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

Tag Archives: Madison

Crowd protesters

True Colors of Madison

Now this was in months past, mind you
Whodathunk that this move would find you

midst masses of rowdy-sprout color
from the bloodred truth to the duller

Not one box yet unpacked, you hightailed
to the Capitol, there you right-railed

‘gainst the governor, Koch Brothers feaster
(though we failed to toss him on his keester)

For the sake of each other’s opinions
They had gathered, the Left and Right minions

And there, near the downtown Radisson,
you found the true colors of Madison.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Hannah, promptress extraordinaire at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, offered us rows and patchwork valleys of tulips for a colorful prompt. I do love flowers, but I found the best colors of my life at the 2012 Madison Pro-Union Protests… red, white, blue, and then some!  For me, color has a voice, and the more “colorful,” the more effective.  I did love the golden glow my camera managed to catch; even the slight blur belies action.

This pic shows an array of color – lots of “Badger Red,” as we are the Badger State and red is the color of our home teams. Then green for peace and any color each person could throw on as we ran out our doors downtown, to wage battle for union rights against a truly clueless, mouth-breathing governor. He prevailed for the time… but we will not be broken. Next election, he’s out on his precious Teapot, if the elections are not once again paid for by billionaires.

Leave it to me to take a peaceful, flower-y prompt and go all political on you. But hey, what did you expect? Black-Eyed Susans? This is me. Peace, Amy

Snow Bizness

It is March in Wisconsin
and, any day now,
no matter how green the meadow,
how tawny the wrens who
flew in for Spring,
nor how green
the ivy grows,
we know our TV screens
will sketch the sad
Doppler Crayola scrawl:
One more blizzard.

Snow bury-
ing our lawns,
shunning the calendar,
sticking thick thorns into
Madison’s collective psyche.
As suburban assault vehicles
zigzag on the Beltway
(drivers oblivious to the concept
of SUV rollover ratings),
our guts are twisted and we
tend to cluster in bars,
seeking solace in our famous
Wisconsin micro-brews.

Shallow coping mechanism, I know,
but until we are assured the
stout-stemmed ironweed and
apple saplings are in bloom,
we await our twisted fate…
moods indigo, yet somehow

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

De Jackson of Whimsygizmo fame was gatekeeper in the Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, and she gave us a huge list of words. A veritable cornucopia; in fact, I was only able to use most of them: Sketch, screen, march (well, March), Snowberry (um, snow bury-ing, groan), tawny, meadow, stout-stemmed, cluster (not tempted in any way, shape, or form to pair an obscenity with that word – see, I’m all grown up now), zigzag, leave, twisted, indigo, shunning, ivy, sapling, and thorns. I didn’t use elder, shallow, or adaptation. Dang!

Thanks, De, for one more chance to comment on the weather here in Madison. I really do love it here, but, dear Lord, would it possible for the snow to melt before June?

This is also posted at my poetic igloo, Poets United. Peace and silky long-johns, Amy

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

C’mon. Don’t tell me you didn’t see a rant coming this week! Politically yours, Amy

Naked at the Tea Party

Morning mist lifts over Madison
yet a cloud remains
following the foolish victor who
occupies a solid gold throne
furnished by a Faustian family
from a land far, far away

As he breaths through his mouth
he complains his crown
is bulky, unwieldly (gotcha! He doesn’t know that word)
adored as it is with spangles, sparkles
the spoils of ill-gotten gains
and still – ill repute remains

He resigns himself to another day
of allowing teachers to go home (forever)
Freeing children from pesky doctor visits
Yet his doom looms: HE IS JOHN DOE
Jump one hurdle, slam into a wall
The drumbeat grows: Indict “Koch Lite”

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Three Word Wednesday: Bulky, Mist, Reign.
Also at my poetic soapbox, the ever-trusty Poets United (not a PAC, incidentally!).
Image courtesy of the magazine named for my patron saint: Mother Jones.

