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

Tag Archives: Blanche

One Last Good Day (for Mama)

One last good day
(seems like yesterday)
we sat in her hospital room
drinking coffee and
shooting the shit about
the old days and Blanche and
all that was impossible to believe
yet still hysterically true…

Crow’s feet clung to her eyes.
Her lover of 40 years, Bel-Airs,
left crack-etched scars on her lips
so rooted in her nicotine habit.

Next day, she eroded, the disease
wove its coma cocoon, strength
so scarce at the last.
This stasis, this vegetation…
Her body, temple turned cell,
imprisoned her soul.

Lord, in your mercy, you
rained down her release.
Amen.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

The Sunday Whirl’s Brenda gave us an interesting list, and somehow it turned into this true story of my mother and me. On that last good day, I gave her permission to die, which she craved more than I knew until I said the words. She teared up and said, “Really?”

My mother, Charlotte, went through hell during her final hospitalization, and I’m glad she’s been at peace for 21 years. This also appears at Open Link Monday for Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, where I suspect Charlotte’s spirit is hiding amid the ferns, looking for a book of matches… Amy


ALL AT ONCE
Charlotte Lil Iodine 001
She drank to forget
But when she drank
she remembered
as though reading from
a volume of Dickens,
reciting a poem
by Gwendolyn Brooks,
exhaling a road song
by Woodie Guthrie
Slowly, no rampage,
these ramblings; recalled
in a trance of romance and
morbid, mothballed memory

all at once

Cloistered as she and I were
in our clapboard ranch house
To me, she was home
To her, this house,
this home meant a range,
a fridge, a freezer,
a coffee pot, a yard
a car, and especially
a bathroom that locked

all at once

“Back then,” as it always
started, these old stories,
“back then” was a
cumbersome load
carried by a little girl
whose mother would
disappear mysteriously
in the middle of the night
and come back weeks later
haggard but much calmer
after being committed

all at once

She told me of
late-night runs from
the landlord and the
perils of being the
only girl with an
absent mother and
a drunken father
and a brother who was
sent off to Auntie Ruth’s
All this turmoil
milling through her mind
In a gaze hazy with
absolute truth

all at once

She confessed it all
I was her eight-year-old
confidante, her committed,
codependent kid and I
maintained that role
until she died. It’s hard
being all things
to one person

all at once

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Photo of Charlotte at age 9 (with “Little Iodine” bow, all the rage back then), all rights reserved by Amy Barlow Liberatore © 2013

When I read Three Word Wednesday’s prompt words (Rampage, Morbid, Cumbersome), they took me back to The Kitchen Table Days, afternoons with my mom. She had gin and I had chocolate milk… later, coffee. I’d listen for hours; sometimes, she’d fall asleep in her folded arms and I’d wake her and lead her to bed. The three writers cited (Dickens, Brooks, and Guthrie, “all at once”) were embedded in this one woman forever. The poverty and sharp observation of the British author; the African-American jazz flavor of the poet; and her Midwestern upbringing in Iowa, along with her support for social justice (just read the unpublished final verse of “This Land Is Your Land”) by the songwriter.

There is much alliteration in this piece, among other “tricks of the trade,” so dverse’s Poet’s Toolbox will also receive a link. Check these sites out, folks. There are literally HUNDREDS of great poets contributing to these blogs.  Also check out Poets United, my poetic family.

My mother: Singer, writer, storyteller, alcoholic, mental health history unknown. But if YOUR mom was institutionalized repeatedly and came back looking like Blanche did  (haggard, calm after massive electroshock) in those days, you’d have thought twice about seeing anyone except your clergyman. I do not blame her, nor do I attempt to demonize her. Charlotte was a helluva lot of fun, and she and Blanche are a huge part of the reason I’m the sharp little pencil I am today. Peace, Amy