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

Tag Archives: Free Verse


The point at which I knew Taffy was
the perfect bet was not because of a trick,
nor a whisper (a la Cesar Milan).

For a spaniel, her shape was odd.
She could pack on pounds begging for cookies,
going from one family member at a time.

Once, she ate string, and she sat still
as I eased it back out of her mouth,
her breath not what one would wish for in a dog.

Her coat didn’t shine, and she had
a lifelong taste for running in the back forty
to roll in dead things, then eat them.

But one night, Taffy laid down
on my lap when I was feeling quite sad.
She gently put one paw on my hand.

And I melted into a puddle of mush.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
PAD #2!
For The Sunday Whirl: Trick, Pack, Point, Whisper, Smell, Shape, Shine, Taste, Wish, String, Pet, Paw.
Also with my Poetic Peeps, Poets United.


She was good looking.
He whistled in appreciation.
Rednecks approached: “Black boy,
gonna teach you a lesson.”

Pistol whipped, drowned, 14.  Emmett Till.
Open casket: Mama’s wishes.
That cruel reality slapped us awake.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Trifecta Friday: Write a horror poem or story in exactly 33 words, without employing the following words: blood, scream, died, death, knife, gun, or kill. I chose this true story because for me, there is nothing more frightening than to put oneself in the shoes of a victim of hate crime, and Emmett Till’s death and public funeral were key to the outrage that sparked the Civil Rights Movement, a cause my mother believed in deeply and outspokenly.

This poem will also appear at Poets United, my poetic peeps.

Yes, indeedy, for all who remember the “420” reference (which is still used, but no one remembers why because they were too stoned when they heard the story). Anyone who knows the story and DOESN’T Google it, please mention when you comment! A true story, from my time in California dubbed by my BFF John as “Amy: The Lost Years.” (ED. NOTE: If we can carry Smart Phones and get run over in traffic because we’re texting, why can’t we legalize pot? At least it would keep us in one place!)


Al’s homegrown pot came with
a guaranteed sweet spot.
“Play ball!” A homer every
at-bat; no rain delays.

Sun never shone as brightly
nor cohorts giggled so spritely
as when Al pulled out his bag of
Mendocino County One-Hit Wonder.

Sage green and ruinously resinous,
it rendered rolling practically impossible.
So smooth on the intake – and
zero-to-sixty in seconds flat.
One joint could turn a mob
of tired, cranky, post-shift waiters into
drooling zombies in search of Cheetos.

Al went off the radar years ago,
but the memory,
the melody lingers on.
A cloud of laughter, profuse swearing,
groan-worthy punning, sexual innuendo,
and whispered promises forgotten by morning…

All sent up years ago as a scented offering
to Bacchus (who probably got a contact high).

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Wherever you are, Al, you are missed. Not just for your weed, either.

CHANTEUSE DELUXE (have a listen, then read the poem)

What drives her to carry on so?
No limit to grandiose gestures:
Hand thrust heavenward as she
sings of graces she cannot touch
(yet seems to know well).

Delivery of gut-bucket blues,
growled, a feral cat in heat.
Singing is her salvation;
her masquerade; her comfort;
her inherent, inherited blessing
(born of a curse).

Tapping into sources of drama
most would never dare; airing
her truth with power, to power
(and always with a whimsical smile).

Striding through dark, abandoned
psychic hallways and caverns
where others might tiptoe
(their flashlights, shivering beams).

Her early demons gifted her,
then she was lifted from hell
by an undercurrent of free-flowing jazz.
She follows in footsteps of her people
(unhinged but brutally honest souls).

She is compelled to prize a pearl
(from the slimiest of shells).

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
PROCESS NOTES: A barlette is my own creation; this one has a longer form. Normally, the barlette runs three lines plus (a commentary line). This long forms allows more flexibility before the comment line.
PERFORMERS: Carol Ackley is a longtime and very dear girlfriend who was coaxed to the mike for an impromptu duet; we had not sung together in years. “Since I Fell For You” is one of my favorite standards. Sax solo is by the great reed man/percussionist/composer/musical powerhouse Rob Weinberger, who is also my former husband and father of our little Drummer Girl and artist, Riley Dunn.
PROMPTS: For Sunday Scribblings #311 (honest) and The Sunday Whirl: Carry, Singing, Follows, Drives, Hallways, Drama, Limit, Gestures, Hand, Delivery, Inherent, Sources, Previous, Drives.

It’s Twofer… Thursday! Three prompts in two poems. Each prompt is listed under the appropriate work. It’s a sunny day, and things are looking up in Amyville! If you want your day to be even better, click on the links for the various poetry sites and look at the astounding work out there in cyberbeautyland! Peace, Amy

Just One Wish

If I could have just one wish…

I’d melt all weapons, from
handguns to tanks

Forge farm tools for land to be tilled by
hands that formerly pushbuttonlaunched drones
Hands that flew off wrists as Hummer hit IED.

Honest work for real pay,
homes for all, bellies full.
The sick tended,
violence ended,
people defended
by reason, not rockets.

By wisdom, not war.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Carry On Tuesday, prompt: Finish this poem, “If I had just one wish…”

And now… sidetracking into true ignorance!


“Deviant” is a concept
born of miniscule minds
and religious cherry-pickers
who have bad translations of the Bible.

They dwell on the trivial
while ignoring real problems
which require substantial effort…
and that are apparently not their concern.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Three Word Wednesday (Deviant, Miniscule, Trivial) and ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter “H.”

Both are also at my poetic hangout, Poets United.

Rich Men Suck

Sheep without shepherd,
Raw thread sans loom…
O, rich white man, is that how you see us?
As ants scurrying to gather your crumbs?
Does this vision strengthen your egos?

Give me your hands,
your fingertips, softer than mine –
pushing paper and counting money all day.
Opalescent nails, polished and perfect.
(I can’t afford a manicure, sorry if I offend.)

In your mind, you picture
raw, thirsting power.
A lion’s heart with the speed of an elk.
The virility of a man’s man (who doesn’t really NEED the Viagra).

But I’ve spied you in the office corridor,
side-glancing in the gilt mirror,
yearning to look like Don Draper.

Real power needn’t preen
nor reassure itself.
Real power was in the humanity you left behind
when you bought your first pair of Guccis.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For dverse Open Mic Night and at my poetic hearth, Poets United.

I’ve changed my blog settings so now, all comments are approved. The backlog was immense and guilt was clouding my creativity. (I’m Black Irish, so that kind of guilt is quite weighty!) I will attempt to figure out how to respond to your comments later… but right now, the burden of guilt lifted from my shoulders, I shall post. Peace, Amy


GUMM… AND GUMMER (A Suite in Two Movements)

I. Frances Gumm

Child stardom thrust upon her
by mother’s demand
Couldn’t navigate a ship
she didn’t command
Crinkles, cramps, crevices
of age came too soon
The voice we all loved:
Judy’s sad, silent tune


II. Mrs. Gummer

You know her
or you feel like you do
That crinkle in her smile
The creases framing her sparkling eyes

She’s a survivor
Bucking the demand that actresses be
plump only in the lips and
possess a Stepford-smooth forehead

She will continue to navigate
the Hollywood torrents with grace,
and if awards come too, that’s fine.

What matters to her is the work.
What matters to her more is family.

Marvelous Meryl Streep!

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Three Word Wednesday (Crinkle, Demand, Navigate) and ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter “G.” Also at my poetic lair, Poets United.

Or Not To Be

To be
picked apart
as carrion
plucks at

To be
as specimen
as subject
as experiment
as something less

Jaw ripped from
Voice prized from
Thoughts from


© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Trifecta, photo by Meghan McCabe

Today I give you a link to another blog.  Sherry Blue Sky and I have become friends over the years; both poets, both mothers, both environmentally conscious.  She is a Wild Woman who communes with wolves.  I am an Old Hippie who communes with the mentally ill.  We are mothers first, and she used a recent poem of mind (reprinted at her blog, with my permission) to springboard into the subject of her own family’s experience with mental disorders.

Please, please, just click the link and discover how two women who have never met face to face, who live in different countries, can communicate in the language of the mother’s heart. Peace, Amy


First, continued apology for not answering your comments on recent posts. Doing my best to catch up, so don’t give up on me, OK? This is a dark take on the Sunday Whirl prompt; wordle is listed below. Thanks, and peace, Amy

The Ward and Me

Shadowy business, this
Nestled in the crook of a couch
for another shrink rap

My balance, shaky at best
This ward filled with walking open sores
Memories ooze from their psychic wounds
The runoff seeps up the floorboards
leaving smudgy, evil footprints

Traces of ghosts linger, follow us inmates:
Xeroxed Marleys, hovering phantoms whispering
what happened back when
back then

Grandma Blanche was a frequent flier,
restless for answers to
bizarre questions that made Grandpa cringe
and then commit her

They’d strap her down
They’d scorched her tortured brain
A sick science fair

I know that old game, how they
sucked the fun out of her
so I play along

I’m afraid but don’t let it show
I whistle a happy tune
This will all be over soon

I think

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For The Sunday Whirl: Straps, Balance, Sores, Ghosts, Smudgy, Bizarre, Scorched, Shadowy, Restless, Nestled, Whistle, Know, Seeps. And, as always, to be found in the right column of my poetic kith and kin, Poets United.