Hey, y’all, sorry I have not posted for a couple of days. Lex presided at a wedding – lovely couple, loving family, lively friends. I was involved as a “second pair of hands” with things like, “WHERE ARE THE BOBBY PINS!!??” and offering to run to the drug store for that, some Advil… you know the drill. Rewarded with a beer on the Bridal Bus while the couple were taking pictures. Adventure for those two just beginning. (CUE THE CARPENTERS)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a hymn to back yards everywhere.


Step out our sliding back door
and step into a condo-life miracle.

A huge yard, formed by buildings
on every side, protected play space.

Little Graham next door draws
on the back stoop: smell the chalk.

(Oops! He also needs a change,
says my keen mommy’s nose.)

His Dad drills heavenly brats and
neighbor Diane drools, “I’ll take three.”

We sit in lawn chairs, share local
beers; a whiff of malt wafts on the breeze.

Freshly mown grass, green aroma
mingling with fading lilacs.

And now Jean’s baked muffins add
a gentle vanilla to the other scents.

One perfect June evening… with
our neighborhood potpourri.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Image courtesy of Triple Oaks Nursery and Herb Garden of South Jersey. Check out their page – beautiful blooms abound!

For Poetic Bloomings, to the prompt, “In the air.” Also at my poetic playground, Poets United. This new neighborhood has brought back some wonderful memories, especially the yard… it’s patrolled by every stay-at-home parent and home-office resident. We have all planted gardens to our own taste, and it’s burgeoning blooms here in Madison! Peace, Amy


He’s parked and playing
outside the Willy St. Coop.

Walnut guitar strummed by
chestnut fingers. A smile

as he soulslides his way
through “Stand By Me.”

I stand swaying, appreciating;
we share a grin and I join in

on the chorus. We sing
in pitchpricklingperfect harmony.

“Take a verse, little sister.”
I slip in that side door of possibility

and respond in a gritty voice
from my soulful side, bringin it.

As the troubadour takes
lead on the chorus, I’m

floating above with a subdued
harmony. We blend like

strong coffee and Bailey’s,
mingling, merging, melding

into one voice. We finish and
exchange info to do this again.

Serendipity lives in Madison,
streets abloom with organic music.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter “T.” Also for Poets United’s Think Tank Thursday, “possibility.” This actually happened to me during a shopping trip on my way to my therapist’s office. I composed the poem in its entirety while in her waiting room. Rarely have I been so fortunate, especially during a depressed period, to come upon such a soulful singer/guitarist sitting right in my path, open to a short jam. Carl is his name and we’re hoping to record a bit in the near future.

Possibility. This poem reminds me that ANYTHING is possible if only I can get myself out the door and into the world! Soul singing. Uplifting, unexpected, and so good for everything positive that dwells beneath my inner darkness. Carl helped light a spark in me that reminded me of all the beauty that awaits once this cloud lifts… Peace, Amy

Home At Last

Cuddled under my favorite purple afghan,
(“When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple”)
contemplating the months just passed;
dreaming of the year to come…

How did it happen that we landed in Madison?
These people, who see me not as troublesome,
but a graying sprite with her feet solidly on earth
(even as her mind lags, or revs – or does somersaults).

A faith community of solid citizens
who know that worship is not some game
of collecting brownie points with God,
because God always grades on a curve.

Our choir sings with gusto.
The bell choir rings sweetly.
The praise band brings it,
makes the Spirit spring within us.

Was it luck that landed me here in this state
of Badgers and Packers, a hundred varieties
of cheese, and even more kinds of beer? This
hearty stew of politics and action and reaction,

as we fly toward the audacious goal of
booting the Guv back to his Brothers Koch?
Students who actually live downtown near
the university? Poetry readings and buskers?

What brought me here? I’m in heaven, yet all I did
was follow the love of my life to a new church,
a new ministry. (Wither thou goest, I shall go…)
It wasn’t luck – it was God. And it was love.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Brenda Warren’s Sunday Whirl gave us a dozen words to weave into a poem: year, fly, earth, happen, citizen, luck, states, dream, trouble, purple, lag, and game. Check out The Whirl and give it a try!

