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

Tag Archives: Alcoholism

LOST WORD

I awoke, musing
(first thoughts of morning, always sharpest)
that President Obama’s endorsement
of Debbie Wasserman Schultz was
an implied endorsement of Hillary Clinton
(yes, I actually wake up thinking this stuff)

I then planned a tweet
to that effect
In my mind, typing abbreviated text
(abbrev’d txt)

“Prez hypes DWS; tacet hype of HRC

Didn’t even close the quotes
Stopped short
“tacet”

Is it “tacit”? No, doesn’t look right
Is there a tacet/tacit usage comparison?
Should I google it?
Is “tacit” a word
or a typo?
Or is “tacet” wrong?

At that moment
This very morning, in my bed
I realized, “This is how it can start, with
a lost word.”

Hear this, cruel Fates:

I don’t lose words
I use words
to great effect

(Effect? Affect?
Naw, I’m screwin’ with ya now!)

Poets, writers, artists
write and paint their truth
Individual as brushstrokes

If my truth were
that mental facility would begin to leak
To fallfunnel
an hourglass
emptied
s
l
o
w
l
y

I watched the first grain of sand slip
today
and documented it here

Now, that would be ironic
That precision of loss

© 2016 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Connie Peters and I play Words With Friends. She asked this week whether I would be doing the April Poem-A-Day challenge. At that time, I told her that depression would probably get the best of me, so NO. After this experience, and her musing that “sometimes, it can help,” I have decided to take the plunge after all.

Thanks, Connie! See, we never know when the little words of encouragement will stick. Friends rock.

Alzheimer’s does not run in my family.  Just the usual shot livers, lung cancer, and other addiction-related stuff that is preventable when you know what’s up.  My real fear is that, since my mom lived a long time WITH fallout from addication, I will have to be put down like an old horse when I am 128.  Find a quiet corner of the garden, you know…

For ABC Wednesday, the letter is L… for loss/lost. Amy


Where I’m Comin’ From

Look back at the burbs
White enclave; promise of the GI Bill
Manicured lawns, manacled wives who
drank a dram during the drudgery of
The Soap Trinity (Laundry, Dishes, The Edge of Night)
We were their kids, who tried not to notice

We ran scattersplat wild and messy as anything
Hair flying, legs booblaboobla gearing up to race
Kickball, swimming, badminton in a harsh breeze
Barbies hunted Nazis in the woods (we had badass dollies)
Anything was possible; everyone was some shade of pale
…except when my family hosted a jazz party

Singin’ & Sippin’ – white was not a prerequisite
for fitting in; all that mattered was the lushlife music
Screw being eight, ditch that perfect smooth hopscotch stone
Pocket a church key, cuz beer bottles will need opening
and the grownups’ll be too drunk to open their own
Time for goldenbronze fortunes to be shouted and whispered

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
The prompt at dverse Poets was “Where Are Your From?” We all wrote a poem about the soil from which each of us sprang. Mine dawdled at home base for our kickball game; but eventually, I found my way to the party. And in all honesty, once I’d found it, my heart never left! Amy


Sun Goes Down Bitter

Sunset is the saddest light there is
when it signals another night
for a blighted, blindfold family

Threats shouted, curses thrown
‘cross the supper table
flung like mashed off a ladle

Someone always slams palms down
Leaves in a huff, mumbling stuff
This time it’s Dad – which is really bad

Cause he’s mad at Mom, anxious
When he’s anxious he wants some
and he’ll take it from someone

who’s smaller than he is
Can’t talk back, can’t fight back
Can’t swallow her vitamin in the morning

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Susie at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, “Play it Again, Toads.” I chose a line (“Sunset is the saddest light there is…”) from Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, a book I read years ago and now must read again.

The thought of summer sunsets, very sad. Alcohol for Mom all afternoon… two martinis for Dad – after he had stopped for a drink with the guys. He was quick to anger, yet completely arbitrary… kept his buttons hidden from us, but if Mom knew he was “in the mood,” she’s spark a fight and later go to her room and lock the door.

So much for the safely of the suburbs and the oft-Tea-Partied “stability of two-parent families.” I’d have given anything to get them a divorce! Peace, Amy

PS I am not posting much, but I am in a cycle of artwork: acrylics, India Ink, pastels, courtesy of Cornucopia Arts Center of Madison, WI, a free center for neurodivergent people. I’ll try to sneak in some art next time. A


He’s Gone (for George)

He’s a bust-my-buttons hello
A faithful friend; we’ve
weathered some shitstormish eras
when nothing made sense
(save ourselves and
our good opinion of each other)

The kind of friend you can hug
and not let go
and know
it never has to get weird

The one who understands
the digressions of an alcoholic parent
who is like a child – and can
also laugh at some of the confusion

The one with whom you can
watch movies in total silence
or howl and poke each others’
arms, like “yeah!”

He hit the road again
just now
and I wrote this to remember

He’s a quick-before-we-cry
goodbye

An endless paradox
An understandable conundrum

He’s George

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Some friends you keep forever. After forty years of our friendship and many years of knowing my husband too, George will always be a part of our lives. We should all be so lucky to have someone like that in our lives!

Posted at ABC Wednesday (V is for VISIT!) and in the margins at Poets United and Imaginary Garden With Real Toads. Peace, Amy


Imaginary Garden With Real Toads presented me with a real challenge – a new form! Not my strong suit, but once I got going, I was on FIRE, baby! I’ve also placed this on the shelf of the Poetry Pantry at Poets United. Process notes below.

I.
She sings
for the lonely
whose martini glasses
teeter their moods to sighs of “then”
Choosing songs with good bones, timeless, misty
Watching hookups destined to fail
Witness to a rapt drunk
who cries; to whom
she sings

II.
The blur
of is/is not
falls upon her lightly
winds around her soul so tightly
She seeks solace in the bitter bottle
Battles blues with burn of bourbon
Diff’rent bottle, the script
would help her beat
the blur

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

PROCESS NOTES:
First, thematic: She Sings is from my days in piano bars, where I was the only performer. Some nights I found that the sights and emotions of my customers were more interesting than my music. The reference to “good bones” is, of course, from old houses in terms of reconstruction.

The Blur can be any sort of mental disorder, when the person chooses to self-medicate rather than follow the doctor’s plan. In this case, she has received her diagnosis, gotten her meds, and won’t “play along.” Most heavy drinkers I know don’t gave the insurance or don’t realize they need a psychiatrist; I’ve seen this lead to the worst ends possible, including several suicides… and my mother’s lifelong battle with booze.

AS TO THE FORM: A Rictameter is a “form with a shape.”  The syllable count is 2-4-6-8-10-8-6-4-2.

A bit of history from the Real Toads site: Created in the early 1990s by two cousins, Jason D. Wilkins and Richard W. Lunsford, Jr., for a poetry contest that was held as a weekly practice of their self-invented order, The Brotherhood of the Amarantos Mystery. The order was inspired by the Robin Williams movie Dead Poets Society.


KELLY LUNES

Sad Girl

She lives in the past
Hindsight rules
Her head in the ‘coulds’

 

Tender Tummy

Gable scarfed cat food
in seconds
Wait, here comes… feed-back

 

Mornings With Mom

Gin bottles rinsed out
Coffee’s on
Time to wake her up

Tentative taps on
her closed door
Muffled confusion

Soon she will emerge
eyes squinting
hands, shaking and cold

Wrap them ‘round the mug
Warmth stops shakes
Caffeine soothes her pain

All Lunes © 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Three-quarters of the way through April’s Poem a Day for National Poetry Writing Month!  Today, Grace (AKA Heaven) of Imaginary Garden With Real Toads asked for “lunes.”  I chose the Kelly Lune form, an American haiku form based on syllables (one line of five, one line of three, last line of five; in a single stanza or multiples of same). The Collum Lune is based on number of words: Three, Five, Three; however, that form is for another day!

Thanks, Grace, for another lovely prompt from the Garden. Peace, Amy


There was a prompt on dverse called “Missing You” that, of course, I missed linking to.  To which I missed linking.  Linking missed did I.  Whatever!  Fortunately, Imaginary Garden With Real Toads is hosting Open Link Monday, so thanks, Kerry!

During Advent, I remember large and small kindnesses, and I think about those I’ve lost over the years. “And of all these friends and lovers, there is no one compares to you.” With a nod to John Lennon, here a a poem about the person I miss so much.

NOTE:  All poems regarding my relationship with my father are about me and me alone.  I make no claims, nor do I speak for my sisters.

Charlotte and Amer 001

MISSING CHARLOTTE

The coffee shared at the cigbutt-scarred
kitchen table (my workspace now).

The stories, especially when you were
drunk as a skunk, rambling on about

our noteworthy obscure Irish lineage.
Our family totem: Gordon’s and an ashtray.

Grandma Blanche exacting revenge
on Bill, who cheated with her best friend.

Wish you had taken a picture of his face
when he walked in, realizing he was busted.

The nights you went off to sing, scent of
Tigress cologne, the black sequins and

paste jewelry from Blanche, I called them
“dime mints,” the teardrop earrings you wore.

The teardrops signified more: Breakfast
wearing sunglasses, Dad hit you the night before

after doing me in a fit of jealousy – Dad sure
you were fooling around at your gig, you dig?

