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

Tag Archives: Cancer

Crowning Glory

She dresses for the party tonight

She fusses with her Hello Kitty necklace

She lingers in a view of
and her crown of glory

Her “all clear” party and
hair jewelry

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Locks of Love allows people to donate 10” or more of their own hair to help create wigs for low-income girls who have allopecia or are fighting cancer. My favorite donor was a girl in our Attica church who had done it twice before her 16th birthday. Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Magaly asked us to write about hair jewelry. This sprang to mind as a survivor adornment, as one friend told me, “until the real thing comes along!”

Peace, Amy

LION-HEARTED MAN (R.I.P. Marques Bovre)

From a distance
(when first I spied him
setting up his gear in church)
I thought he was an old man

He walked with a cane
Could barely negotiate
setting up his guitar
but his daughter helped

The closer I got to Marques
the clearer the view and
I knew this was a man
not only young, but vital

His face shined, his eyes
danced, and when he sang
it was coming from an old soul
with a kid’s sense of fun

The band played many of
his songs, the heart of
the ministry, seeds
sown for the Gospel

But it wasn’t a cult of
personality; Marques
was too humble for that
He said he was a servant

Then came the diagnosis
Rumors of tumors, he
even gave them names:
Hobgoblin and The Creep

Hoped to see spring flowers
He loved Dandelions and
made me love them too
He struggled but always smiled

We lost him this week
A lion-hearted man who
knew who he was, whose he was
and where he was going

We had many months to prepare
for this day, this awful news
The truth is: You can prepare
for someone to be dying

but you can’t prepare for
when they are actually dead
Marques, brother, father, friend
We’ll sing your songs to the end

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Marques Bovre, singer, guitarist, composer, artist-in-residence at Lake Edge United Church of Christ’s “Worship at the Edge,” died this week at the age of 50.

There have been numerous fundraisers to help pay for his cancer treatments over the past year or so, which brings me back to the fundamental question: Why should ANYONE have to have fundraisers to pay for CEOs to have private planes and yacht trips to Bermuda? Health care is a right. Now, Marques would be the first to say he was no better than anyone else in this world (in fact, on his last CD, “Nashville Dandelion,” there was one song called, “On The Body Of Christ, I Am The A**hole.” That’s his wry sense of humor, and we loved him for it).

Please visit Marques’ site HERE. There are his songs, his story. He never proselytized, and yet a more fervent believer I never knew.  If you like what you hear, BUY SOME MUSIC. Tracy still has medical bills to cover, in the midst of her grief. It will mean a lot to the whole family, and to me.

Rest in peace, brother.  This poem will be at dverse Open Mic Night and at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads (man, Marques would have dug that title), where the garden is open for any and all new poems.  Love, Amy

First, I’d like to congratulate Laurie Kolp and Beth Winter for joining the Pretzels and Bullfights arena at dverse poetry. Both are wonderful, warm, talented women, and they will no doubt present us with challenging prompts!  I am adding this to the dverse Open Mic Night in their honor.

Sunday Scribblings (#344) asked for poems about healing. This is also at my “home base” blog, Poets United.

Healing and Healing

“But Aunt Nelda, God didn’t answer my prayer.”
And your prayer was…?

“I prayed for my mother to be healed.”
And what happened?

“She woke up one day in hospice – and,”
the boy breaks down in tears, tears hard won in a world that
doesn’t afford males the luxury of such a balm.

“She was talkative, told me to stay in school,
reminded me of the walks we took in the forest,
pressing dried autumn leaves, all sorts of stuff.
Must have been hours, all about how I should
go to college and not decide my major right away,
that I should dabble with everything until
something catches me by the throat and won’t
let go! Funny, I’m only in eighth grade. Oh, and
the year she helped coach my baseball team, even though
she was the only mom to do that in the whole league. I
was embarrassed then, but I told her that day I was
so proud of her for doing it. I told her she had balls,
and she laughed so hard!”

And then?
“She seemed so well that afternoon, we thought she was
making a comeback, and that night I got on my knees and
thanked God for healing her. The next day, she died.”

Are you angry with God?
“Damn straight. Really pissed. I don’t give a shit about God
anymore. He didn’t give me what I needed most, my mom.
First, He made her suffer with the cancer, the chemo, the
radiation, and then he didn’t let her live.”

What do you think your mom needed?
“Well, healing, coming home, taking care of Dad, seeing
friends. Like it was last year.”

Honey, listen to me.
There’s healing and there’s Healing.
The first, you come home from the hospital, back to
the way things were for the most part, until the cancer
returns, as it often does, and you go through all the pain
and suffering and indignity all over again, until eventually,
your body gives up.

The second, you go home to God.
It’s called the Final Healing.
Your mom went through three rounds with the cancer, and
she didn’t have anything left to fight it. But one thing
God did give you was one last day to talk. It was her way of
saying goodbye, giving you the best memories as a gift.
Don’t blame your mom; she didn’t give up. And yell
all you want to at God, because God has the
widest shoulders you can imagine. God’s giving you
the gift of tears right now.

“So she was healed… but not in the way I wanted?”
Hon, we pray to God for all sorts of things, and
you prayed for your mother to have the best. It
wasn’t what you expected, but remember this:

Your mom doesn’t hurt anymore, doesn’t cry out
in her sleep from pain at 2 a.m. And she left with us
her greatest gift to the world – you.. You hold her
stories, you have her eyes. And trust me:

One day, you will know that God loves you.
Even when you yell and swear at him, God
still “gives a shit” about you. I know it.
So go to a counselor, here’s a card. After my mom died,
I screamed into pillows at my therapist’s office.
Sean, it was cleansing and it healed my grief.

So go ahead, rail at God, and you’ll do fine.
C’mere and give your auntie a hug…

and I dare you not to let go first.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For the trifecta weekend challenge, to use the word for an animal as a verb, in exactly 33 words. Here are two offerings.

The first is about my mom; the second is an homage to mi viejo San Juan. Peace, Amy


Started at 14, in classic fashion, behind the barn. Later, her children badgered her: “Quit smoking, Mom!” It was the wanting to quit that was missing. She Cameled herself to an early grave.


Don’t know much Spanish, but the girls down the hall, they’re roommates, both Puerto Rican, clingy moms back home. Not a day goes by without one yelling to the other, “¡Llama tu madre!”

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

No matter what I post, I always make a point of mentioning my poetic hearth, or home, or launching pad, or cafe… I am proud to be a member of Poets United, and all my poems are backtracked there to a constantly updating feed. Today, they had a specific prompt, and so I was thrilled to write something just for them.


Blacks abused, a story
that seems to have no end.
Obscure beginning for HeLa.
One woman’s cancer cells were
scraped away as she lay dying, more
from the treatment than the cancer itself.
Johns Hopkins implanted radioactive rods in
her womb until all inside her turned bomb-black.
The cells taken from her uterus, much like a skin shed
in death, were put on the market and migrated from lab
to lab until they were all over the world. But no one told
her family, nor did they give them any of the money… quite
a considerable amount, not to mention the intellectual property.

Henrietta Laks was used, over and over, by whites, for profit.
First, in life, by cruel poverty, segregation, inability to
care for her own, to see to her kids’ well-being, to their
education; one daughter was institutionalized, as she had
married her first cousin, like folks did back in those
days. Her cervical cancer was detected far too late;
she died so young. Then, after her death, her
“immortal cells,” truly a medical miracle,
proliferated without anyone’s say-so,
and only by chance did her daughter
find out Mom had been to outer
space, survived bomb blasts,
outlasted most of her kin,
but only bits of Mom.
Black folks always
feared Johns

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Poets United’s Think Tank Thursday asked us to write a poem based on a book. Henrietta Lacks is the subject of a book I recently read, called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. On the cover is a picture of a vibrant, fun-loving girl, dressed up to go out on the town. A few short years later, she was dead of cervical cancer… but scientists “harvested” her cells, which seemed to have immortality; whatever they did to them, “HeLa cells” (they used the first two letters of first and last names of all patients from whom they harvested cells, and all without family permission or compensation) survived and proved to be hearty. Of course, members of the scientific “brain trust” also perpetrated other atrocities on Black Americans, including the infamous Tuskeegee sterilization of thousands of fertile men and women, in hopes of narrowing the race to “controllable” numbers.

Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah, eventually teamed with the book’s author, Rebecca Skloot, a white writer who gained Deborah’s trust. Together they embarked on a journey back in time, tracing the history of both the woman Henrietta and the HeLa strain of cervical cells. Read it – horrifying and fascinating history. For more on Henrietta, and to view the picture mentioned in the poem, click HERE. Peace, Amy

Walk, Talk, Persevere

Our hands in our pockets, we walked.
‘Twas of Lila’s cancer we talked.
“Oh, sure, it was one fucking jolt!
One week, all is well, then this bolt

from Doctor X come a-roaring
in our ears, but then my adoring
Meg said, ‘Give us some options, Doc.’”
“In the past, it was urgent – tick-tock,

to cut off the woman’s whole breast.
But now it’s the simple way’s best.”
The importance of one single fact:
Lila’s dignity would be intact.

There’d be scraping and chemo, but then,
their future to build was the plan,
“Rebuild Lila’s health” was the rule.
They married; bold women:  They’re cool.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore

From Brenda Warren’s Sunday Whirl, and just in time!  Wordle words are in bold.  This is dedicated to all women and men who have survived breast cancer… and in memory of those who did not.  Peace, Amy

Whose Side Are They on Now?

When things go right…
when her friend’s surgery is successful;
when his kid scores a goal;
when the baby is born with ten and ten
and Mom’s epidural was spot-on;
when a football player executes a game-saving touchdown,
when an old guy, down to his last buck at the bar,
hits the TV gambling jackpot,
it’s “Praise Jesus!”
They crow, “Thank God!”

When war rips a relentless dagger with
no healing in store,
and “smart bombs” hit the
“actionable intelligence” targets
(and only kill a few kids and other civilians),
when a dictator who was funded by the US but
falls out of favor ends up on the wrong side of a noose,
it’s, “God is on our side!”

When Katrina hit New Orleans,
when earthquakes hit Los Angeles,
Bible Belters shouted, “It’s because of all the sin
that is tolerated there!  It was God’s will!”
(Sure, there’s that racist tinge to the condemnation…
never mind that the majority of Katrina victims
were people of color who worked hard to maintain
their neighborhoods, while the vast majority of “sinners”
are white college girls who get stinking drunk and
flash their boobs to get Mardi Gras beads…)
“Praise Jesus, who looks after the righteous,”
says the preacher, passing the collection plate.
(It’s all in the timing.)

But when a neighbor is laid off or gets
screwed out of a pension,
when someone on your block develops cancer and
it’s already Stage Four,
or it’s your kid who’s hit by a drunk driver
or knocked up by her own uncle…

Whose side is God on now?
Does Jesus hate your neighbor? Is that why he’s
slumping his shoulders in the unemployment line?
Does God think it was the 13-year-old girl’s fault
for “tempting” her pedophile uncle?
Do God and Jesus sit on high and zap people
with cancer when they are bored?

Think about these things
the next time you presume
to speak for God.

And feel free to give a copy of this to your pastor.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil