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

Tag Archives: Friends

TO ALL MY FRIENDS: This is the reason I’ve been absent the past couple of days. Thanks for your patience. Amy

Candles For Nina

Nina, who is far away
I know you hear my prayer
My heart and soul (my daughter)
is right there, been there

since it happened,
the Horrible Thing
Wrong place, wrong time
The pavement, no springing

up from this blow, it seems
As your friends stared
the ambulance came
Carried you with care

Now Nina, you’re in limbo
Twixt here and no one knows
Through my girl, in spirit,
I’m there, I feel so close

Your friends, angry, crying
and Nina, that’s for you
Sad, praying, lighting candles
And God is right there, too

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Nina Fitzpatrick is a student at Laguna Beach Institute of Arts and Design. One moment Nina is a vibrant, artistic, cool woman…the next, it’s moment to moment. It happened in a crosswalk at the school – a crosswalk students have complained about repeatedly,
WHAT FOLLOWED WAS WRONG INFO AND I HAVE APOLOGIZED TO SCHOOL AND TRIED TO EMAIL. WRITER WAS ANONYMOUS BY EMAIL AS WELL:

…but about which the school did nothing, citing budget concerns. Seriously? (END OF MISTAKE, what follows is redaction)

Real story: LCAD (Laguna College of Arts and Design – I wrote wrong name) was indeed the recipient of numerous complaints, including near misses – BUT the road is apparently privately owned, and the OWNERS would not do anything, even when the SCHOOL offered to help pay. The only good news is that LCAD went public and it looks like their demand for stop lights at the crosswalk is being heard; it made the paper, etc. I logged into my edits to write the person who said I was “kicking them while they were down” (see comments, lower portions) but they did not leave a valid email. This sort of sucked, but I get it.
So I am mailing a hard copy of the original plus the redaction to the school and hoping they distribute it widely. In the meantime, my complaint is valid; however, my blaming the school was TOTALLY based on numerous instances of hearsay. So much for that. Nothing can bring Nina back, and I am so sorry I hurt folks who may have read this comment. LCAD is a marvelous school and has done wonderful things for all its students. Amen.


To My Friend, Far Away

An ocean between us
yet we are good friends

When the moon waxes full
she bays at its glowing face
as do I, and full-throated

Tears river and splash
downhill
trenching at her feet
forming ponds

Hope glimmers, but
still out of reach

The jungle of her thoughts
She must break through

Soon creamy silken signs
will meet her waking eyes

Be still, I murmur from
across the continental divide

Let it flow
Let your vulnerability
become your strength

I believe in you

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Written for Ed Pilolla’s “Get Listed” prompt at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads; I think I got about 15 words in, only because his list had a certain flow. My friend will recognize herself in this poem, I hope, and draw comfort from this humble toad.  Peace, Amy


Before I launch into the poem… It’s late at night, and I’m thinking about today’s horrific tragedy. I pray for the day when people won’t have to kill and maim others to “make a statement,” to draw attention to their cause, or whatever it is. The fact that today is also “tax day” may prove relevant, I don’t know. My prayers to all in Boston, to all who have lost someone or whose loved one is in hospital. My prayers that another entire class of people aren’t stigmatized because the perpetrator suffers from a particular mental disorder.  My prayers for the soul of our nation as we continue to install puppet figureheads and then turn around a drop bombs on them when they don’t do our bidding. As we drop drones on innocents to “get” one “bad guy.” I guess I’m just praying for our world tonight.

I wrote this poem today while Lex and I lolled in a cafe, our favorite day-off pastime – this was written hours before Boston. Hope you can enjoy it despite what’s going on. This is for Poetic Bloomings’ prompt, Rain. Peace, Amy

Half a Rainstorm is Better Than None (Bermuda, 1987)

Favorite haunt in Hamilton.
A day-off treat, strong coffee
dense shortbread, and
small talk with a friend.

Sky darkens, pavement is
wet across the way.
We emerge, fully
expecting immersion.

Yet we’re on the “sunny side of the street.”
Rain spatters cobblestones in
a literal line drawn down the lane.
A meteorological DMZ.

Island storms are that specific.
I pass my hand into the storm and
pull it out again; palm to fingers, drenched.
It dries in the sun as we ponder miracles.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

I still remember that day. I had never seen the “edge of the storm,” nor did I know the concept existed. I’m not even sure Riley believes me! (“Whacky mom stories,” like meeting Bob Dylan and realizing he has zero charisma… or that my right ankle is thick because of an unfortunate intersection of tequila, Quaaludes, and hopscotch.)


ROOTED (dedicated to Miss Forward)

Mama never got over being on the road with bands.
“Keep your roots shallow,” she said,
“so you can pull up and move on when it’s time.”

Yet, after wandering for many years,
I find myself grounded, firmly rooted.
Maybe it’s the friendships we’ve forged.

My innate knack for blooming in any new
place I was transplanted (quite often) from coast
to coast, and sometimes in the ocean, small isles.

Relentless in my search for home, the
perfect church… a city with a full spectrum
of cultures, history, creativity (plus a few vultures)

Some artists of delicate mien, others rampant,
unrepentant rowdies, all with eyes and voices meant
to rejuvenate others, if only for art’s own sake.

Madison. Never bland; blooming flowers or snow banks,
it’s all good, as long as the local microbrew beer
and the silk long johns hold out.

Grounded, circles of friends interconnect, grapevines
forming beneath the surface of simple kinship.
Home isn’t where I hang my hat.

It’s where I have planted my soul, patting down soil
in this haven of lefties, young and old, rippin’ good worship, and
a golden lady on the capital dome, wearing a badger helmet.*

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

My first posting since hearing my brain MRI was negative… I mean, I still have a brain, but it’s tumor, clot, and stroke-free. This poem, for Sunday Scribblings (Grounded) and The Sunday Whirl (see Wordle HERE), is a celebration of sorts, as well as a love song for our adopted home, Madison, WI.  This is also posted at my poetic home, Poets United.

*The “golden lady” is called Miss Forward, and she shines at the peak of the dome. She can be seen from a mile away. She does indeed wear a helmet with the shape of a badger, our state mammal, on top. Everything here is Badger: basketball, local football, everyone wears red. BADGER red. Me? I’m more of a ‘honeybadger.’ (wink) Peace, Amy


After tonight’s depressing turn of events here in Wisconsin, where a dunce has retained his cap because the King lent him $30 million – no strings attached, of course… ugh. Anyway, I had to think of something positive. And nothing is more heartening than a tale of a Madison small business that makes artists out of people who simply assume they have no talent. Kim, this one’s for you and your intrepid crew!

FIRED uP!

Workplayhijinks at
the local pottery shop.

Monica molds clay into
small discs; she’ll chisel

Celtic figures to fashion runes,
piercing each disc with a lace.

A mistake with clay?
Hey, crumple, start over.

At another table, colors
burst forth as Stephanie

dips her sponge to draw forth
bright discs of color on

a black cup; the design
beats any we’ve seen, as

intricate dots are dropped
into the circles in third dimension.

Karen splits her spoon rest
into shades that will please

her kitchen. She’s done this
before, you can tell, she does it well.

CRASH! Something goes
over the table edge.

Owner Kim sweeps up. She’s
earned every bruise on her knees.

She crouches to retrieve
shards of hardened “baked goods.”

I wonder what closing time is like.
The kiln, glazing over bits of art,

and Kim’s face, beaming as she surveys
her corner of the creative world.

The kiln, or Kim…
which glows more?

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For The Sunday Whirl: Bruise, Chisel, Crumple, Crouch, Crash, Edge, Split, Draw, Pierce, Burst, Beat, and Glow.

Image courtesy of www.stockxchange.com, a royalty-free photo resource.

At FIRED uP!, owner Kim Stanfill-McMillan makes sure the members of her staff are all sassy, fun people. Girl Scout troops come in groups; home school kids have projects; and there’s a Ladies’ Night, where we all brown-bag our own bottles of Zin or beer… I combined two separate occasions because I wanted to mention all my friends and our projects!


Folks, I’m amazed I’m even posting, but PAD means exactly that – a poem a day for the month of April. I KNOW I HAVE NEGLECTED RESPONDING TO YOUR COMMENTS FOR THE PAST FEW DAYS. I humbly ask for your patience: It’s Holy Week. Tonight, I am coordinating the ritual portion of a Seder at Lake Edge UCC. Soon I’ll respond, I promise.

Today is a special day for a very special friend. This is her story…

SOJOURNER

She’s moving again
Unsettling – like the trap door
fell out from under
her well-worn sandals

How many times has she
Called Two Men & A Truck?
They know her by name
But this time is different

New, her own sweet space
New keys, placed in her palm
by friends who love her
Feels like coming home

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Imaginary Garden With Real Toads… too late to post there, but the prompt was: Find four words and create a poem out of them. My words were Home, Keys, Feels, and New. Also posted with my buds at Poets United, as always. Peace, and happy moving, Monica! Amy


Friends, please don’t abandon me as I take a few weeks off to sort out our move to another home in Madison.  This one will have a proper workroom, space for breathing, and sunshine pouring through our windows.  I shall post “two for the road”; one sad, one about the work of the poet… for dverse, Sunday Scribblings, Poetic Bloomings, and Poets United.

If you comment on these, please be patient for a response, as I probably won’t be back until late January. And, as always, if you leave a comment, I will visit your blog in return! Blessings and peace for the New Year, Amy

At a Loss

At a loss, plum outta new thoughts
except those that drift:
first letters, then stop-start words
weave down the path to form
phrases (stitches awkwardly
frayed, signs of wear)

When I’m at a standstill…

I think on my friends
the quirks and catch-phrases
the confidences that
make the circle ever stronger

How we shoveled the shit back in the day
I smile, pick up my pencil
and suddenly, the absentee-brainer
becomes a no-sweater

Beginning to end
the heartbeat of the blend

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
———————————————–

A Brave One, 1985 (a barlette)

She’s a brave one
Bopping down the street
(after spending all night in the ER)

Smiles for strangers
and a hello for every telephone pole
(hitching down her skirt to cover bruises)

Nowhere special to go
Sunny, warm, a day to be spent in the park
(but not THAT park, never again)

Destination, the pier, downtown
near the Fulton Fish Market
(covers the smell of him that wouldn’t shower away)

Good thing she wore flip-flops
Sneakers would be too tight now
(his boots crushed her toes to bloody)

The doctor said come back
for a post-traumatic thing, at the hospital
(where strangers looked at her like she was garbage)

No, much better to take a dip
Water will heal her wounds
(Suddenly glad she never learned to swim)

Just a few minutes floating
in the gleaming sludge of the East River
(and his brutality will be gone forever)

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
(Process notes: The barlette is my own form – two short lines with (a commentary revealing truth).


Folks, everyone needs a vacation now and then.  After a bit of a funk and then a lovely Thanksgiving, I have returned to Madison and will try to post daily.  This poem is about a friend of over 30 years who has become a hero of mine.  Selfless, talented, and an all-around great woman, loyal friend, loving wife, fabulous mom, and caring artist.  For C., with love.

Therapy in Bb

Last-minute detour;
Mrs. Kelly is dying.
The family wants the music therapist
to come as soon as she can.

So she revs up her little Vibe
heads towards the nursing home,
unlocks the trunk,
unloads guitar and gear…
preparing to sing another soul
to the other side.

Dying is easy – getting there is hard.
The soothing strum of her deft fingers,
her buttery smooth voice…
these are qualities of her calling.
As she almost whispers, “Danny Boy,”
Mrs. K’s shoulders relax;
fingers ease from clenched fists.

This family knows and trusts her,
and their shoulders relax as well.

Over the years, the music therapist has seen
the blank smiles of dementia,
heard their laughter, unprompted.
The tears of loved ones
trickling over forced, brave faces.
The final sigh, when death grants peace,
eight grams lifting along with her voice
into eternity.

Once, she sang in cabarets, acted in plays,
danced The Big Apple of Broadway dreams.
Music therapy has brought her more purpose
than playing adenoidal Miss Adelaide.
This calling gives her satisfaction.
Gives her purpose.
Gives her joy.
Gives her administrative grief.
Gives her patients relief.
Gives her backaches, but also
a swelling of her already brimming heart.

She is the angel of music
who helps death come in peace.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Also on Poetic Bloomings, where the prompt is Gratitude in Abundance; also, at my poetic hearth, Poets United.


Thirteen Ways of Looking at Men (for We Write Poems, with a nod to Wallace Stevens)

I.          They’re different in certain ways, but what’s in common reigns.
II.        Through the bottom of a shot glass, darkly.
III.      Millions are fathers deserving of respect, when respect is due.
IV.       Sometimes, they are bullies or abusive and deserving of no respect at all.
V.         As leaders of our nation; therefore, we should elect more women to level the playing field.
VI.      Warily.
VII.     As warmongers and war profiteers… and troops who actually have to fight the battles.
VIII.   While wearing rose-colored glasses (which you will eventually lose).
IX.        As friends who are with you no matter what the circumstance, especially if they are gay and you are one of those straight girls who just loves them to death (like me).
X.          As husbands or committed partners – in which case, keep your hands off them (straight OR gay!). Monogamy should be honored (and polygamy, well, eeeeeeeew).
XI.         As co-founders of our country, along with the mostly forgotten Founding Mothers.
XII.       As white/Anglo and born to privilege, never having to earn the money they now fight so hard to keep.
XIII.     As people of color who are often overlooked, profiled, or assumed to be criminals, in the US illegally… or born in Indonesia, so he can’t REALLY be president.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
(theme from “Misterrogers”)

Nan is outside watering pots of basil
she shares with our whole building.
Her boyfriend planted the sunflowers
that gaze right back at me as I write this.

Mohammed is heading out for school
on the new bike his cousin gave him.
He’s studying to be an engineer,
and his uncle is ready to take him on board.

Ra’jel came by and dropped off two dishes…
Ethiopian cooking, so hot it will peel the skin
off your tongue, but so good with a cold beer.
And the warm, sticky bread, like heaven.

Honey! You’re home early. I already got the mail,
just junk, but why do folks leave most of theirs
on the floor of the mail room?
(“Because they know you’ll clean it up.”)

We’ll have a swim in the complex’s pool
before cooking out on the patio…
but we’ll wait awhile, because right now
Demond and Yasir are going at it with squirt guns.

I love this building. It’s like the United Nations
except that everyone gets along pretty well,
and when we don’t get along, we wait a spell
for the hurt to heal… and try again.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

I will always be grateful to Captain Kangaroo and Misterogers for presenting to children the peaceful side of life, filled with positive lessons, crafts, and the occasional giggle. Also, Fred Rogers (please don’t post that he was a war hero, check Snopes.com first!) wrote the theme song, which he sang while putting on his sweater and sneaks. I wanted to keep the poem as sweet as the song, in answer to a prompt at Poetic Bloomings, a new site. Hope I succeeded! This is also at Poets United – go read some other poets there as well! Amy