Poetic Bloomings asked us how we are preparing for the “holiday season.”  We celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas and would love to get in on some Kwanzaa action, so somebody invite us!  Here’s my take, and it’s posted in full on the Poetic Bloomings site.

Also, the old form “3 = x + poem” I invented didn’t go over, in part because it was a stupid name! It is now called the Barlette, in honor of my dad, Bud Barlow, who could recite verse upon verse of Kipling and Service.

Preparations, Busy Lady (a Barlette)

So many items tempt me
at the small shops on State.
Thusfar, these are some:
(of the sum total)

Warm socks for homeless men
and women, so desperate are these
forgotten people in need.
(Mary and Joseph)

Diapers – disposable, as baby’s
parents are provided a garbage bin
by the City of Madison.
(swaddling baby Jesus)

Donations, dough for digs that
ministers are hunting out and heating;
shelters, daytime rest and a hot meal.
(Magi, bearing gifts)

A homeless man died on a bench in front of
the Capitol Dome (ironic unless you live here);
Gov. charges $75 for “advocacy groups” to enter.
(No room at his inn)

If ever there was a season for advocacy,
for caring for the poor and despairing,
if not now – when? One prayer to offer.
(Christmas is about giving “Jesus style”)

© Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Also at my poetic nest, Poets United.

OK, I had to come up with a poem to meet my own prompt at We Write Poems!

The form is “3 + (x) = poem,” and today, as I rode the bus and hung out with a homeless Vietnam vet my age who’s been given six months to live, there was no place else to go but the steam grates and the fact that the two major refuges for homeless folks will be shut down this winter by our lame-ass governor, Scott Walker (brought to you by The Koch Brothers; paid for by same).

I’ll be away for the weekend, so pardon my not answering comments promptly. Have a peaceful Labor Day – if these guys get their way, that holiday will mean nothing in a few years. RIP, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory women – you are not forgotten. Amy

Homeless in Madison, Winter 2001

Homeless folks dread winter
This coming winter especially
We with homes worry for them, too
(Governor closed two safe havens)

Wisconsin is “penniless”
No money for “extras”
We with homes give to NGOs
(But the Guv has bucks to redo the Capitol Cafeteria – all winter long)

Ironic. That cafeteria provided
daily shelter for many residents
from punishing, sub-zero winds
(Merry Fucking Christmas)

Our governor “doesn’t hate anyone,
least of all, the poor”
We protest to remind him of his lies
(As he settles into his plush office for a toasty-warm Madison winter)

Politicians and the Constitution
don’t always agree… we need many
voices to speak on behalf of those in need
(and to recall this sorry excuse for a governor)

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Poetic Bloomings (a newer prompt site – check it out!) asked for poems using the most irresistible prompt: “There’s a moon out tonight.” Aaaaaah. Amy

La Bella Luna

Grab a jacket and take my hand, darlin’.
Tonight, Monona’s lakeside is calling out to us.
La bella luna want to bathe all lovers
in beams of reflected light.

Here by the shore, slight chill of the autumn to come,
we’ll stroll, serenaded by so many crickets
and the soft paddle of ducks, looking for a late-night snack.

Though full-faced Old Man looms above, silverfoiled and shining,
the lightning bugs are not overwhelmed.
Blinking gold, ruby, emerald… just out of reach,
yet so near, teasing us, same as they did
when we were kids lying in field of wild grasses.

City lights are low, revealing buckets of stars
spilled in horoscope formations.
We needn’t prove our love beneath this panorama.
We are no longer teenagers, needing it now, now.
The silver moon lingers in streaks of our hair
as we walk and whisper, my hand in your jacket,
you arm slung around my shoulder as we make our way home.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

DISCLAIMER: Actually, we live near the shore of Lake Mendota; Monona is to the north of our skinny stretch of the East Side of Madison, WI. I felt the name “Monona” was a bit more poetic. Apologies to all Tenney Park neighbors!