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

Tag Archives: Poetic Asides

This takes some explanation.  To begin with, my generation has a problem with the word “queer.” It ranks up there with the “n” word and the 6-letter “f” word in our sense of disparagement of people who have to work much harder in this world, controlled as it is by white, straight men.

Joseph Harker, one of my favorite poets (see his blog on “Poets I Love”), posted to a prompt to “answer” a poet of yore. He chose Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We So Cool” with an interpretation that included the word “queer.” My daughter, Riley/Laura, taught me that I am the first to chide people for “not changing,” and that since she identifies as “gender queer,” I will have to adapt. So my understanding of the queer world (and well as the “Q” word) has indeed expanded. Parents, it’s not always YOU teaching your kids – it goes both ways!

Then someone posted a homophobic rant about “Village People” and damnation, so I replied in a poem, riffing off Joseph. Long explanation – loaded with controversy – I welcome any and all comments on this one.

You Are Queer (with love to Gwendolyn Brooks and Joseph Harker)

You are queer. You
are dear. You

live free. You
please me. You

speak out. You
whisper, shout. You

are loud. You
are proud. You

were dates. You
find mates. You

live longer. You
grow stronger. You

catch hate. You
know fate. You

are shoved. You
are loved.

(c) 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


We are moving from the Buffalo area to Wisconsin, as Lex has been called to a new church.   Lake Edge UCC offers Lex new challenges, and the Madison area is alive with cultural possibilities. Only sad part, leaving St. Paul’s UCC, Lex’s first church, and Attica friends who have become family to us… Peace, Amy

MOVING

All day I lay paralyzed
Panic-stricken by the massive undertaking
of a major move

The task is like a ton of marble
meant to be chiseled
reshaped into shippable form

The more I chip away
the farther the flotsam flies
Last chance to cherish tsotchke before unpacking again

Now the room is a frenzy of
forgotten details, floating memories
Taunting bytes of mislaid input

Cable movers – nail down days
Valium for the cat, pet-friendly motels
Electric stop here electric start there

Change car rental ALL insurance
Ensuring my mental collapse, or at least
a surging synapse

Graph paper at the ready, grid lines map
our new home – orderly oragami
I’m so anal it’s damned convenient for the movers

Around 4 pm I am clueless in clutter
cup of decaf by my side and
comforting cat on my lap

Then a skitch of that endless marble flicks my face
Embedding itself in my ear, burrowing
into my brain. The cycle begins again

And who the hell moves from snowy cold Buffalo
to blizzard-ridden frigid Wisconsin
And in mid-January, yet?

I’m blaming God, who is laughing Her butt off in Heaven
After all, She issued Lex’s call to ministry, and now She chortles,
“I’ll get you, my pretty… and your little cat, too!”

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


Well, I did manage to sneak on Poetic Asides (click on today’s prompt to see others’ work), as well as Jingle and Sunday Scribblings this week. So in the midst of my move, here is my take on Robert’s prompt: RECEIPT. Apropos, no? Peace, Amy

MEMORANDUM

TO: Poetic Asides and my blogging buddies
RE: Receipt of my intent to change locales

To Poetic Asides, to all I have befriended
No matter where I am, my journey with you
has not ended, nor will it

But God has called my Pastor Lex to a new place
To do a “new thing,” as is his calling
From cold, snowy Attica
To colder, blistering Madison, WI
Moving in Mid-January:

This shows that God possesses not only a
great sense of humor
But a well-developed sense of irony as well
(Jews knew that already)

While I shall remain scarce until
the move is completed, I will check in
from time to time. PA is my “fix” when
life mixes turmoil with tinsel
and thunder with a lightening of spirit

May you all have a blessed Christmas
A peaceful Hanukkah (where the heck is my dreidel?)
…and a happy Festuvus (for the rest of us)
No matter what your reason for celebrating this season
pray for peace above all

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


SILENT AGREEMENT

As she lay dying
The nurses stopped by to say goodbye
and ordered an ambulance,
sending her home to die in her own bed
as was her wish.

“Here,” whispered Doris, “you’ll need this.”
Slipping me an impossibly large bottle of Valium.
“It might be days… save you a trip to the drug store.”
And so armed with ambulance, copious drugs,
and the “DNR” in my pocket, we set out for home.

Mom had lived a life of addictions:
Smoking, drinking, unnecessary prescriptions,
moaning about minor pains to a doctor
whose only function in life was to sign Rxs.
She was 69; looked 85 but pregnant, her liver shot.

Only two hours later, she died
after receiving a single crushed Valium stirred into juice
and sluiced into her mouth via straw.
My sister and I took the 199 Valium left over and,
in silent agreement, flushed them down the toilet.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


SHE DIDN’T CHANGE (for Laura/Riley)

She was brilliant
Head of the class, sassy
Audrey-Hepburn beautiful
Powerful sense of justice
Rhythmically gifted
Constantly questioning authority
Doodling in the margins of her homework
Nose glued to a book or
to Japanimation on the tube

One day she decided
to tell me the truth,
that she is not straight
She calls it “queer”
(“Lesbian sounds like I emigrated.”)

And that’s the day I knew
My daughter is
Brilliant
Classy
Sassy
Beautiful
Powerful
Rhythmic
Queer
Challenging
Artistic
Well-read
Destined to illustrate a graphic novel

In no particular order, these qualities
And guess what?
In my eyes
In the eyes of her family
She didn’t change
She adjusted her horizon
and we adjusted with her

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
previously posted at Poetic Asides


OK, I know I’ll get heat for this one… another “stacking” poem for Poetic Asides.

BRICKS AND MORTAR FIRE IN BABEL

What is holy about the Holy Land?
The Dome dominated by one faith
as Americans do little except contribute
to Israel’s continued building of a wall
choking off Palestinians under slabs of
mentality and political polemic.

“It’s in Israel’s defense and protects American interests.”
It prevents Arabs from getting to the doctor.
How Christian, how Jewish, how holy is that?
And Americans, who cannot feed and clothe
and care for their tired, poor, hungry,
are footing the bill for the contractors.

People who defend Palestinian rights
are called “anti-Semites,” even the Jews who
choose to show mercy on Islamic people.
As though the heads of the State of Israel
speak for all Jewish people around the world.
Tell that to Jews who think Zionism is just another power grab.

Apocalyptics take joy in much of this,
feeling we’re stealing ever closer to the Rapture,
sure they know the year, if not the day and hour,
surer still that they and they alone
will ascend with Jesus, patted on the head,
and to Hell with everyone else!

Until true Godliness prevails, when
Jews, Christians, and Muslims remember
they all worship the same God,
Jerusalem will remain divided at its heart.
So many languages, so many translators,
but no one is listening in Babel.

Spare me your prophesies and Revelation.
If you really love Jesus, you have to love us all.
If you really follow the Torah, you have to love us all.
If you really follow the Prophet Mohammad, you have to love us all.
Israel is not real estate; Israel is a people.
Mr. Netanyahu, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


A universal truth, given poetic form by yours truly! Have fun, Amy

NO ONE WANTS TO CLEAN THE TUB

Soap scum, sloughed-off cells and scunge
Hair of questionable origin
The bathtub, basin of family grunge
Gloves and gas mask, I’m going in

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


WHO WILL TAKE CARE OF GREGORY?

It started off like usual, boy and girl meet,
make the trip to City Hall, marry.
Start a family with a beautiful boy.
Then Mom relapses, synapses lost to
crack addiction come back to haunt her
like Jacob Marley, chains and all.

Dad bails, few details known of his whereabouts,
so Mom goes to work and leaves Gregory in the house.
When the State workers came, they found him,
three years old, still in a crib, pillows packing him in
“to keep him safe,” mutters Mom, as she is
taken into custody (so is her son).

A year passes; Gregory waits for foster parents,
but he is no poster child for adoption. First,
they see his bright blue eyes and big smile…
then ask, “Why doesn’t he walk around?”
Workers explain that he just learned to crawl;
crucial development of muscles was delayed by the crib.

All potential parents pass him up like a misfit toy
until one day, the right couple comes along.
They see him as a creation of God, worthy, worth the fight
to take him to therapy, get him walking upright.
Take him to worship – he’s the church’s bright, shiny penny.
Pastor says, “You can’t spell ‘congregation’ without ‘Greg’!”

Finally, the big day, the whole church goes to court
to support the new family, to make it legal. Gregory looks
regal in his little suit and tie, smiling, smiling…
The joy on his face, applause when the papers are signed.
Gregory was put on this earth by a sick mom and a deadbeat dad,
but he knows he can always count on his two moms.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


Another Poetic Asides take on “forget what they say,” this one with no holds barred!

CALL ME WHAT YOU WILL

Call me too tolerant for
respecting those of other faiths.

Call me a bad Christian
for saying that God created us all equal, including Jews and Muslims and Taoists and Buddhists and non-believers.

Call me a bleeding heart
for wanting everyone to get health care.

Call me an alarmist
for insisting that hydrofracking is dangerous.

Call me an n***** lover (and they have)
for supporting an African-American president.

Call me anti-civil rights
for wishing to disband self-styled militias.

Call me anti-Constitution
for insisting semi-automatic weapons are not needed to hunt.

Call me a coward
for being a steadfast pacifist.

Call me a moron
because I graduated high school by the skin of my teeth.

Call me a bad mother
for not trying to talk my daughter out of being lesbian.

Call me a bad American
for pointing out that “under God” was added during McCarthy’s reign of terror and anti-Communist hysteria.

Call me a bad liberal
for listening to Rush and Glenn at least once a week.

Call me unbalanced
because I’m a responsible mental health consumer.

Call me a socialist
for wanting the rich to pay more into the kitty.

Call me a snob
for encouraging kids whose only adjective is “fuck” to dig deeper in their brain pan.

Call me a traitor
for believing a former president should face charges for ordering waterboarding and lying about WMDs… and laughing about it publicly.

Call me a bra-burning bitch
for having the temerity to insist on equal pay for equal work.

Call me naive
for wanting undocumented aliens to be granted citizenship (hey, if it was good enough for Reagan, it should be good enough for the Tea Party).

Call me whatever you want.
I stand by my values, no matter the consequence.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


DON’T FORGET TO TAKE POLAROIDS

Never one to take instruction
well, welcome to
THE EVE OF MY DESTRUCTION.

That’s me, going to hell.
Hand-basket by Longaberger.
So say the Bible thumpers

Because I insist my daughter’s
Divinely made, perfect…
and, yes, she loves women

If all she did daily
was love women,
I’d be worried, but fortunately,

she does other things, too:
art, music, movies;
she has a full life.

“I’ll bet you and Lex
do stuff besides
hanging in bed being straight!”

That’s right, baby, it’s true
We get up
sometimes for breakfast, lunch, dinner…

(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Thanks to Riley for permission to use her experiences for this poem.