Next morning, to church, choir director… first,
vodka bracer, no lie detector, I’d never tell

Your secrets were safe with me and my
secrets I didn’t know until after you both died.

Mama, you told me we were both descended
from sirens. I didn’t think you meant

ambulances, yet backward glances tell me
(in the hindsight that trumps your own truth),

you were a mess, and so loveable, and so
weak, and so in need, and so on. I know.

I’m the dark mirth of the Irish, the mother of
a savant, the keeper of memories, of the love.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

My mother was an enigmatic, persuasive lioness who occasionally retreated to helpless-kitten states through alcohol. She drank because she didn’t want to be “crazy” like her mother, Blanche, who was bipolar like me, but because of the times, was institutionalized and Frankenshocked through the 30s and 40s. Charlotte drank because she didn’t want to “notice” Dad sneaking up the hall after his little girls had gone to bed. And she drank to warm up her razor-sharp memory for “the telling of the stories,” our family history. Some people tell the same stories over and over… which start out like funny mice but, over the years, morph into elephants. Not Mama. I was her witness, and I know she would be glad I write about all the mess, the booze, the music, the tears, and the bellyaching laughter… and yes, even the abuse.

Hug your parents tight, if they are with you. My depression comes and goes, but hers was long, tortured, and I thank God that now, she is at peace. Miss you, Mama. Love, Amer

Photo taken by my Grandpa Bill in August 1959, during a visit to Mom’s home town, Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Copyright is with me.


One of my favorite prompting sites, dverse poets, put Brian Miller in charge (look out! Backs to the wall… wink). He asked us to write a history poem, and it reminded me of that question we always ask one another: “Where were you when…?” Excellent prompt, and I’m looking forward to reading everyone else’s work at dverse. This is also posted at my favorite time machine, Poets United. Peace, Amy

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL LESSON

I knew a lot by the second grade
The alphabet, counting to one hundred and beyond
How to write my name in cursive, and quite perfectly
What not to flush down the toilet
(all my broccoli smuggled in via dinner napkin)

How kittens are born, because I watched
Even how to make a dry martini
(kids learn a lot from alcoholic parents)
How to spit water between my front teeth and
how to get real distance spitting watermelon seeds

One thing I didn’t know
and never expected to
was something the whole class
learned at the same time

The grownups were outside our classroom
mumbling something about
President Kennedy
A grownup was sobbing in the hall
and Mrs. Darrow almost fainted

Until second grade
I didn’t know teachers were allowed to cry

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Image courtesy of http://www.scootutopia.com


The Drifter

Maybe this town’ll be different.
Friendlier.
Or leastways not as bad as the last place.

I ain’t felt so low since my draft notice in ‘69
except for the three years in Nam (Hell)
and an awful lotta times since then.

First thing off the bus, I locate an empty bench
so nobody’ll smell my stench. Then out of the blue,
this lady says, “How do you take your coffee?”

Then she brings out two cups of killer Joe
and sits down and talks, tells me where the shelters are
and about an AA meeting two blocks over, it’s tonight.

Didn’t give me them damn Bible papers
or try to drag me to her church, just a nice person.
Hope there’s more like her round here.

Cuz it’s gonna take more than the Serenity Prayer
to keep me on the wagon. Long road.
Lotsa potholes. And a little hope…

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Three Word Wednesday (Draft, Locate, Serenity)

Photo courtesy of http://www.nccca.org, a Christian organization mobilizing to help the homeless, including veterans.


The Big Change

How to explain the changes ahead of me.
First, Mom needed gin, just a snort
to abort the mortification of
the dreaded subject at hand: Sex.

On a page in her steno notebook,
she drew crude diagrams:
Ovaries, tubes, uterus – utilitarian scrawls,
later to be thrown away in disgust.

“The egg starts in here,” pen on ovary,
“travels down through here,”
tracing Fallopian Lane,
“and ends up here. Once a month.”

Another jigger of gin for courage.
“If the egg gets fertilized, it stays here
and becomes a baby. If not,”
siiiiiiigh, “you bleed and need some equipment.”

She pulled out the mysterious
blue box, used heretofore only by
Mom and my big sisters. Removing
napkin and belt, she trussed me up.

That was the extent of Sex Ed with Mom:
There were eggs (aren’t eggs big?).
There were tubes and a place
you might make a baby (is fertilization about peat moss?)

Later I found out the good stuff…
recalling Mae West’s immortal wisdom:
“No man ever loved me
the way I love myself!”

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Poetic Bloomings, a new site – check it out! Theirbeing Change. Also at Poets United, the poetry collective.