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

Tag Archives: History

Jingle asked us to write about pastimes this week for Poetry Potluck. I love going through this box of treasures, so much that I put it in the chapbook (shameless plug, see right column!).

Hope it gives you a smile! Amy


My mother’s “precious box” held sentimental doodads
The box was left to me when she died
Inside were Grandma’s fake diamond screw-back earrings
(“Real ladies” didn’t pierce their ears in those days)

Grandpa’s ring, raw turquoise set in carved silver
Girl Scout leader pins, Dad’s cuff links
A clip-on bow tie from Mom’s singing days
And a skeleton key, antique silver, dim patina

For years I’ve pondered what lock would respond; where the “open sesame” lay
A room in a past apartment? The front door to a secret house?
A desk filled with dusty volumes of Kipling and Whitman
Perhaps a cache of cash?

Somewhere there is a house, a door, a drawer
Whose treasures will remain hidden
Because I hold in my palm
The answer to a question

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

There’s going to come a day in the near future when anti-war protests will start up again.  Even if I have to start them.  In the meantime, just as a reminder of how “free” we were during the Bush years, a snapshot of a Buffalo city protest, “back in the day.”

ORANGE MESH (the Bushista years)

We are herded behind
the orange mesh fence
hastily erected by minions to protect
Dick Cheney from our opinions
Residents vs. the vice president

Local police, paid overtime (by our side) to ensure
there will be no crime, no ordinance breached
such as burning and looting and freedom of speech

We are cattle herded into our enclosure, our stall
Orange mesh strangling the voice of the people
encasing us, muffling our rage, this cage

“Why not trample it, stampede the Code Orange?” says I
“Because.” My friend points to
snipers on the roof of an old Buffalo landmark
Our turf is their turret

We have changed species
We are sheep bleating
shorn by orange nylon and rubber pylons

© 2008 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

My dear friend George emailed me a link with recent pictures from The Strand, one of many grand old theatres in our hometown of Binghamton, NY.  Those images inspired this poem.  Thanks, George!


She was what they used to call A Grande Dame:
Stately, opulent, inspiring awe and delight.
Follow me back in time…

Look up: Tiffany crown.
Look down: Plush carpet.
Look around: Roomy seats, wide stage, velvet curtain, affording itinerant vaudevillians room to slay ‘em with a joke (told 2,380 times from Omaha to Syracuse, but here, heard by fresh ears, rewarded with belly laughs).
Room for dancers to tap sway meringue swing do their thing.
Singers thrived on the Strand’s perfect acoustics.

As with all perfect miracles on earth,
vaudeville died,
and She, the stately Grande Dame,
found her spacious stage usurped by a screen.

Movies drifted from Keaton to Talmadge
Robert Taylor to Rod Taylor
to Johnny Rodd (“Deep Throat played there;
the Art Theatre was deemed too small,
its floor sticky with patrons’ souvenirs)

Eventually, like even the gamest of girls,
she was abandoned.
Now she’s a shell of her former shined and
shimmering self, laid low by scavengers
and an abortive attempt at plastic surgery.

But within, her heart beats in steady memories.
Echoes of Liberace, who packed the house
(winking at fawning old ladies and
joking about his brother George).

Echoes of Ish Kabibble and Hugh Herbert,
leaving ‘em in stitches.

Echoes of the pit band, all local musicians
earning a decent living doing what they loved.

Echoes of singers whose names are remembered
only by a cloud of witnesses floating in
a plaster-dust atmosphere
or written on peeling wallpaper.

A strand of pearls, unstrung, save in our hearts.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Story from my days as a single mother in a mostly married city… Amy


In a sea of Marthas
she remained the Magdalene
Neither wanton, nor wayward, still
different, misunderstood

Her gestures of sisterhood
looked upon as threats by
the many married mommies
who kept their men on short leashes, well-heeled

Had they taken time
to listen to her thoughts
How she cared for their town
How she admired their ability to maintain stability

They might have warmed to her
But women are women, and
wives are wives, gathered in hives
And single mothers lead separate lives

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Hey, it’s Thanksgiving. Probably no better time to talk about freedoms (and lack of same) in our country. Oh – and if you’re flying this weekend, please, don’t wear Speedos at the security counter! Your country thanks you for your discretion.  (LOL)  Amy


Our country is bowed, not broken
no matter that Rush and Glenn nay-say
The president erred when he trusted
that Congress believed in fair play

But lobbyists hold all the power
and companies claim their “free speech”
As long as control’s made of dollars
no president can heal the breach

Let’s face it: We all are Americans
regardless what party we choose
So please show this president loyalty
that goes with the reds, whites, and blues

And if you are drawn to militias
just know that you make no sense, just noise
When Bush was in, we didn’t run out of words
So holster your guns, there, cowboys

Our country was founded on precepts
like freedom, rights, and education
If one is in chains, then no one is free
Remember that – you’ll heal our nation

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


They hold hands in private
They “kiss in a shadow”
They go separate ways for
family functions, from
weddings to Christmas.
They always stay home
each Thanksgiving, sharing
bountiful blessings with
friends, more their real
family than relatives
(except Aunt Sandy and
Uncle Lou, who always bring
sweet potatoes and hugs).

They’ve been beaten bloody
for daring to share a
peck on the cheek in the park.
They can tell you all about
Stonewall because they were
there. They met in Harvey’s
Castro District and clicked.

They are part of a generation
of gay men, closet doors open
only to their neighbors, friends.
To families, pastors, and former
classmates, they’re just two guys
who never found the right girl
and sharing a house saved money
in the long run.

Forty years of keeping a lid
on their love.

(For John and Tony, RIP)

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

At We Write Poems, we were asked to write about healing. Before the healing, there is the injury.


Some wounds are so deep
so personal, so wrenching,
they cannot heal without help,
without sharing.

Memories spread past membranes
and synapses in the brain,
tentacles reaching, spreading painfully,
tightening the jaw,
constricting breath,
ever growing in power,
wasting the strongest soul.

A boy down the block
came home on leave and
looking in his eyes, I recognized
his agony, his disguise.
He sat with his mom in church quietly,
trying not to scream.

Later, we went for coffee and
unmasked our monsters.
Mine took hold in childhood;
his are war-born, wailing in the night.
New, but no less maiming.

Then came the shared silence
of those who know that tears
are about to flow, and we
both let go, heaving sobs,
wracking but quiet, this cry.
Tears… our only balm.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Another Poetic Asides “location” poem, but my blog is able to handle the Spanish, so here it be!!


Autumn in tropical climes
held no charm for me…
only a reminder that, once again,
I’d missed the falling leaves of October.
My little girl had not yet seen
the glory of leaves
tangerine, blood orange, marmalade,
Nature’s display, a free buffet

One call to my sister and a week later
the magical package arrived.
“¿Qué tal, Mama?” cried Laurita,
my little Irish Jewish Puertoriqueña.
Overturning the box,
waxed leaves spilled onto the tabletop.
“¡Amarillo, rojo, todas las colores!” squeaked Laura.

We taped them to the white plaster walls
as though they were falling from a tree in heaven.
Random patterns of second-hand Autumn.
My child’s first dance with the leaves,
we filled the house and neighbors came
to marvel at our living fresco.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

…and sometimes the Page turns you

Betty Page was all the rage
Never had to hit a stage
Simply posed for photographs
Steamy, sexy, some for laughs

Never in apron or bonnet
Often with some leather on it
Betty Page was quite a oner –
Sharp as nails and quite the stunner!

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Previously published at Poetic Asides

More Poetic Asides hijinks on the theme “Ready/Not Ready.” Hey, it’s Election Day. Timing is everything.


My girlfriend said their great retirement home
will be built on the edges of Seneca Lake
She picked out the fabrics, the flooring, and all
No detail neglected, no room for mistake

Then came the crash of his 401-K
and panic seized both in an iron vice grip
Reverting to scarcity, selling the Rolls
Cancelling their spring Caribbean trip

They’d counted on Washington, ‘cause they fed campaigns
that killed rules for banks and left gaping loopholes
Then scare tactics spindled by media wonks
diverted attention from loosened controls

She whines that their mansion is now underwater
Not from Katrina – hell, they’re Northern white
But what to be scared of and who is to blame?
Rushing to judgment, without due hindsight

Now I and my husband have never played stocks
We always have rented and lived within reason
So we didn’t sweat when the big banks collapsed
(but many walked out on their homes and claimed treason)

No gambling, no losing; no panic, no sweat
We have all we need: Roof and food and cheap cable
Do you remember the Bush call to for ownership:
“Everyone should buy a house” (even if they’re not able

to figure the finances, understand risk, and
above all, to never trust salesmen at banks,
who said, “Zero credit? No problem, sign here.”)
It is to these policies we said, “No thanks.

We’re happy to “flush down the toilet” our rent
Cause when a pipe breaks, there’s a landlord to call
We don’t care for Disney, the cruises, vacations
We wonder if folks know true values at all

Family, friends, an occasional potluck
Every Christmas our presents are set:
Gifts to the pantry, to Heifer and others
And thanks to the Lord, all our needs have been met

If life is a journey, the world a big stage
Let’s act as a troupe, never leaving behind
our neighbors who need more than they can scratch up
Whether welfare or mortgaged, let’s keep them in mind

The Great Equalizer has left ivory towers
and lives off our taxes, as has been the custom
He gets a free pass on the hardship he caused
‘Cause Fox blames it all on the “Socialist Muslim”

© Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil