly, Ubiquitous trUmp, but I thought better of it.

Concentrating on those blessings each day. Trying to get the hang of happiness.


Simple Summer Pleasures

simple things
seeing sunrise after a good night’s slumber
strrrrrretching to the tune of birdsong
Smell of Sumatran coffee, steaming and silky

A decent back scratch, administered by someone special
Some time in the garden amongst slinky, slimy worms and snickering birds (beaks full of seeds just strewn)
Sitting on the porch, swig of beer, clack of dominoes, sunset smiles

Snuggled on the couch, where in our house,
“Netflix and chill” means
watching an actual movie with the air conditioner on high

Sweet dreams, beautiful summer day
See you at sunrise

© 2019 Amy Barlow Liberatore, Beehat Baby Publishing

Thanks to Roger at ABC Wednesday for this prompt, the letter S. Was just out in the garden, surveying my new raised bed, built for me by Lex and our friend Stephanie. Will probably wax poetic about that little garden soon. Amy

Damn, It’s Cold

I moved to Wisconsin voluntarily – but at this moment,

a simmering resentment is the only thing keeping me warm

Irony: My husband flew out to a conference San Antonio last Sunday

(we may still be married by the time you read this)

Fact: Stir-crazy, I went out to put in supplies (yup, I have a chuck wagon and EVVVV-rything)

People were stocking up on Wisconsin ABCs (Alcohol, Bratwurst, and Cheese)

Out of the market, into an Arctic infarction

A wind that topped out at 50 Degrees Below What The Fuck

It slapped me in the back and swept me off my feet

(Not in a romantic way. In another way.)

And the cold

The cold

Did I mention the cold?

Cold that freezes the snot in your nose

Cold that makes the wax in your ears harden and rattle

Cold that causes panic and anger, makes people drink more than usual (and scream between steins for no discernible reason)

This is the cold of Jack London, of science fiction after the sun dissolves

The cold you tell your grandkids about and they never believe you

Colder than charity

Colder than Melania Trump’s gaze

Damn, that’s cold

© 2019 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, the letter is D. So, yeah, DAMN! I do love Wisconsin! The snow stays pristine white days after the storm (which beats the cruddy runoff of Manhattan winter). The people are great – and my friends feel SO MUCH BETTER since we voted the revolting Scott Walker out of our lives and into obscurity (unless Trump gives him a job and then fires him).

My problems with this cold snap are minor – so minor, I can find humor in them. But there are folks out on the street. Make sure you send a donation to a shelter, today. Even if you are not in the path of the Arctic Blast, folks need your help. Amy

The bravura president
Toad-bloated and spewing
Managed to piss off Australia on his very first day
(I mean, who does that?)

The emperor has no clothes
(now, that’s one image I wish I could unsee)
We are fully clothed but we feel naked
Hopeless, fatigued, bone weary of the blather

He speaks
We are slack-jawed
and waiting for this mistake, this miscarriage,
this miscreant to go away, anywhere, anyhow

Anyway, we wait

(c) 2018 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday – the letter is U. Thanks to Roger Green, as he came up in my thoughts today. The last time I posted was a year ago (yup, talk about your outrage fatigue: I have been poetry-dry for a long while), the letter was also U. Man, I need to stop letting this crappy president get to me. Amy

Some cry
Some moan
Some bring forth the agonized ululation of ages
Songs of mourning

How shall we express our grief this day?
The heart still beats; life support lingers us on

No death, not yet
But the scent of death
Acrid, stale
A slow, unending vigil at
the deathbed of liberty

(c) 2017 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Roger Green asked how I am doing. This pretty much says it all. My first post since 45 was inaugurated. We have many names for him, but calling names only cheapens the chilling effect. There is nothing normal, nothing remotely funny about this travesty that is the Trump White House.

ABC Wednesday gave us the letter U. Other words that come to mind:  United States and Ugly.

Peace, Amy


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


They say I have brain imbalance
I say I have special talents

When attention starts to wander,
what I see, I never squander

Though it seems I’ve gone away
when my glassy eyes hold sway,

I’m right here! Yet, for a minute,
seems like hours I’ve spent within it

Parallel to conscious thought,
there lies treasure – can’t be bought

Worlds of wonder close at hand
when I stray to Neverland

They call it ‘dissociation’
I call it a free vacation

© 2016 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Tuesday Platform.

My therapist noticed – Lex, too – that I sometimes drift off. I call it, “over there,” just to the right of my conscious being. This was a hallmark of my school years, and it’s probably why I graduated by the skin of my teeth. Now I can enjoy it, because I know what it is and no longer fear it. Don’t worry – I never do it while driving!  Peace, Amy

All That Glitters

A friendly, energetic employee
sits me down before my complimentary workout
She’s motivated
to sign me up for $29.99 a month
plus a “one-time $149 contract fee”
plus an annual $5 “enhancement fee”
(I asked. It helps pay for “cleaning and maintenance.”)

Rows of rowing and
shiny – if plastic – elliptical mills whirring
Designed to tighten sculpt lift renew energize
in classes or
in earbudded solitude

We’re sweatin to the Gold-ies
This gym, a starship enterprise
Squeaky clean, pristine
None of the primal potpourri afforded me
by my local community center gym

After pedaling pushing pumping up a sweat
I do due diligence in the changing room
A woman, quietly cleaning the bathroom
She, a little English
I, zero Ukranian
We talk with our hands and eyes

She mops up their leavings
Swiffers their sweat, and most importantly,
is not allowed to take tips
She is paid eight bucks an hour
Always on call, seven days a week

So who’s really sweating
at Gold’s Gym?

© 2016 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, The Tuesday Platform

It’s true. I went to Gold’s Gym with the shameless intention of getting one free workout, because our local community center is closed this week for an intensive cleaning! Madison’s Goodman Center pays their people a living wage, has no fancy frills, and houses a small – but totally adequate – workout room. The Center also has a senior café; an afterschool and summer program; a food pantry; a splash park and playground in summer; and a loyal, friendly staff.

When we visit a hotel or a restaurant, I always talk to the gutbucket staff. Those holding mops and bus trays. I ask about unions, about pay, about how well they are treated. And Lex and I consume services accordingly.

Stay human, folks. Amy

She’s a Classic

She’s a classic
antique, silver

Smooth lines
Smart mouth

Knows the score
Gives what-for

Loves change
Changes for no one
but herself

Reads, learns
Sees, remembers

Shares with abandon
Abandons no one

Wants for nothing
Her needs are easy
Her burden is light

Her way is forward
She never looks back
except, perhaps, to smile

© 2016 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, the second poem for April PAD. (yesterday’s prompt was “Horse,” and I had nothing. Not even a pony.) The prompt was “The Classics,” but I had another little “dickens” in mind…