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

Tag Archives: Death & Dying

Hell-Bent Trail

“I’m in a hurry,
don’t worry.

“I’ve had a libation (or five),
but I can handle the drive.”

Behind the wheel, no trrrrrouble
Rolled a fattie, toked it double

Charged straight through the toll
Confused, but on a roll

Doing 70, gazing at stars,
his eyes settled on Mars.

Meanwhile, a mom needed grahams for s’mores
Asked her Mindy to walk to the store.

The hit-and-run, no surprise…
Chased and charged with her demise.

She was two months short of twenty,
future that was filled with plenty.

That girl was all spit and spunk…
sacrificed to a hell-bent drunk.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Trifecta (“trail”) and The Sunday Whirl: Accident, Toll, Libation, Handle, Trouble, Mars, Ask, Charged, Settle, Confused, Sacrificed, Plenty. Also at Poets United.
THINK BEFORE YOU TURN THAT IGNITION KEY. ACCEPT THE RIDE HOME, Y’ALL. And yes, buzzed driving IS impaired driving. Peace, Amy

Three Word Wednesday offered us Grip, Pain, and Thread. Here is what those words gave to me.

This poem also appears on the right sidebar at Poets United.  Peace, and healing for those who need it, Amy


Point of View

She would prefer the window view,
but no complaints, she’ll make do.

She’s made it this far on the course,
as her grip on life slips bad to worse.

Cancer coarses through each vein;
poisonous threads are weaving pain.

When Hell’s spider is finally finished,
her spirit won’t be diminished.

She’ll rise from her hospice bed
and find a heavenly view instead.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

FIRST – a word from Amy. I am not ignoring your comments. My husband, Lex, was just installed (big ceremonial goings-on at our new church home, Lake Edge United Church of Christ in Madison, WI. His mom was able to be here; his friend Rev. Michael Ware (of Webster Baptist Church in Webster, NY) delivered a sermon than included “Amens” and even singing (the man is a force of nature and of the Spirit); and the pastor who introduced us and eventually married us, Rev. Cliff Aerie, who now does sacred jazz (, brought his sax and joined me and the praise band for music. It rocked, and this new church home has welcomed us with open arms. It’s like family. So I promise to get “back on the job” today or tomorrow, answer all your comments, and post daily once again.

Having said that, the prompt was “Surrender,” and this one is sort of not what you would expect to some from a joyful weekend, but that’s how it goes! Peace to all, and thanks for your patience, Amy


it’s being left behind
No matter how long the letting go
a piercing pain of loss permeates
every point of human contact
The look in their eyes
Phone calls from relatives you wrote off long ago and
acquaintances from bridge and board meetings
They’re all so sorry (they never really knew him)
They remember him (vaguely, but you never had us over to dinner)

The Viewing
A blur of
I’m sorry call me are you OK (duh) call me
he was such a good man what a loss to the family
the community
the world
call me

The Funeral
Same readings as your parents’ services
Same minister, even (wow, he’s getting old)
At the words, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms”
you break down, everybody cries, all fall down
Whoever wrote that part of the Bible
really understood torch songs

The minister drones on about our beloved
He didn’t really know my husband
This is more my church than it ever was his

If funerals are for the living
they should skip the eulogy

Soon The Box will be planted
but our love will continue to grow
through tears and healing and memories and stories we tell
He was just that good

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Sunday Scribblings (Surrender) and my poetic home, Poets United

No Limit To Tears

Powerful, the cry of anguish.
Happens at the end of your rope.
That heaving, full-moon cry,
the howl of a wounded animal.

After Death has taken another,
the scythe merciless and swift…
or sometimes wielding a precise,
torturous scalpel.

When Death strangled Mom, my tears
fell faster than ducts could release them;
my head filled with salt water,
clogging my brain, my mind.

Tears poured forth in a torrent,
flooding the room.
I floated in that pool for hours until,
gut-sore, I was washed back to my room.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For We Write Poems (Take it to the Limit), and Poets United.

The prompt at NaPoWriMo was to write a poem using words you hate. This covers a wide spectrum from one part of my life. I miss you, Jeff. Love, Amer

Panel from the Memory Project

Pneumocystis Pneumonia (PCP)

Prone on the steel-back chair.
Probed straight down the gullet.
Cysts and rancid breath emerge
as he lay stupefied.
He will awaken and count the hours.
Tick, tock, curse the clock.

Swabs grabbed cultures.
Petrie dishes cook up the fetid truth:
He has it.
He has full-blown AIDS.
It is 1985.
He is 32.
Tick. tock, curse the clock.

Skeletal soon enough, too soon.
Patches of scabs peel off his scalp.
Bactrin on every sink so that
if he barfs, bleeds, or brays
we can wash it off.
Tick, tock, curse the clock.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Also posted at Writer’s Island (Day 28) and Poets United.

