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

Tag Archives: dverse

Hamlet and Juliet in A Midsummer Twelfth Night’s Sonnet on Shakespeare’s Birthday
(with apologies to Will)

In my salad days, when I was green in judgment,
not stepping o’er the bounds of modesty,
I was a dish fit for the gods.

Now I’m in my prime, set up with a posh little Upper East Side co-op and a hefty trust fund from Daddy… plus a live-in honey who’s fast losing his sweetness. Nothing in his life becomes him, and nothing will come of nothing.

He awoke, rounded with a little sleep. “Ay, me…”

“I have not slept one wink,” I bitched, rubbing my sore bottom. “What a piece of work is man! Do you think I am easier played on than a pipe?”

He leapt from the bed. “That is should come to this! Why, only last night you cried, A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!

“True it is,” I countered, “that we have seen better days. Yet brevity is the soul of conscience, and the” (wince) “parting was such sweet sorrow.”

He was pi-i-i-issed. “Tempt not a desperate man, for delays make dangerous ends.”

(Now I’m thinking, “MY end got all the ‘danger’ last night… He hath eaten me out of house and home, and he thinks too much, with a lean and hungry look. There’s daggers in men’s smiles, and… is this a dagger I see before me?”)

I pointed to the door. “Out, damned Snot! Out, I say! Men of few words are the best men, and your tale is told by an idiot.”

“The course of love never did run smooth,” he stammered. “Shall we meet again?”

(Trying to live down the riddle… Q: ‘What do you call a bass player without a girlfriend?’ A: ‘Homeless.’)

He continued, “Don’t forget, dearest, we have a palimony agreement. You’ll pay a great deal too dear,” he grinned, “for what’s been given freely.”

“The game is up.” I stamped my little bare foot and caught a splinter. “This is the worst!”

He tried to rustle up tears as he packed. “There words are razors to my wounded heart. I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for Daws to pick at.”

(I knew that has-been “Mork and Mindy” chick Pamela Daws was after him, ever since the gig at the China Club.)

“In my mind’s eye,” I said, thinking of the money I’d have to pay this jerk, “shall I compare thee to the dogs of war? A borrower with a dull edge? The world is grown so bad, the fool doth think he is wise.”

I escorted him to the door. He shambled out, his bass hanging on his back like a monkey. Then, turning back to me, he whimpered, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s-” SLAM!

Peace at last. “I like this place, and willingly would waste my time in it.” Then, cutting the first of many checks I’d have to pay my new ex, I grumbled, “But first… let’s kill all the lawyers.”

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

It’s the Bard’s birthday! He’d be three days older than water today.  This is also (and this is so tragically Shakespearean) the anniversary of his death, so he deserves something special.   Imaginary Garden With Real Toads asked us to have our way with him (well, with his writing, anyway), but I gathered so many snippets from so many plays and sonnets, if I tried to do citations, they would run longer than the piece itself. I leave it to you, my oh-so-savvy readers, to separate the Will from the chaff.  This will also be posted to dverse Open Mic Night.

NaPoWriMo #23 and still ticking! This form, which employs lines from other writer(s) re-ordered to create a new poem, is called something or other, but dang, I can’t remember. Paging Viv!! Peace, Amy


Second poem of the day, I could not resist the dverse prompt about Spring, which means play, gardening, general silliness coming as a consequence of long Wisconsin winters, and… wordplay! Amy

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SPRING AGAIN

Midwesterners aSPiRING to a quick thaw
as laSt year’s caPRIs cliNG to our memories

We know that SPRING is not far behind
and we’ll Soon bitch about sPiRitING away
A/C to ward off intenSe PeRspirING

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


Attica Arrest(ed development)

One day, by my driveway
A man in a used sedan was stopped by a cop
for D.W.B. (Driving While Black)

I know this is so because I asked the officer
why the man was pulled over

Officer Smithjones replied,
“He was driving with an impaired view of his windshield.”
Come again?
“He had Mardi Gras beads hanging from his rear view mirror.”

