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

Tag Archives: City Life

Far Away From Home

She moved as far away as she could
from the parents, the school
her entire, pathetic former life

Reinvented herself on the Left Coast
so her folks wouldn’t be embarrassed
when she turned into a slutty pothead

Lucky she had some talent
and a knack for “right place, right time”
Associated with some up and comers

But all bad things must come to an end
including the sore nose and some shaky
“business” opportunities, best to avoid

The road home seems longer when
your tail is between your legs and you’re
detoxing on the cross-country bus

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For dverse: Exile. Follow the link down the rabbit hole to some amazing poets!


Recounting the reflexes
that led to down and out.
Remembering that December,
the thin coat, the glances
of passersby wondering why
the girl who was talking
to herself had not found
a warm shelf on which to perch,
the chilled canary fairy without wings.

Ruffles her feathers that they might
have thought of her so.
Regretting the rejection by men
after they’d had their fill, having
sucked her soul from within its
sand castle, the frailty of her ego.

She winding-wanders on but
pauses at odd moments to reflect.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

National Poetry Month, Day Three! One more take on Sunday Scribblings’ prompt, Reflect. Also hangin’ with my kin at Poets United: Scroll down their right column and meet some amazing poets! Peace, Amy

California Dreamer

I’m here
Made it clear out to the
West Coast
Hair sticky with salt,
sand in my sandals

Beach air so fine
This town is mine for the takin
I’ll break in
Shakin what my mama gave me

No car yet, but I got two wheels
I pedal with my red metal
or skate the eight blocks to work
That’ll pay rent for now

til I find my niche
in the LA club scene
And then, Bub, watch out
No doubt

As sure as this
rock wall will stand
My talent will meet their demand
Singers as common as sand… but I’m here

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For dverse Patterns, Pictures, and Poems, writing to a photo from their tasty selection.  Photo courtesy of James Rainsford; used with permission via the dverse site.
Also at my poetic cairn, Poets United!

Two, two, two prompts in one post!  Nifty. First is from Six Word Saturday, in which you sum up your life at that moment in… six words. Second, The Sunday Whirl: First, read the poem; then, I’ll give you the words we were given to craft our work. Also posted at the collective, Poets United. Peace, Amy

Rain, snow, Wisconsin – cold as charity!

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil



Making Her Way

Coatless in a sea of ermine and chinchilla.
Unaware of the shadow cast by multimillionaires
who bask in the fullness of their coffers.
She knows that, before this night ends…

  • Some facelift will admonish her through plump silicone lips,
    “See this meal? The veal is tough. Take it back to the kitchen.”
  • After Happy Hour, a sloppydroolingdrunk day trader will
    spill Merlot on her pristine white apron.
  • After nine, she will be summoned to a table by the wave of
    glistening metal – a prawn fork, most likely.

She herself is a daughter of Big Money,
but she prefers to make her own way in the world.
Waitressing pays for her classes and
postage-stamp-cramped room in Brooklyn.

End of shift, she pulls on jacket and wooly cap
to catch the subway home.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

The Sunday Whirl Wordle included these words:
White, Returned, Coatless, Shadow, Prefers, Wooly, Daughter, Admonish, Fullness, Metal, Unaware, and Kitchen.

Home At Last

Cuddled under my favorite purple afghan,
(“When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple”)
contemplating the months just passed;
dreaming of the year to come…

How did it happen that we landed in Madison?
These people, who see me not as troublesome,
but a graying sprite with her feet solidly on earth
(even as her mind lags, or revs – or does somersaults).

A faith community of solid citizens
who know that worship is not some game
of collecting brownie points with God,
because God always grades on a curve.

Our choir sings with gusto.
The bell choir rings sweetly.
The praise band brings it,
makes the Spirit spring within us.

Was it luck that landed me here in this state
of Badgers and Packers, a hundred varieties
of cheese, and even more kinds of beer? This
hearty stew of politics and action and reaction,

as we fly toward the audacious goal of
booting the Guv back to his Brothers Koch?
Students who actually live downtown near
the university? Poetry readings and buskers?

What brought me here? I’m in heaven, yet all I did
was follow the love of my life to a new church,
a new ministry. (Wither thou goest, I shall go…)
It wasn’t luck – it was God. And it was love.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Brenda Warren’s Sunday Whirl gave us a dozen words to weave into a poem: year, fly, earth, happen, citizen, luck, states, dream, trouble, purple, lag, and game. Check out The Whirl and give it a try!


Today, I’ll stroll to Mary’s place.
The patio screen scritchscratches with my departure.
Why lock it? Next Door Nan will be at home.

Sneakers on grass, bristling the sunburnt ground cover
The brush of palm fronts bending to grant me passage
And all along the way, crickets chirping

Now my sneaks scrape along the sidewalk,
past Pete the shoe repair guy, who waves.
“Time for that again?” he jokes.

“Yupper,” I shout, as my finger makes
little circles around my ear. “I’ll bring my
sandals over tomorrow, hope you can save ‘em!”

A profusion of orange flowers, “ditch lilies” they call them here,
but I dead-head the wizened, faded flowers,
pitch them into the fray, mulch for another day.

(Someday, I will be wizened and faded, too –
but if they want to toss me into the mulch pile,
they’ll have to catch me first!)

Finally the clip-clop upstairs, into the waiting room
with the fountain that always makes me need to pee.
Then, the soft inhale of a door opening:

“Amy?” smiles Mary, my therapist.
“Let’s do this sucker,” I laugh, and whoosh!
The door shuts. Tears to be shed, secrets to keep.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For We Write Poems‘ prompt, Walk. Also on display at Poets United! Peace, Amy

ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter, “Z”! (Do we start on the Cyrillic alphabet now?) Also at the poetic collective, Poets United.

This poem is based on the phenomenon that effectively destroyed my piano-bar career… Amy

Zithromax (Think Before Lighting Up Indoors)

A smoky club, the trapped wait staff
take your orders and get the shaft.

While you puff a cig or two,
others do just as you do.

You can leave and breathe fresh air;
singers, barkeeps, stuck in there

Low-wage job with no insurance;
Z-pac samples help endurance.

When you blithely light that match
think of what the workers catch.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Three Word Wednesday prompted us with: Cease, Heat, and Nasty. A million ways you can go with that, but I was reminded of those punishing Manhattan summers. Thom G, thinking of you and my other NYC friends now.

This is also at our poetry collective, Poets United, which (if you scroll down to the second article) has an interview with… MOI! I was so honored. Thanks again, Sherry Blue Sky, for tapping into my brain. A brave chore, that! Amy

City Summer

City sidewalks
drink in summer heat
absorbing as through pores and
releasing a scalded, nasty smell:

Part spilled lattes
Parts updraft of subway tracks, their litter and rats
Part dog who missed the tree
Part dog owner who didn’t bring a plastic bag

Part bare feet of the homeless,
never to cease their quest for
the shelter of a bit of shade

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Damp Laundry

Mom and damp laundry
Despite new products, incensed:
The skid marks remained

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Three Word Wednesday:  Damp, Incensed, Skid

…and your second helping (hope you already ate dinner!):


The new apartment was spotless:
Creamy carpets calming, yet daring any mud
to tread or trespass.

Spacious closets; bathroom, a religious experience.
We moved in, delighted to have found
a small space offering big comfort.

Then I stepped into the hallway
shared by a dozen apartment front doors.
Smacked in the schnozz by a complicated, rank odor.

Some good:  Spices, worthy chefs working ethnic magic.
Much more body odor… culturally acceptable
where the bodies originated, harking back to my East Side days.

Worst – cigarette smoke sneaking out to play hookie,
curling, wending its way from under some front doors.
Lingering like a London pea-souper, toxic fog.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
ABC Wednesday – R, and Poetic Asides, “Telling it like it is.” Also at my poetic home-away-from-blog, Poets United!

Women’s Work
(a cento, from Carl Sandburg’s “Working Girls”)

over the way, the women who know each one the
lunches wrapped in newspapers under their arms
so here are always the others, those who have been
going, so many with a peach bloom of young years
arms that passed around their waists and the fingers

woman life I feel a wonder about where it is all
on the downtown streets
that played in their hair

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore

From We Write Poems, a prompt for a cento: Another poet’s writing, taking only certain lines and rearranging them to form a new poem. These lines are from my favorite poet, Carl Sandburg, and his poem, “Working Girls.” Also posted at my poetic home, Poets United, where you can find a plethora of amazing poets on their right sidebar, constantly updating with links.