Poetic Asides offered an interesting prompt, “Never again.” This is a hard one to read, but I hope it will give someone, anyone out there second thoughts if they ever consider taking their own life… Peace, Amy


Bloodletting bride of
Over-rated solution to
Delusion tells you it’s
the only way out
(“Please proceed to the nearest exit”)

Psych meds assuage the
Numb it, dumb it down
But for the dedicated
Hounds of hell at their
In the end
it’s the end.

A final farewell to friends, family
Never mind who finds you
Don’t worry, your mom will bleach
the bathtub
But the sight will frighten and
haunt them forever

Never say never – again, I say:
Pick up the phone
Make the call
You are loved

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Poetic Asides’ “Spring” prompt, and for Three Word Wednesday (Dual, Identical, Volley).  She was the world’s first superstar, captivating us – whether as a Hollywood home-wrecker, star of one of the biggest box-office losers of all time (Cleopatra, in which she met her match, Richard Burton… so who really lost there?), and finally, fulfilling her promise as a person of influence by becoming one of the world’s most vehement activists in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  God rest and keep you, Elizabeth Taylor.

Liz (Farewell)

Young Elizabeth, whose eyes were
dual violet gemstones, capturing the hearts
of a generation: Velvet Brown
astride her beloved racehorse, Pie.

Liz. the National Bitch who stole Eddie Fisher’s heart
from America’s Sweetheart, Debbie Reynolds
Sexy Liz, who married seven times
(including twice to an identical husband, Richard Burton).

Elizabeth Taylor, survivor of disease,
bad press, bad marriages… redeemed by activism;
who threw an early volley at HIV/AIDS,
challenging the world to spring into action.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

The Thursday Think Tank at Poetic Asides asked for poems about “Hope for Japan.”


When the ground beneath her desk rolled like
a carpet shaken of its dust, like
the rollercoaster when Yuki screamed and laughed, yet like
something unnamed and horrible.

She thought, “This is IT.
The final moment, or the beginning of many
final moments.”

Crawling out of her cubicle,
scenes never to be erased from her memory.
Ten minutes before, she and Hayashi had shared a cigarette,
and a kiss, in the stairwell.
Now, he was pinned under a desk, eyes glazed;
a picture of their trip to Kanagawa as they regarded the roses
had fluttered to the ground, settling on his chest.
Was this the last thing he saw? His last good memory?
She prayed it was so.

Then came a blur of
walking nightmare people
bottled water
pictures posted with notes
questions without answers
Earthquake, tsunami, nuclear disaster

And of course, government downplayed the severity of radiation

She and Kenji commuted inland daily from their home in Sendai;
Father enjoyed the view of surf.
Why had Kenji taken the day off?
She knew now her brother was gone, as well as their parents,
swept from earth as waves wiped the chalkboard clean.

Alone. Safe. Not safe. Scared.
A butterfly chose her at random, gracing her
with a dizzying dance of color and life.

“If only I had the mind of an insect,” she thought,
as bile rose in her throat. “At least butterflies hold the key to hope:
Living free for a season, surrendering peacefully to death.”

Her only hope was that the world see, and learn, what her grandmother
had told her, as she revealed the flowered tattoos of her Nagasaki childhood:
Men’s greed and grandiose technology will never defeat the ferocity of nature.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

At Poets United, the Thursday Think Tank prompt was Ghosts.   Everyone should have a favorite one, right?  Amy

So Near

The spider web draws past my cheek
I know she’s near
A whisper in the back of my being
A tug on that loose thread on my sleeve
A feeling of longing to see her again

She’s here, unseen but wholly present
when I need her most,
conjuring a smile from my sullen face,
reminding me that death is not the end,
but a beginning.

Blanche floats along
with the cloud of witnesses
especially for my benefit.
I am not afraid, for she is my angel:
My reminder of connection to the eternal.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Sunday Scribblings posted the prompt, “raw.”  Doesn’t get much rawer than this.  Never forget.  Amy

Raw Nerve

When paneled vans began patrolling towns
in 1930s Germany, offering rides to vagrants,
making house calls on parent
of oddly-formed children,
no one seemed to notice.
No one cared.

When, street by street, whole families of Jews
“moved on” in the middle of the night,
it just have been to another town,
thought the good townspeople.
And though they would miss
Mrs. Weiss’s braided breads,
no one cared.

When each morning smokestacks rained
strange white ash on village streets,
people whispered, but no one spoke aloud.
No one cared.

When swastikas and crosses blurred in symbolism,
the good Christians didn’t think twice.
No one cared.

The secret to brutal injustice,
to tyranny and genocide,
hinges on this:
The majority’s apathy.

No one cared,
much less dared to ask
what the hell was going on.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil