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

Tag Archives: Bullies

Carry On Tuesday gave us an interesting prompt: Somewhere within our poem, we were supposed to use the phrase, “But that is the beginning of a new story.” I decided to write an account – only the names and genders of kids have been changed – of an actual story, told to Buffalo’s DIVA by DIVA: A Celebration of Women, a group of “gals” who glitz up and tell stories, sing songs, and raise funds for Cornerstone Manor, run by a wonderful woman named in the poem.

Learn more about Cornerstone Manor, and maybe even throw a few bucks their way!  Trust me, it’s worth every penny you can spare: CLICK HERE.

Gimme Shelter

Two girls with this man, and he let her bring her boy into the family.
He was so righteous (at first), so good with her son (before the whippings),
and kind to the girls (she caught him, that was the breaking point).

He had been the answer to her every prayer, the man of her dreams.
Now she realized that, with some prayers, the devil tends to
listen in on the party line, get in on the action.

Nowadays he nightly, neatly folded up their clothes, seized their shoes,
and put them under lock and key before going out to party every night.
This ensured his family would be there when he decided to come home.

This night, she could only see with the one eye not swollen shut.
He shut her up real good before slamming the door behind him
and going out to party with who knows who, who knows where.

Her son, still awake, said, “Mom, enough, OK?”
He’d tried to pry them apart; now, blood dripped slowly
down his chin, like a leaky faucet. He’d tried his best.

He was just sprouting his first proud whiskers and
thought he could take on The Big Man, but he found out
it wasn’t gonna happen. Not this year. He hugged his mother.

So they woke up the girls, wrapped themselves in bedsheets,
pried open the side window, and climbed out. Their feet fell
into three inches of Buffalo February, brutal snow and ice.

Mom carried baby Keesha and her son offered Kendra
a piggy back ride, sacrificing his own natural speed
to take on the growing five-year-old as his load.

They made their way to the women’s shelter two miles away.
Mom rang the bell and Dr. Laura (not that woman on the radio, thank God)
hustled them inside and drew the blinds. She called for help.

Soon, they were covered in blankets; their feet were washed
in warm water (Jesus washed his disciples’ feet). Injuries were
tended to (when I was sick…) and clothing found (when I was naked…).

This shelter for battered women and children had no scheduled
“date of departure”; families left when they were ready. In days to come,
the girls let go of some of the trauma and began to play with others.

Her son enrolled in a new middle school, hoping
he could stay under the radar and not be found by his stepdad.
And if found, he vowed not to give up his mom’s location.

Mom chats with her peers – they’ve all been there. Now they
begin classes on computers; they are coached for interviews
and given donated professional clothes for a new start.

These miracles are the blessings of Cornerstone Manor.
She found work downtown. Soon, her survival skills showed
a unique talent for relating to others facing trouble.

“What about social work?” she thought, as she leafed through
pamphlets for local community education programs.
But that is the beginning of a whole new story…

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

This takes some explanation.  To begin with, my generation has a problem with the word “queer.” It ranks up there with the “n” word and the 6-letter “f” word in our sense of disparagement of people who have to work much harder in this world, controlled as it is by white, straight men.

Joseph Harker, one of my favorite poets (see his blog on “Poets I Love”), posted to a prompt to “answer” a poet of yore. He chose Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We So Cool” with an interpretation that included the word “queer.” My daughter, Riley/Laura, taught me that I am the first to chide people for “not changing,” and that since she identifies as “gender queer,” I will have to adapt. So my understanding of the queer world (and well as the “Q” word) has indeed expanded. Parents, it’s not always YOU teaching your kids – it goes both ways!

Then someone posted a homophobic rant about “Village People” and damnation, so I replied in a poem, riffing off Joseph. Long explanation – loaded with controversy – I welcome any and all comments on this one.

You Are Queer (with love to Gwendolyn Brooks and Joseph Harker)

You are queer. You
are dear. You

live free. You
please me. You

speak out. You
whisper, shout. You

are loud. You
are proud. You

were dates. You
find mates. You

live longer. You
grow stronger. You

catch hate. You
know fate. You

are shoved. You
are loved.

(c) 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

At Three Word Wednesday, the prompts were: Dainty, Haunting, and Tantalize. Took me days to get to this place… and not one I relish being in. But some things must be said. Amy

Desserts (3WW: Dainty, Haunting, Tantalize)

Petit fours, marzipan
Dainty cupcakes set
in a tantalizing row
each night for his consumption

Little girls on display
Sleeping delights to his watchful eye
This patisserie from Hell
is haunting me still

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Simply a meditation on power and overcoming its shackles. Amy

More Than This

She burned with the anger of the powerless.
That incendiary pissed-off-edness:
Light the fuse, fueled by years
wriggling under the thumb of
a cruel, oppressive man…

There must be more than this.

Seething through silent beatings
which left no marks, bruising only her ego,
mangling her tangled inner weavings,
thread by thread he delighted in pulling apart
the uniqueness she had once treasured.

There should be more than this.

When at last the reaching occurred
(God to her? Her hand outstretched to the Divine?),
the tinderbox of regret, hatred, guilt
burst forth in flame, melting away
tarred resins of the past.

There can be more than this.

Emerging from the fire,
refined to her pure self,
she took her little girl’s hand and smiled.
His pursuit was futile,
for she finally possessed an unbreakable truth:

There will be more than this.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Not for the faint of heart. ABC Wednesday is a new prompt for me; I found it via a fellow poet, Nanka. Click on her link and bask in the glow! Peace, Amy

D is For…

D is for Daddy, whose Damnable acts
nearly Destroyed her confidence as a woman

Doubt plagued her every move
When asked why, she’d mumble, “Dunno”
(because she truly Didn’t)

Down the road, through many years
her journey brought her to Divine intervention
No, not Jesus and the bloody bath of redemption
Nothing as Dimly simple as that

But the Delicacy of therapists who
helped her Dig Deep, because
they knew she had the Determination to
sort it out, sort of and finally to her satisfaction

Death took him years ago. Doubtless
he Died believing himself spotless, blameless
and in some Damned way, a victim

But she stands as a witness to Dreams fulfilled
after going mano-a-mano with that Devil
whose name is self-Doubt, unearned guilt

(c) 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

At Three Word Wednesday, we were given:  Buckle, Evade, and Wedge.  OK, I fudged a bit on “wedge,” but art requires slight adaptations here and there…  Enjoy!  (You probably won’t if you were ever subjected to this bullying.)


The ultimate teenaged bully stupid stunt.
Grab the nerd by his buckle
so he cannot evade this torture
Then pull on his underwear waistband. Hard.

Next to swirlies (those delightful dunks
headfirst in a flushed toilet, which can be
perpetrated on either gender), performing wedgies
is the sign of the true moron.

The wedgie-wanton often become
successful used-car salesmen and
captains of dart leagues at beer-soaked bars.
They rarely, if ever, get laid… let alone married (for long).

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil