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

Tag Archives: mothers

Ghost of Mama, Passed

Damnedest thing, this smell
Can’t get it out of hair
nor clothes nor bedding

Cigarette smoke
That shit cost me a career

Two weeks of stench
clinging like a needy ex
stalking me like that one guy who…

Here comes freakazoid strange:
Niece calls me, nervous, feels like
“Grandma is trying to say something
to me, it’s important”

Now, I was Charlotte’s listening daughter
But Kati was Grandma’s smoking buddy
They sat and puffed for hours
while I choked in the next room
(but grinning because, hey,
Charlotte smoking and hacking was
still better than Charlotte drinking)

Twentysome years Mom’s been dead
After so much time, you think?
Charlotte clouding me with smoke
and Kati still puffing, could it be?

Mama, we are listening
Tell us what to do

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

At Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, we’re playing, Play it Again, Toads! Going back to an old prompt. First came Ella, invoking Halloween; then, there was a site of lines from ghost poems, one of which we must incorporate into our poem.

One struck me, from Ghost by Paul Mariani: After so much time you think… although I rephrased it for effect.

The experience in my poem is real. It could be weaning off a psych med, although the side effect was not confirmed by my psychiatrist. Maybe some old secondhand smoke finally draining out of my sinuses, like old toxins? Possibly a denim jacket from St. Vincent de Paul that I didn’t launder enough before wearing a few days in a row? It could be something ‘brainiacal,’ and for that I will consult my physician Monday.

But I think it’s Mom, I really do! (Especially because I washed the bejeezus out of the jacket and used a Netipot on my sinuses…)  Guess I’m calling Kati tomorrow after church!  Peace, Amy (although now I freaked myself out and I probably won’t sleep much.  Such is the questionable wisdom of creating ghost stories before bedtime!)


Folks, I know I’m way behind in visiting your sites, and for that I apologize. Think I’m back in the swing of things, but (and this is a good thing, not a complaint!) so many folks have wonderful comments, it’s hard to get to everyone’s sites for a look. I’ve given up on responding to comments on my work, but I guess visiting your site is better than blathering here!

Josie Two Shoes, a new friend, has begun her own prompt called “Two Shoes Tuesday.” This week’s word is “sacrifice,” so see what you think of my efforts below. I love all you folks for visiting, for being patient when I’m battling my manic depression, for being a source of strength, support, and community to me and so many others. Peace, Amy

African Mother’s Ferocious Love

Hunted, trapped like animals in their own village.
Strapped one to another: Mother, daughter and son.
Shoved into ships, below deck, so cramped,
no room to stand, sitting in human waste, crying.

The voyage was nauseating, grueling.
Thin gruel, water from barrels, not like
the clean, cool waters of streams of home.
Steadily, her people died of fever and starvation.

The sound of the whippings, the moans, night murmurs.
Her son finally succumbed to the wasting disease.
Now, as she wondered whether they would ever see land,
she felt his same gripping pain in her gut.

Up on deck for the hosing down and whipping,
she clutched her baby girl in her arms, carefully
inched her way to the rail and, in an instant,
they were both overboard, taken by the sea.

Her son had already been given to the water
after his death, tossed over like garbage.
At least now she and her baby girl would join her son,
together forever, engulfed in the endless waters. Free.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

NOTE: This poem has been edited from its original form, written in 2010.  It also appears at my poetic haven, Poets United.


ARMED

Put yourself in his position.

The kid was always odd.
Mom got knocked up but
some guy married her to
keep her off welfare or worse.

He grew up. Spoke loudly
at worship when he should’ve
kept quiet, now they thought
he was more disturbed that ever.

Roamed around with a bunch of
homeless dudes, got kicked out
of his hometown, they booed him.
“Crazy,” they whispered. Harsh.

He gets in big trouble and
hides out in the woods, but
one of his gang gives him up to
the authorities. He is cornered.

If Jesus had had a gun in Gethsamane,
would he have taken aim at the guards?
Nowadays, it would barely make the crawl:
“Middle Eastern man, 33, guns down cops.”

Jesus would never own a gun; he shunned
violence. He preached unconditional love,
and that’s not shown with assault rifles.

Even when betrayed with a kiss.

Even when tortured by Roman soldiers.

Even when people screamed at him
on the long, laden perp walk to Golgotha.

Even bloodied, he forgave those who
drove nails into his body.

Even as he was raised up on the cross
and set up for display like a sick statue.

Suspend belief in the resurrection
for a moment. He had no idea what
was coming next, and still, he chose death
willingly, for the sake of others.

What if Jesus had an assault rifle or
a high-powered Palin moose killer?
If you’re Christian, ask yourself:
Whose message do you put more faith in?

The words of Christ… or the lobbyists of the NRA?

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, we are back to Square One: A! I imagine this will ruffle some feathers, but remember, the crux of this not “either/or,” but rather, priorities. One can be a Christian and hunt, go to the shooting range. It’s a personal choice whether you feel safer with a pistol in the house, but if it’s stored and the ammo locked up, as it should be, that’s not a lot of help when, as Rush Limbaugh so eloquently put it today, “Obama’s thugs come to your door to seize your guns.” Ted Nugent would call me nuts, but I don’t think hunting requires Kalishnikovs. People are so fearful (some of that biracial man in the White House), they are stocking up on ammo!

FYI: Despite Rush’s ranting about the Commander In Chief (calling the president Socialist, Muslim, Nazi, racist, a traitor, and TAR BABY… let’s all throw up now), RUSH is the only radio talk show on the Armed Forces Network. This treason goes directly to the troops. Your tax dollars at work, and mine.)

It’s all about choices. And politics. And remembering who, and whose, you are. As for me and mine, I’m with Jesus; Gandhi; Martin Luther King, Jr.; the Buddah…  you get the idea.  Peace, Amy


These poems are dedicated to the women of Afghanistan, and I thank Kenia at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads for introducing us to the landai, the form of which is explained below in notes, along with other information. This is also on the sidebar at Poets United and at ABC Wednesday, where we are on the letter “J.” This is my favorite J word. Peace, Amy

JUSTICE for women in oppressive regimes

How can ‘women’s spirits hold up half the sky’*
when their earthbound selves swelter under the burqa

Women nurture their baby boys at swollen breasts
only to watch them grow up and oppress their mothers

I am ten paces behind my husband, I make out his shape through net
I am ten generations behind my husband – this burqa, my ceiling

She wanted only to read, write, work figures, create
Acid was tossed in my little girl’s face for this grave sin

Mullah in the madrassa, my brother’s fate in his hands
Mother in the market, her fate already decided

How can I find peace with Americans on my street
when uniforms and guns serve as their faces?

The Prophet (PBUH)** elevated women to rights and inheritance
Ayatollahs strip us of those rights and instead force upon us burqas

On a day I will never live to see, my daughter will shed her burqa,
renounce the veil, leave this town, go to university, be free

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

* Kenia encouraged cooperation and playing off one another’s landai. This line, an old Chinese proverb, was used in a landai by Sherry Blue Sky – view her collection HERE.

** “Peace Be Upon Him,” traditionally said after invoking the name of either “The Prophet” or “The Prophet Mohammed.”

NOTES: According to Kenia at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads:

“The word landai means “short, poisonous snake” in Pashto. The poems are (two lines and) collective — no single person writes a landai; a woman repeats one, shares one. It is hers and not hers. Although men do recite them, almost all are cast in the voices of women.”

I had only to think of a movie I saw yesterday, Kandahar (2001). A woman who had escaped Afghanistan years before seeks to return, as her sister has written she plans to take her own life. Based on the story of Nelofer Pazira, who stars in the movie, I was struck by how the burqas had festive colors, since the burqa itself stands as a disgrace upon the leaders of conservative nations. It is a socioeconomic stance, country by country, as to what women are allowed to wear, whether they may attend school… whether they can stay alive when they fall down and accidentally show an ankle. Another movie about the lives of women in brutal regimes, also based on a true story – tough to watch but important to witness: The Stoning of Soraya M.


Going the Distance:
“Who Do You Think You Are, Amy Barlow Liberatore?”

Let’s hear what everybody else says first:

“You were born 40 and you’re working your way backwards,”
said my mom, when I was 7

“Charmful little armful,”
said my musical mentor

“She can SANG!
said our African-American piano player

“Get that bitch off the podium!”
snarled the Buffalo cop at a peace rally

“Please don’t say that about your dad,”
cried my mom, when I was 35

“You’re not a dyke, why should you care?”
asked a Fundie at a PRIDE rally (when I challenged their ‘God Hates Fags’ sign)

“Good thing you can sing. Your dancing sucks,”
joked my friend at a big band concert

“You’re not a victim; you’re a survivor,”
said my therapist

“You wear manic depression well,”
grinned my psychiatrist

“You have the soul of a dinosaur,”
said the oracle Sidnie

“Don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel,”
say bloggers (with a wink)

“PLAY ‘FEEEEELINGS’!!”
slobbered countless drunks at my piano bar

“You’re just a gay man trapped in a straight woman’s body,”
said Jeffery, may he rest in peace

“You’re going to hell for encouraging those homosexuals,”
say… too many people to mention

“If you’re going to hell, it’s gonna be in a FABulous handbasket,”
giggled Jason

“Thanks for the lessons,”
said my BFF (and only he will understand that comment)

“I have no dramatic coming-out story because you were so accepting,”
laughed Riley

“She’s a pain in the ass,”
said the FBI agent, flipping through my file

“Take it off! Take it off!”
cried Christopher after I sang a comedic song about stripper envy

“Because she questions my authority,”
said the principal to my mother, as I sat in detention

“You are SO worth it,”
says my husband, over and over again

My life is chaotic peace.

I’m a sharp little pencil, still writing my life.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Poetic Bloomings (“Who Do You Think You Are?”), for Sunday Scribblings (distance), and for the Poetry Pantry at Poets United.


Real Women

Real women have curves
nerves of tempered steel
Watching promotions
granted to men of
lesser talent,
their hearts stolen by
lesser loves
until…

Real women revel in truth,
revive opinions stifled
again and again,
say their piece and
back it up with actions.

Some women shape the future
by giving the world
the next wild, willful
generation of humanity,
nurturing and guiding.

Others act as guides,
spiritual doulas,
friends who also nurture
the character of those children.
The Aunties Extraordinaire.

Real women love.
We love to love.
To make love, to share body and soul.
Even when swallowed by self-doubt,
surfacing with the pliable beauty
of sirens,
assured,
assuring,
ascendant.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Photo from History Central, archival shot of the inimitable Mae West, who once said, “No man ever loved me like I love myself.”
For dverse Open Mic Night, because real women ROCK!


Wonder, Wander

Young girl lies in tall grass
loves seeing flowers from underneath
Queen Anne’s lace, a parasol in sunshine
Timothy grass swinging above her
She wonders why buttercups shine thing
under her skinny chin

Mother looks out the back window
at her daughter and wonders where
life will take her in ten years
Will she also marry and submerge
in the suburbs, eager for her next drink

Billy finds Ginny in the field
Offers her a bite of his apple
“Ha,” says Ginny, “you’re Eve”
He grins, lies down beside her
innocently, wondering
when he will be attracted to girls

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Poets United Think Tank Thursday, the prompt was “Wonder.”
For Trifecta: Three 33-word stanzas, each describing the thoughts of one person connected to the next. I chose the situation each was in, mirrored against the naivete of youth versus the bitter truth of the suburban housewife. This is me, my Mom, and my best friend, John (who finally figured it out: Never!)