Oh. Then my sharp little pie-eater opened wide,
first muttering, then sputtering, uttered at top volume
(for the benefit of staring, but unconcerned, neighbors):

“All the rednecks in this town with
big fuzzy dice like dried-up 20-mule-team
cajones hanging in their big ole trucks, and
you stopped this man over a string of beads?
And you wonder why people decry we’re a
‘don’t-let-the-sun-set-on-your-ass’ town?”

To make it more poignantly, patently ridiculous,
the poor guy was trying to make his way to AA

Ironic, since that town
almost drove me to drink

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For dverse, our ‘bartender’ Kelvin asked for poems in the form of an anecdote. Keep it short and sweet and interesting. Also for Sunday Scribblings, where the prompt is “sharp.”

I still can’t believe I survived five years in a town where someone flew a Confederate flag in front of his house and the “N” word was used without hesitation.  Of course, I have no time for racism and I do call it out.  I hate being in a Wonder Bread crowd and people assuming I’m “one of the gang.”  I’m social justice, hard core, sharp tongue and all.  It loses me friends, but when it does, I say, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” because they were not friends to begin with – friends share values, like integrity.

True story, edited from an old version. Though I knew many wonderful folks during our years there, the authoritarian figures were often racist and WAY out of line. I believe it’s part of the blowback of never having reconciliation sessions after the “Attica Prison Riots” of the ‘70s.


Higher Math

Nickels and dimes
And twelve shiny quarters
Clinked, one at a time,
into their secret stash,
a souvenir metal box from
their trip to Hershey Park
Back when Dad was still home
And before Mom’s blues set in

Saving up to buy her
a present, to cheer her up
It’s our job, says sister to little brother
Little boy nods and digs deep into his
back pocket for another precious dime
Soon they’ll have enough for
that perfume she loves… loved

Loose change changes into loss
as Mom finds the cache of coins
Swipes smalldream savings
Asks Next Door Sally to watch
her sleeping ones while she makes a
midnight milk run. Sneaks off to
the casino, where nickels and dimes
become more shiny quarters and then
slot machine fodder. Then on to the ATM…

Three months later, waking the kids
in the back seat, she drives to Mickey D’s
for breakfast (won’t hurt them for a while,
she reckons). Combs their hair, checks
for lice as she softly inflicts blame on
their father for walking out. “Let’s get
moving or you’ll be late for class.”
The present for Mom, long forgotten,
but her betrayal festers within them

School teaches her kids
addition.
Mom teaches them
subtraction.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Image from Wikimedia Commons, by photographer William Holtkamp

This mom may live just down the block. Right now, things are OK, but eventually, boredom and that damned little addictive gene could give way to drinking before lunch. Or a divorce leaves her broke, while the Trophy Wife is pregnant with “Dad’s New Family.” Perhaps she is simply depressed and, on a lark, tries meth at a friend’s house (the first hit’s always free).

There are a thousand ways women are blamed for these situations, and in some cases, it’s true. But no matter who leaves whom, or who takes what, the kids pay the price. And the kids in this poem were ready to give their all for their mom.

“Irony.” The prompt at dverse poets today. Also at my gambling-free hangout, Poets United.  Peace, Amy


Mary, Queen of Rights

Raise your voices as one
to a woman who lost it all:
Widowed, children dead from dread yellow fever.
After kids perished, she nursed neighbors.

To a woman who rose from grief and chose
to take up the burden of others:
Mothers, fathers, children, laboring side by side
in factories, in fields, on farms; long hours for pennies,
as their cruel, crafty masters garnered a tidy profit.

Fat cats whose fortunes were secure.
Rich men whose better angels whispered,
“Show love, compassion.”
But Greed and Hubris shout down the likes of angels.
They blot out God in a frenzied cloud of
green ink and gold coins numbering 30 and more.

Still, this widow woman knew nothing and cared less
about her own comfort. Others’ welfare trumped wealth
in her sensibilities; she saw only exploited masses.

She trod into the mines and the mills.
She talked in the fields, where the hopeless
worked long hours under punishing conditions.
She could juggle advocacy, jailings, and public speaking;
she was, indeed, “the most dangerous woman in America.”

