Five Years Old, First Circus
Loud, it was and smelled like
popcorn, cotton candy, candy, cigars, and
poop, but amazing all at the same time.
When you’re five, you like everything, almost.
Two men, the daredevil flying trapeze artists.
Two glittery women, dangling from ropes with their teeth.
Clowns, slipspilling silly – but scary:
Chalk faces; crayoned, exaggerated expressions.
I hid my face when they came near.
Boss in fancy suit and spotlight and mic.
Dogs jumping hoop after hoops like
they were hopping on and off a skillet.
Treats were trash, but I stashed an apple.
Kid next to me threw up on her mom, red, white, and blue.
Cherry soda, vanilla ice cream, and Lik-M-Aid.
After the show, Dad showed he had clout. Round back,
behind the tent, an amazing surprise:
A baby elephant, sporting a small seat.
Dad lifted me up and
I and only I was allowed to ride Burma,
the pride of the Lions Club Circus.
To feel her soft, upturned ears, lay my head down
upon her warm neck. I sang as she swayed beneath
my skinned-knee skinny legs.
That was the first time I ever connected
with someone who’d traveled so far,
halfway across the world, just for me.
© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
I’m sure other children got rides later, but I was so enthralled and focused that I didn’t notice. I thought Dad was king of the world that day.
OK, you all know I have a major phobia about clowns, with the notable exception being my friend Monica, whose character Imagin is simply pure and sweet. Maybe it’s because she is a woman – as much as I knew what “drag queens” were when I was quite small, men who paste it on for little kids scare the poop out of me. If anyone out there is a clown, let me know – you may well help me past my phobia!
Imaginary Garden with Real Toads’ “Kay in Alberta” presented us with a challenge that, thank the Lord, has NOTHING to do with St. Paddy’s Day… I also laid this on the shelf at the Poetry Pantry at Poets United. I’m probably more Irish than most of my neighbors, so I say, let the German-American and Polish-American and African-American and other Hyphenated-Americans drink green beer and barf in the street. Most of my Irish-American friends reserve that behavior for the other 364 dasy a year – and they are always prepared in the event of hangovers of nausea! Happy Kermit Day, Amy
Five years old, small for her age
Dreads night’s flannel silence
She’s scared of flashbulbs and
cannot swallow medicine
“Let it float, like a boat,” says mother
Finally, the girl manages to
chew bitter aspirin and swallow
Her nightgown, often wet at dawn
Fragile, frail, third of three girls
Until age forty, she was able to forget
the reason for vague, haunting fears:
She was Daddy’s favorite pet
© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Sunday Scribblings wanted poems about silence. There is peaceful silence; then, there is the conspiracy of silence which burdens small children with undue shame and guilt.
This is reworked from an earlier poem, “Bitter Fruits.” I’m amazed at how looking back at old work, seen with fresh eyes, is able to morph into something better. This is me, my childhood, and I’m glad that therapy and psychiatry have helped me overcome many obstacles that had me stuck in that “zany girl/catatonic girl” hell. I’m still fun, but I’m in control of my mood much more now!
A girl’s first kiss should be
like baby’s breath,
not taken in the dead of
night by theft.
Her youth was stolen by
an old man’s greed.
She grew up certain that
to live is to bleed.
An angry woman from a
Her song is echoed
all over the world.
© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil (who looked a lot like the little girl on the left in the picture)
For ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter “X.” In this case, the saddest kiss of all was my first. Also at my poetic safe room, Poets United.
PLEASE NOTE: To women, men, boys, girls: If this poem rings true for you, seek help, get counseling. If reading this hurts you in a vague, awful way and makes you want to drink or do drugs or seek other solace that’s unhealthy, try therapy – it’s worth the price to get your life back. Peace, Amy