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

Tag Archives: Black Irish Heritage

Of Bloodlines and Such

She carries her lineage in the
small of her back, just above
the bustle which would surely
be part of her attire, were she
of their day, her ancestors.

Mayflower women are proud,
even haughty, never naughty;
and if so, seldom caught (perish
the thought of the “madam”
in New York City, years ago).

They are of noble blood and
starchy stock. They gather in
Upper East Side ballrooms to
show off their new jewelry.
They are drinkers of tea who
find delicate delight in light
lunches: scones and fruit.

To admire them is to pay
homage to everything that
built America: Robbing and
enslaving indigenous people
and Africans by way of “trade,”
insider stock tips, country clubs
with signs discouraging Jews,

the Junior League, whining
about illegals while employing
them to do yard work for no
real money. I should know.
My father’s ancestors arrived
aboard the Mayflower, and
I’m still trying to live it down.

I shall never wear DAR prim
white gloves; never parade in
fancy hats; and certainly, I shall
never forget that, when my
mother’s family came to these
shores, they were met by signs:

No Irish Need Apply.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Trifecta, who asked for a poem about blood, specifically the definition which includes bloodlines, noble birth, and that sort of hogwash. My Aunt Caroline was a member of the DAR, the Mayflower Society, and all that other “Ladies Who Lunch” bunkum. She’d never have said “shit,” even if she had a mouthful – but she blithely exploited Spanish-speaking maids, thought the poor “lazy,” and had nothing good to say about anyone who wasn’t rich and “well-bred,” especially my mom’s “pigs-in-the-parlor” Irish relatives. They, in careful New England fashion, mocked my mother mercilessly (Dad didn’t notice; it takes a woman’s touch). Therefore, this is my present to Charlotte for Mother’s Day, this being my 21st without her brilliant presence. Also to Riley, who understands why being a snob is counterproductive – and for her, counter-intuitive.

I am my mother’s daughter, proud to be living proof that Black Irish Laughlins from Council Bluffs, Iowa, could have more empathy and common sense than all the Mayflower babes put together. As my Grandma Blanche said, “Show me a member of the DAR, and I’ll show you a woman who is frustrated, spoiled, and desperate.” I have nothing to add to that! Amy


Growing up, we had a pool.
This guaranteed us friends
during dog days, kids diving
for pennies, singing along to
my sister’s transistor radio.

I learned to be graceful there.
Normally prone to clumsiness,
I glided like a siren on her way to
a gig tempting sailors who’d crash
their crafts on the rocks below.

Underwater, the mermaid learned
how to swim a full lap in one breath,
then two laps. But the best part was
dinner hour, when the kids got called
home and I had the pool to myself.

Dad worked hard and drank late,
so we’d eat whenever he drove in.
One afternoon, I lay face-down
on a long raft, hands grazing water
as one bothers timothy grass in the field.

No one called me in for supper.
Result? Even Black Irish, brown-eyed
girls get the occasional sunburn, but
this was a blistering, “degree” burn,
with ointments and aloe and sympathy.

As the burn dried and began to peel,
my sister Jo used her nails to scratch
a perfect heart on my back. This artwork
grossed out the kids, which was, of course,
the point.

© Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Karin Gustafson, hosting dverse today, wanted memories of summer. This one stuck with me for two reasons; first, my sisters took after my English father, blonde hair and blue eyes, and they burned easily, so my mother’s brown-eyed Irish heritage usually saved me from that fate. Second, the fact that my sister Jo would take so much time creating on my back made me feel special.

Also at my poetic kiddie pool, Poets United. Peace, Amy