She spoke of dignity (if she’d stopped short there,
she’d never have been slapped in a jail cell).
She spoke of fairness (watch it, lady).
She shouted about rights (ah, the gloves were off now).

She stirred the pot, this big little woman,
pistol under her petticoat, taking on police
sent by their rich masters to break up strikes.

She was the voice of unions, the midwife of labor.
Let’s raise a toast in tribute to this hero,
who warned us that labor leaders should never
wear fancy suits or fatten up through union dues
(are you listening, gentlemen?).
A woman who taught us that, no matter what
the rank and file must be protected:

Raise your glasses high to Mary “Mother” Jones.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Trifecta, which tossed us the word “juggle” in the sense of handling many tasks. Perfect for this subject, no? Also for dverse Open Mic Night.

In our house growing up, Mother Jones was a patron saint. Social justice is only achieved when regular folks get together to affect change. If anyone could be considered “just folks,” it was Mary Jones. I wonder what she would think of some of our union leaders today? For as the rich demonize unions and spit on the rank and file, they should really address their complaints to greedy union bosses, something Mother Jones warned us about in her autobiography.

Remember, it’s not the average wage slave at fault: It’s corrupt bosses, bought off by the likes of the “usual suspects,” the ALEC crew and the Kochs. UNION YES!

In the words of Mother Jones, “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living,” Amy

Photo used by permission of the Women’s Rights Museum.


WHERE’S MY PENCIL?
Ally Web
My main ambition
my true volition
is to drain my head
through the lead
of a Ticonderoga #2
with poems, bright or blue

While others try
to paint a sky or butterfly, I
pollock my journals
with words scrawled above urinals
and turn folks off with truth
about dads, late nights, and vermouth

Social injustice feeds my need
I write with deliberate speed
before the thought goes awry
(my steel-sieve mind is known to fly)
And just when they think
I’m on the brink

of a total implosion
or mental erosion
I’ll come back with one
about how clowns aren’t fun
or talk to the president, poet-to-man
because drones still rule Afghanistan

Frackers, have fear
Amy’s still here
Secret Service, kiss my ass
I’ll face you again before I pass
And Blanche, my angel of mystery
Keep on sending vibes to me

I write to prove
I’m in the groove
The straight girl who’s an ally
to every queer woman and guy
I write to say,
“I’m here today”

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

for dverse, Brian Miller’s Pretzels & Bullfights wanted a poem about why we write. Me? It’s all about the bitching and the truth-blood-letting and the mental illness and the child abuse… and making it understandable for those who either have experienced it or need to understand.


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


At dverse, Hobgoblin asked us to attempt a poem in a foreign language. While I did spend years in Puerto Rico, my Spanish is a mite rusty; that’s why I buy bilingual volumes of Neruda, to strengthen that connection. Let’s see what you think (the English translation follows).

San Juan por la noche

Noches en la playa
de mi Borrinquen querido

Con mi amor, sin abarcas en la arena
y la aroma del mar

Besos dulces, cervezas frias
Manos entrelazarse

Estrellas bialando
por la cadencia de nos corazones

Muchos anos pasados,
yo recuerdo este amor… suave y eterno

TRANSLATION

San Juan at Night

Nights on the beach
of my beloved Puerto Rico

With my love, barefoot in the sand
and the scent of the sea

Sweet kisses, cold beer
Hands intertwined

The stars dancing
to the rhythm of our hearts

After so many years,
I remember that love… tender and eternal

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Also at “la casa de poecia,” Poets United!


Peace and War and Pieces of Human Beings on the Ground

Hiroshima met Fat Man
or rather, Fat Man
sat on Hiroshima,
then swallowed it whole,
including civilians.

Japanese neighborhoods
did not understand the
death knell of “the flash.”
they only saw seared bodies
bobbing on river’s surface.

Ancient remedies could not
damage the damage done to
frail Japanese bodies,
some tattooed with the
pattern of a dress or shirt.

Scientists in America had
mixed opinions; some were
happy with their new-found status
as innovators, adventurers
in the heretofore unknown.

Most others signed a petition,
pleading with the government
to not inflict their dragonbaby
on innocents. They wished
they hadn’t been so clever.

Japan was losing the war;
America claimed the bombing
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
saved the lives of 100,000 troops –
men who knew the score.

Every life is precious, has
potential to create. There is
no such thing as a just war,
and no war ever creates peace.
It simply withdraws armaments.

Until the next time.

© Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For dverse, where host Mary asked for poems about peace. This may be the odd approach, but I stand by it as a pacifist.

Saw the movie “Black Rain.” Very tough and so moving, it makes a case for the end of nuclear weapons, which America still stockpiles. The movie is must for students of WWII… or for anyone who believes that the US had to drop hydrogen bombs at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The indelible effects of our awful weapons destroyed entire cities and put countless civilians through hell.

We wept when the Towers went down. But imagine all of NYC leveled, from the Battery to the Bronx. Or even your own town. Leveled by foreigners who had a new toy and wanted to show their supremacy.

I, too, wept when the Towers collapsed – because I knew that war was imminent, despite Bush’s assurances of diplomacy first. And the cost of the current war to Iraqi and Afghani civilians is higher than our own troops. War is an evil act. Why not try peace? Let the war machine bitch all they want. They could be building housing for the homeless instead. Peace, Amy


There was a prompt on dverse called “Missing You” that, of course, I missed linking to.  To which I missed linking.  Linking missed did I.  Whatever!  Fortunately, Imaginary Garden With Real Toads is hosting Open Link Monday, so thanks, Kerry!

During Advent, I remember large and small kindnesses, and I think about those I’ve lost over the years. “And of all these friends and lovers, there is no one compares to you.” With a nod to John Lennon, here a a poem about the person I miss so much.

NOTE:  All poems regarding my relationship with my father are about me and me alone.  I make no claims, nor do I speak for my sisters.

Charlotte and Amer 001

MISSING CHARLOTTE

The coffee shared at the cigbutt-scarred
kitchen table (my workspace now).

The stories, especially when you were
drunk as a skunk, rambling on about

our noteworthy obscure Irish lineage.
Our family totem: Gordon’s and an ashtray.

Grandma Blanche exacting revenge
on Bill, who cheated with her best friend.

Wish you had taken a picture of his face
when he walked in, realizing he was busted.

The nights you went off to sing, scent of
Tigress cologne, the black sequins and

paste jewelry from Blanche, I called them
“dime mints,” the teardrop earrings you wore.

The teardrops signified more: Breakfast
wearing sunglasses, Dad hit you the night before

after doing me in a fit of jealousy – Dad sure
you were fooling around at your gig, you dig?

Next morning, to church, choir director… first,
vodka bracer, no lie detector, I’d never tell

Your secrets were safe with me and my
secrets I didn’t know until after you both died.

Mama, you told me we were both descended
from sirens. I didn’t think you meant

ambulances, yet backward glances tell me
(in the hindsight that trumps your own truth),

you were a mess, and so loveable, and so
weak, and so in need, and so on. I know.

I’m the dark mirth of the Irish, the mother of
a savant, the keeper of memories, of the love.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

My mother was an enigmatic, persuasive lioness who occasionally retreated to helpless-kitten states through alcohol. She drank because she didn’t want to be “crazy” like her mother, Blanche, who was bipolar like me, but because of the times, was institutionalized and Frankenshocked through the 30s and 40s. Charlotte drank because she didn’t want to “notice” Dad sneaking up the hall after his little girls had gone to bed. And she drank to warm up her razor-sharp memory for “the telling of the stories,” our family history. Some people tell the same stories over and over… which start out like funny mice but, over the years, morph into elephants. Not Mama. I was her witness, and I know she would be glad I write about all the mess, the booze, the music, the tears, and the bellyaching laughter… and yes, even the abuse.

Hug your parents tight, if they are with you. My depression comes and goes, but hers was long, tortured, and I thank God that now, she is at peace. Miss you, Mama. Love, Amer

Photo taken by my Grandpa Bill in August 1959, during a visit to Mom’s home town, Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Copyright is with me.