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

Tag Archives: Music

CHANTEUSE DELUXE (have a listen, then read the poem)

What drives her to carry on so?
No limit to grandiose gestures:
Hand thrust heavenward as she
sings of graces she cannot touch
(yet seems to know well).

Delivery of gut-bucket blues,
growled, a feral cat in heat.
Singing is her salvation;
her masquerade; her comfort;
her inherent, inherited blessing
(born of a curse).

Tapping into sources of drama
most would never dare; airing
her truth with power, to power
(and always with a whimsical smile).

Striding through dark, abandoned
psychic hallways and caverns
where others might tiptoe
(their flashlights, shivering beams).

Her early demons gifted her,
then she was lifted from hell
by an undercurrent of free-flowing jazz.
She follows in footsteps of her people
(unhinged but brutally honest souls).

She is compelled to prize a pearl
(from the slimiest of shells).

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
PROCESS NOTES: A barlette is my own creation; this one has a longer form. Normally, the barlette runs three lines plus (a commentary line). This long forms allows more flexibility before the comment line.
PERFORMERS: Carol Ackley is a longtime and very dear girlfriend who was coaxed to the mike for an impromptu duet; we had not sung together in years. “Since I Fell For You” is one of my favorite standards. Sax solo is by the great reed man/percussionist/composer/musical powerhouse Rob Weinberger, who is also my former husband and father of our little Drummer Girl and artist, Riley Dunn.
PROMPTS: For Sunday Scribblings #311 (honest) and The Sunday Whirl: Carry, Singing, Follows, Drives, Hallways, Drama, Limit, Gestures, Hand, Delivery, Inherent, Sources, Previous, Drives.

Banjo Man (1980 and now)

He shines like a dime when he picks up his ax
He needs this job; these, the flinty hard facts

He smiles and he banters; he’s playing the game
Of what to do once you’ve been dumped by Big Fame…

…If he knew today what we’d thought about him
He’d think “singing waiter” much more than a whim

So many bright moments when we thought, “Oh, man,
he’s a mensch, a survivor – he’s part of The Plan.”

If time were more flexible; had I a jinn,
would that we could do it over again

Humanity, best learned recouping your loss
Humility, best served with extra rib sauce

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Photo courtesy of Musician’s Friend

This my 400th post at WordPress! To celebrate, I purchased the official site name, “” – but don’t worry; your old links will still forward to this address. Here is a song and with it, a true story that resulted from my posting the link on YouTube. My friends and former partners in music ministry, Kathy Smith and Corrine Crook of Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Endwell, NY, joined me at Tranquil Bar and Bistro in an impromptu rendition of “Rivers of Babylon,” as captured by my friend George Bezushko’s phone cam.   Peace, Amy

Sister Elizabeth and Babylon

African-American, Benedictine cloistered nun
writes letter to
Anglo-American jazz singer
asking for transcription of a song
she found on the Web.

Most of the sisters, Anglo as well,
sing a capella;
African influences will flavor the praise.
And so singer finds a hand-written copy
Sends it with note: “…and I’m married to a pastor!”

God’s work is never done
so effectively
as when women combine their own desires
with others’ can-do attitudes to create
a new kind of unity, crossing divides.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For dverse poets Open Mic Night and Poets United


The perks of being a backup singer
were the free drugs supplied
by folks who’d tend to linger

after the show, back in the hotel room
Finest weed from finest seed
Took her right back to the womb

Times change, from rage to new rage
Thai to cocaine, then rock in a pipe
First hit flew her to an infinite stage

The saddest moment she’d ever know
was a bright shining synapse pinging

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore

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!

Never before have I witness such an outpouring of love as for Marques Bovre, a local Madison musician who has played every venue from coffeehouses to large clubs to churches. He is the Artist-in-Residence at our church, Lake Edge UCC here in Madison. Marques has been battling an illness and the event tonight, chock-full of bands, was a fundraiser to cover his medical bills. (Universal health care, anyone?) Marques himself garnered strength to play with his two previous bands, So Dang Yang and Marques and the Evil Twins (yeah, there are four folks in that one!). We’re praying for his recovery, and man, he really BRANG it tonight, if you can dig that!

Impromptu (for Marques)

Tribute to a great and good Madison musician;
a rare, beautiful brother, fighting a rare, ugly disease.
Songwriter of extraordinary range and style,
Marques can bring the Holy Spirit into a rock club.

This night, it’s all his songs played by many bands.
The stage is spacious and filled with love –
rowdy crowd vibes spill up over the edge, flooding the stage.
Band throbbing, pulsations vibrating in our collective gut.

My glass of local brew is refilled by Craig
and I know the time is coming when the lure of
raw elements grip me and I will ascend the steps.
Musicians are an enigma: We have to do it.

The final tune is a jam; the beat renders me weightless,
abandon rapidly released. Spasms of hesitancy are overcome
and come tumbling out as overwhelming enthusiasm
for the task at hand… it’s about affirming Marques.

We are all vessels, vital elements of the shout-out.
the crowd pleaser, the old classic everyone knows,
and we release full-tilt at the top of our lungs:
“You ain’t seen nothin’ like the Mighty Quinn.”

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For the Sunday Whirl: Elements, tumbling, spasm, released, weightless, enigmas, grip, rapid, glass, pulsations, rare, spacious. Thanks, Brenda, for mining the work of Billy Collins to give us this Wordle! The words literally called out to me and I wrote this shortly after arriving home from Marques’ gig. Peace, and please add Marques and this family to your prayers. Peace in the key of D, Amy

Poetic Bloomings asked for a poem about traditions; the Sunday Whirl tossed this motley group of words at us: amorous, subtle, genuflect, precipice, inkling, vanilla, mission, December, laden, bark, crusted, trivet. A retelling of the kind of family dust-up that eventually goes from legend to a smile, this is dedicated to the memory of my former mother-in-law, Hanna Weinberger; and in honor of her husband, Len, and Rob and his fantastic second wife, Donna. Peace and twinkly lights, Amy (P.S. Lex and I also light a menorah to this day, in Riley’s honor.)

Christmas Tree With a Schmear

“Will I have to genuflect to it?” she grimaced.
An inking of the controversy to come, December of ’86.
My mission, to host my husband’s folks and to
decorate our Christmas tree. No big deal, right?

Intermarriage: He, a Jew; I, a pseudo-Christian.
(His faith only observed when his mom set
the Passover table, lit by silver candlesticks,
laden with luscious food on fancy trivets.)

But every year, my vanilla faith called for a tree.
My Episcopalian upbringing had brought me to this:
On Christmas Eve I’d sneak into church;
in the spring we watched “Easter Parade” on TV.

Interfaith civil wedding: A generic Man of God
found in the yellow pages; a hoopah in our living room
(no rabbi or minister without promises of Hebrew or
Sunday school… not ready to even have kids!).

We lugged home the best (cheapest) tree in Queens;
its bark shredded during trunk-shoving, leaking
pestilent, resinous sap. My allergic splotches
crusted over just in time for The Big Party.

Mom was less than amorous about the whole affair.
She felt her shiksa daughter-in-law had exposed a subtle agenda:
Trying to make her son revere a tree that (apparently)
was a symbol of Jesus on the cross. With tinsel and lights.

They entered with trepidation; this was a precipice in our
relationship. I had gone to every Seder, Hanukkah… and
my husband loved having a tree (the pagan aspect, too).
Within ten minutes, we had gravitated to places of safety:

Mom, smoking a cigarette, looking at the wall, peeking
out of the corner of her eye in downright disgust. Wife
telling stories of each ornament; husband happy, stringing lights.
Dad, singing along with a Crosby record, “White Christmas.”

Ain’t compromise a wonderful thing?

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

A bit late for World AIDS Day, but this song was written for it.  Blessings to all who are still fighting the fight – doctors doing research, nurses offering loving care, and the people who struggle each day to take their 1,001 meds. Don’t let the media fool you – AIDS is not easy to manage. Peace, Amy

The Day I Saw An Angel Fly (For Jeffery French)
Words and Music by Amy Barlow Liberatore, copyright 2001

In the 80s, on a big iron bed
My friend Jeffery, and a sign that read:
The nurse came in and whispered to me
“Put on a mask and gloves – it’s for protection, you see”
And in defiance of the rules, I lay the gloves aside and wiped his fever cool
When it was time to leave, Jeffery tugged at my sleeve, and spoke of…

Angels, flying free
He said, Angels, they’re waiting for me
They’ll take away my fever and fear
They’ll give me wings and release me from here
We’ve all of us, angels-to-be… I hope you see them when they come for me
When I go and you’re missing me so, just turn your face to the sky
And say you saw an angel fly

So many years, so many goodbyes
Too many breaks in our family ties…
Sisters, brothers, friends and lovers
A little news of research each day, and in the meantime, we pray
We keep on working for the best
But when the battle’s lost, and someone’s laid to rest
Jeffery’s words come back to me… I close my eyes and I see…

Angels, all around; angels, on holy ground
They see my tears and soothe all my pain
They give me courage to face life again
We’re all of us, angels-to-be… I know I feel them when they comfort me
I’m not sure of too much in this world, but I know you’ll never really cry
Until you see an angel fly

Can’t remember where I learned to laugh, but
I know I learned to cry
The day I saw an angel fly

NOTE: Jeffery died a week after I told him I was pregnant with my daughter. His beloved Christopher made sure Jeff was able to stay at home and pass away in his own bed, in his favorite nightshirt. Christopher is still with us, and this song is dedicated to both of them. And no, I did not misspell my friend’s name! “G. Jeffery French.”

Also at my poetic heart and hearth: Poets United.

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.

Third Eye of the Sightless Woman

Deprived of what doctors call normal vision,
she still envisioned worlds beyond worlds;
seeing each person beneath their form or color,
she possessed the gift of sight in her ears.

She heard beauty, shame, promise of each person
and saw their auras while listening to their stories.
Behind the vague stare was a screen of inner vision,
and here ran a constant stream of color and shape,
as all things passed her acute field of hearing.

Dogs barking in sharp blacks and whites.
Birds whirling in dissipating pinks and ochres.
Breezes green with promise of pale cyan rain.

But music – ah! music held the entire palette.
Symphonic orchestras, brilliant watercolor fields.
Strings pulling rakes to mingle azures and apricots,
brass spotting canvas with dots and long sturdy lines
of coral and dust, the silverfoil tingle of cymbals.

Jazz was denser; oils, perhaps, a thicker base.
Saxes hacking crimson into piano’s sepia lines.
drums ticking tapping low, inking ebony onto the canvas.
The singer could be violet, Ivy Anderson; sapphire,
Ethel Waters; or Julie London’s burgundy midnight.
And Billie: Dry-brushed for texture, always blue.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
dverse poetry asked for poems about opening one’s third eye. My best vision has always been heard (synesthesia adds to this; because of my condition, I often hear sight patterns). And so I gifted my subject with a different kind of sight. This is also posted at my poetic heart, Poets United. Peace, Amy