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

Tag Archives: Ekphrastic


Not what I thought I’d paint this day
Not at all, the dizzying colors and
figures from last night’s dream

I tossed the covers
Stirred the maid from her rest
Even woke my wife in the next room

A dragon gave chase and I
was naked screaming running
Bare and barely missing his fiery, explosive tongue

Now the dream is slowing settling on wood
The creature and my whirling flaccid flesh
And a phrase I still don’t understand: Barney & Friends

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Imaginary Garden of Real Toads gave us this Rembrandt, “Artist in His Studio.” I put myself in his cobbled boots and decided to give him a little scare… and myself a chuckle! Amy

Sing to Spring
(Fade in on open field, where members of the local Women’s Chorus are engaged in their annual ritual of welcoming the new season. Dressed like milkmaids; everyone thinks they are a little nutty.)

Amorous buxom choristers, dancing everywhere
Fearless, guileless, heaving inspirations, juggling knowledge and
lascivious, mature natures…
Pendulum quickens; rhythmic sashay turns vibrant windmill…

(Two hours later, at a coffee shop, the event concludes with these time-honored words…)
Yum!  Zabaglione!

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Yes, my mother told me that, one fine spring day, a group of her friends from a local women’s barbershop group got together and did indeed “Sing to the Spring.” Of course, it didn’t involve a coffee shop; methinks they were slightly hammered!

For Imaginary Garden With Read Toads, where “Play It Again, Toads” found me attracted to Marian’s ABC romp through the alphabet, along with Margaret’s post of “Spring – detail” (1890) by Thomas Wilmer Dewing.  Peace, Amy (and what a fun singer was my Mom, right?)


Take the A train? Hell, no
I’ve faster ways to go

Head south on Amsterdam
Keep low and lively, ma’am

I filter through the fog
and gusting city smog

The traffic’s fierce, you see
I keep it high and free

Some pieces of the News
Fly by in folded twos

Through bitter cold and then
I spring balloon to end

And climb on up and out
the fountain’s water spout

The cries of “Viva! Viva!”
when I arrive, La Diva

Enough to warm my heart
And now my gig I start

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

The “B” on the balloon is for Barlow, my former stage name. At dverse Poets Pub, we were challenged to an ekphrastic prompt – writing to an image; I used words from The Sunday Whirl. The brill artist is Judith Clay, and you can see more of her fantastic fantasies and read other poets HERE, as well as check out what other poets did with the Whirl Wordle HERE.

Fun prompt. Was ready for one. It was a long week, but things are looking up! Peace, Amy

Midsummer moist, midcity malaise until
block party can be heard two blocks away
Grab a sixpack from the fridge and
amble on over, no invite needed

Scrambled egos debating
Elvis vs. Beatles which
morphs into
Beatles vs. Stones
Who’s the host? The entire
block, sweaty from setup and
quenching thirst with first
bottle that passes
Kids and Popsicles, boys
chase girls and some chase
other boys

“Steamed clams up!” shouts
a generously endowed Tejana
Her radio channel is Mexican; it
blares trumpets and voices and
drums, overtaking Mumford & Sons
next door (Mumford’s mom is mellow,
doesn’t seem to mind)

Generosity here, tamales and
samosas, curries and jello,
the United Nations of food

Drinking local microbrews or
sipping red wine in jelly jars;
soda, water, soda water
Everything free and donations
pour in from neighboring blocks

Dancing, commence
Drum circle, all welcome
Serious rhythm, bone deep and
daring anyone to stand still
Swaying to the beat, one kid
picks up a djembe and beats
a scribbled, disjointed pathway
No one tells him to do different

Block party, where police kindly
cordon off the street and some
come in to join the fun
Block party, kind of like a rave
without the pesky Ecstasy
Just noise and sweat and
as they say in Brooklyn:
It ain’t the heat
It’s the humanity

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Joseph at Naming Constellations put up some pieces for ekphrastic poetry last year, and I revisited the prompt. I chose a Pollock, “Autumn Rhythm,” which caught my sense of smell and sound, rather a piece based on synesthesia as much as the ekphrastic prompt. I could immediately hear the drums and laughter, smell the clams in the steamer… This prompt was a feast for all my senses. Thanks, Joseph, and please find more poets answering this prompt HERE.

This can also be found at the hedgelines of Imaginary Garden With Real Toads and my poetic block party that never ends, Poets United.  Peace and steamed clams, Amy

Image by L. Diane Wolfe, used by permission of the artist


In the left corner
maneuver this heady circumference

Rough and jagged as
and just as blue
Stepping lightly, lest

fall into the bowl
scratching again with nails
bloody from the task

See the marks from
years past
No one else here so

continue my inchworming
Whoops! that damned crag
hit it last time around

Slipdip and down
go, clawing my way to the top
like a silicone starlet

There is no end to this
circumspect circumnavigation
am doomed, Sisyphus in ceramic

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Ella interview L. Diane Wolfe, a photographer whose work has been evolving for over 23 years; Ella found her on Diane graciously offered the Toads some of her pieces to use as inspiration for poetry.

Also “in the margin” at Poets United, my other outlet!  Peace, Amy

Slowly, Slowly (an ekphrastic poem: inspired by an image)

image: Blondine and the Tortoise, Virginia Frances Sterrett: Old French Fairy Tale

Slowly, Slowly

Dim, the forest
Hushed is the breeze
Stars sing o’er us
Quiet, the leaves

Travel slowly
on her smooth back
through the midnight
rambling, the track

Dodge all fauna,
trees of the ages
Carry me home
in dreamlike stages

© Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Kerry O’Connor granted me welcome release from events of the past week by gaving us several works by the same artist, Virginia Frances Sterrett, an American artist who died of tuberculosis at 30.  The illustrations, so intricate and dreamy, were the antidote, for a while, anyway, to Boston and its nightmarish week.  Who can imagine what this wildly talented woman could have produced, had she been granted a fuller lifetime?

I saw this image of the woman riding the tortoise and was thrown into a dream all my own. Who could see her work and not be entranced?  To view more of her sumptuous illustrations, click here.  Peace and prayers for the same, Amy

Skipping Rope at the Threshold

As often as we might come here
We are never skeptical of the weather
Even a slight shower will not control
our bold urge to unwind en la parque

I am the first of eight; I control the sign to
go or stay. Mama is home; the ninth hermano
almost here. At the threshold of womanhood,
I wield my sword of power gracefully.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Painting by Joaquin Sorolla, Public Domain


Day 14 of NaPoWriMo finds me once again in the Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, where Hedgewitch suggested an ekphrastic piece based on the artwork Joaquin Sorolla y Batista, a Spanish painter whose works emphasized the natural light of his homeland and the people who dwelt under that light.

Also for the Sunday Whirl, where I managed to get the dozen words in two stanzas. Whew! Thanks, Brenda, for the prompt. Also for the Poetry Pantry at Poets United, where the weather’s always fine.

Heads or Tails

Play or battle?

Neither realizing
both have scales
and cold blood
More things in common
than not

So it is with the game of war
played out across the globe
The US, the big fat crocodile

Everyone else worldwide
viewed by our military leaders as
slippery, needlekiller snakes

Croc’s jaws are mighty,
but venom has its own power

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Mama Zen’s Words Count prompt at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads gave us several gorgeous scientific images by Maria Sibylla Merian. I chose this because I could not ignore the balance of this drawing; and yet, there’s also an imbalance. So size “matters,” but the lithe serpent has fangs. This could go either way. The huge, well-fed croc (America) seems to have control over the snake (pick a country), but will that be the end? Or shall the snake morph into Medusa, exacting her own revenge… or quagmire?  As a tiny scale on that croc, I wish I had some sway, some say, over who the hell is grinding our military jaws in MY name.  Both let go, everybody wins.  Aren’t we above animal games?

NOTES ON ILLUSTRATOR: Ms. Merian was a woman ahead of her time. She traveled (with her daughter and – GASP! – no male guardian) in 1699 to South America to illustrate wildlife. Click on the “Toads” link to see more of her artwork, which is all public domain. The name of her insect collection, published in 1705, is Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium; however, this is obviously from another collection.

Also posted at my snake-free swamp (in the very best M*A*S*H sense of the word), Poets United.  Peace, Amy

“Strong Dream” by Paul Klee (1879 – 1940)

Healing the Wounded Womb (an ekphrastic poem*)

Years ago,
the midnight cramps
the passing of the piece
One whole fetus
in the palm of my hand, and

calling the doctor,
was told that, if in fact
the baby was intact,
I should take it to his
office tomorrow.

Sorrow wrapped it in plastic,
stored in the egg cutouts
of the fridge door
(irony thick as blood clots)
‘til morning came

Years later, at an
est Training** (the one
where you couldn’t pee),
I offered up a vision
of a blood red moon

The moon was
that perfect,
imperfect egg;
the red, my womb;
and beneath all
a sheltering golden arm

holding my heart
holding my soul
holding me as I wept
for my long-gone loss

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

*Ekphrastic poems come from studying a painting and creating a poem based on your own impressions.  Paul Klee, along with Kandinsky, certain Pollocks, and the Blue Period of Picasso, all favorites.  I used to be strictly Impressionist, but then my mind exploded upon seeing some Picassos at the Met Museum of Art in the City.  (That would be NYC!)  In a single moment, I got it.  I also developed a knack for reading Gertrude Stein’s Toklas book and Russell Hoban’s classic, Riddley Walker!  Major synapse release, I suppose, and all for the good.

**This is based on (shudder) an attending est (Erhard Seminar Training) a mind- and money-control project cobbled together by a former used-car salesman who changed his name to Werner Erhard. (Who remembers him now?  Ah, yes, a much-deserved obscurity for that money-grubbing pseudo-something, although he continues to lecture and has posted all positive reviews from former esties – obviously, he neglected to ask me, but who can blame him?  He ripped concepts off from the best… Gibran, the Buddha, the Dalai Lama; as well as the worst, like Wayne Dyer and other then-motivational speakers, creating a synthesis of New Age bullshit and timeless quotes used to his own advantage.

I managed to have one good revelation there, and this Klee reminded me of that… Thanks to Margo Roby’s prompt, which I discovered via Joseph Harker’s Naming Constellations – brilliant blogs, both!  Peace, Amy


Gotta go now
Wanna sing but day job pays bills
Run to catch the ‘bway
Pressed against other cogs in the car
We’re a movable beast
You can taste the air in here
and that ain’t a good thing

Gotta hurry up
Stop by coffee shop, grab a bialy and
some hot dark that speeds through veins
and makes brains go pop
In my cube 7 x 7
Hamster Heaven but Human Hell

Gotta run to help fix the copier
Maintenance can’t reach the tricky places
My fingers are nimble
I can take apart anything and I
joke with the guys and let them see some leg
as I crawl on the floor doing their job
I make soul-sucking misery look fun

Gotta go home to my wretched box
So square even the wallpaper is plaid
Swear to god it’s plaid
Gig tonight, no pay but exPOSURE
Pose in the mirror, pouty pretty

Gotta get to the gig
Back on the ‘bway downtown
This city is laid out in perfect lines
The A, B, C
The 1, 2, 3
The RR, bastard child of the rest

Follow the tic-tacs to find
a place to be, to become, to behave
but still believe it’s lasted
as long as it has
Here in the Gotham Game

Gotta go again
Shouldn’t’a drunk so much water
Surviving the City is easy
as long as you graph the clean bathrooms
on your mental map

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Joseph Harker’s “Naming Constellations,” an ekphrastic poem (written to an image or inspired by same). I chose the Piet Mondrian piece, “Broadway Boogie,” but to tell the truth, I didn’t notice the name before I wrote this – I picked the image because it made me nervous, and that reminded me about deadlines and there was also a resemblance to subway maps! So there you go. Thanks, Joseph; you’re an inspiration even when you don’t throw us a prompt.  (This is also in the “ticker tape” of poems at Poets United.)

Two notes:  The ‘bway’ is not Broadway; it’s our old nickname for the subway (or the tube, for my European friends).  The City is always and forever New York; no real New Yorker would ever refer to it as The Big Apple, either – unless you’re a surviving vaudevillian, for whom that expression had true meaning, because playing New York City was indeed getting a bite of the “big apple.”  Bit of history for you!

The painting is a low-resolution image and is in no way fully representative of the original piece. Mondrian, a superb talent; this is meant in tribute to his work, not a “snatch and grab.” Peace, Amy