Cat of Nine
In a cafe on a blissful Madison spring morning.
I sip coffee and poem peacefully.
A harpist sets up his hand-crafted instrument,
intricately carved, and he plays with his heart on his sleeve.
Spying his technique from the side,
I see calluses, thick pads on his fingers
as he deftly navigates the strings
to bring forth delicate melody.
His other hand surely must bear the same scars
of practice, of pursuit of that elusive
perfection – real musicians know
it’s ever out of reach, but the muse still coaxes us on.
I look again at that other hand;
he has only four fingers. He’s a vet
who lost his ring finger in combat but
chose beauty over bitterness on his long road home.
See nine strumming fingers thrumming Celtic chords.
Watch the strings continue to vibrate as sound reverberates.
Feel his joy, throw a few bucks in the tip jar,
and take that love with you as you leave.
© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
(Poetic Asides prompt: On the Other Hand; also posted at Poets United.)
Looking for _____, says the prompt at Poetic Asides. As usual, my Irish is up!
LOOKING FOR PEACE
Swords into ploughshares? Not anytime soon.
We’ve been at war for thousands of years.
Men have fought over women, over money,
marking territory like dogs, changing borders,
shouting orders that (_____) is to blame and
(_______) MUST be annihilated.
Special ops, men made of steel and guts –
many who live to tell the tale, broken and unsure.
Troopers exacted the only death toll at Attica.
Nixon said it was an acceptable loss.
Collateral damage: Arms, legs, burqas,
babies. Baskets full from market, now
bullet-hewn produce strewn on a rocky terrain.
“Meanwhile, back at the ranch,”
Skinheads field-dress a man whose only sin
was a wink at the wrong guy; he is strapped
to the bumper of a cracker truck with the
Confederate flag flapping in the breeze of
the ultimate joy ride – ice-cold beer and
today’s catch dead and mangled, trailing them,
bouncing in the tread marks.
A woman says the wrong thing (again)
and gets what she had coming; he talks to police
and she hides her face, mumbling “mistake” and “sorry.”
A shelter’s bell rings at 2 am:
A mom and two kids barefoot in Buffalo snow,
wrapped only in bedsheets. As they are clothed and
warmed by cocoa and reassurance, they tell of
the boyfriend confiscating clothes and shoes nightly
so they might not leave. Now they fear he is near.
In D.C., no matter who started it, the drones find
their next predator… surrounded by family members.
In return, a boy straps on the gear and becomes
one cell phone call away from the CNN crawl.
Everybody has nukes as long as the US says it’s OK.
Israel walls off Palestinians, we pay for the materials.
If we complain, we are called “anti-Semitic,”
even if we’re Jewish!
Mexican cartels are doing well and causing hell,
while the CIA protects Afghan poppy fields.
But we are made to worry only about people who hope
to clean toilets in America – the least of our worries.
God, Jehovah, Adonai, Allah, Creator
Give us peace, we pray in our churches and temples
We didn’t listen to Moses.
We didn’t listen to Jesus.
We ignore the Five Pillars of Islam.
We didn’t heed the Buddha or Gandhi.
We didn’t follow Dr. King past his death.
We only listen to TV…
Why don’t we listen to God?
(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
At We Write Poems, we were asked to write about healing. Before the healing, there is the injury.
THE WALKING WOUNDED
Some wounds are so deep
so personal, so wrenching,
they cannot heal without help,
Memories spread past membranes
and synapses in the brain,
tentacles reaching, spreading painfully,
tightening the jaw,
ever growing in power,
wasting the strongest soul.
A boy down the block
came home on leave and
looking in his eyes, I recognized
his agony, his disguise.
He sat with his mom in church quietly,
trying not to scream.
Later, we went for coffee and
unmasked our monsters.
Mine took hold in childhood;
his are war-born, wailing in the night.
New, but no less maiming.
Then came the shared silence
of those who know that tears
are about to flow, and we
both let go, heaving sobs,
wracking but quiet, this cry.
Tears… our only balm.
© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil