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

Tag Archives: POETRY

Youth and the Journey

the journey’s a swagger
then a stagger
and a dagger
cutting through to
the heart of the matter

what spatters is
a smattering of truth
diluted by
a well of self-doubt

All too soon
the new moon wanes
giving way not to sunrise
nor to hope
nor surprise

but a wisp of wisdom
too late to impart
as the last truth
trickles from the heart

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

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

My Favorite Bouquet

Buy me no roses, I begged him.
Spare me the sight of their bloom.
They wither and die,
and depress such as I,
but I do so adore their perfume!

Two things – a vial of rose essence,
The other, a sunrise sweet kiss.
I love a nice gift,
one that gives me a lift:
Love, your self is my ultimate bliss.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Just because we’ve been married 13 years doesn’t mean I don’t love Lex more every day. May our Creator grant us the gift of growing old together. Peace, Amy

For Poets United, my poetic hearth and home.

First, an apology for not being up to date answering your comments – I promise to catch up by the end of the week!

Three Word Wednesday asked for poems containing these words: Might, Passive, and Flag. Took some liberties with those words… let me know what you think, especially after you decode the definition below (if you’re not a Wisconsinite, that is!) Amy

Dragon’s Breath

A Dragon’s breath is rancid
Stifling, smells like hemlock that’s
been brewing too long

Dragons hate Badgers, tough little guys
who burrow so fast their escape routes
to dodge the Dragon’s flames

Badgers have claws so long and hard,
rodent talons that can scrape Dragon’s tongue
into ribbons of blood and leathery flesh

One particular Dragon, draggin’ in riches
from Wizard Brothers, shows off his
shiny scales and mighty bearing

Badgers are not passive. They have seen
Dragon burn through other Badgers’ lives
like fodder, trying to scare the rest

back into holes, to render them unnoticed,
inconsequential. But Badgers’ tenacity
will stand to fight as one:

They will chase the Dragon from
their own flagged castle, as the Golden Lady
points the way to a better future

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

NOTE: For non-Wisconsinites, our state is engaged in an effort to recall the current governor, Scott Walker. The Dragon is obvious; the hemlock, well, you can draw your own references, although the Wizards are the Brothers Koch, who funded the Tea Party, then helped them look like a grassroots effort, when in fact it’s more like a perfectly manicured lawn. The Badgers are the namesake of many sports teams, including our UW College team, and also refer to everyday, six-pack Wisconsinites. The Golden Lady is “Miss Forward,” a statue atop our “castle,” the Capitol Dome here in Madison. She bravely points the way forward… wearing a helmet that has a BADGER on it! How cool is that?

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

Poets United asked for poems regarding “this time of year,” the regrets, the emotions that run high. In my case, so many bridges have been burned at the holidays… tempers in my circles flare, often to the detriment of even long-term relationships. And so I offer this poem. Peace, Amy

Repairers of the Breach

When all is said and done and
undone, then soddered together once more,
the saddest truth is this:

You’ll never go back in time.
No mulligans on misspeaking,
no second tries on bitter partings.

Bridges burned are seldom rebuilt,
the breach often irreparable, final…
or so it seems.

So strive to remember that God gave us
two ears and one mouth – a ratio
reflecting God’s common sense.

Listen for the resonant truth with respect;
forgive other folks’ harmless blather,
unless it is prejudiced and hateful.

(Sometimes you must walk away from hatred,
homophobia, racism and such, for reasons
of conscience in the face of recalcitrant bigots.)

Try to leave the bridge burning to others.
If the bridge be burnt, let it be for the right reason.
Live in love, as repairers of the breach.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Posted at my poetic oasis, Poets United. Proud to be a member!

Journalism and the Bush Years

Misinformation was the most potent weapon
of the Bush Regime. How soon we forget.

Remember him clowning at the Press Club?
Journalists laughed with him, not at him.
(The new crop of undereducated – but
photogenic – media types are a sorry lot.
Unlike Morrow, they’re not hired for their brains;
unlike Cronkite, they’re not to be trusted.)

“No WMDs under here!” he bozoed, to
wave upon wave of pandering giggles.

While I, the Christian,
and my Riley, the Jew,
and our friend Muna, the Muslim,
used to sit on her porch and drink “ka-hway”
(which is Arabic coffee powered by something
stronger than nuclear fission could EVER produce;
this bunker-buster brew with thick black syrup on the bottom
is the stuff of dreams except you never go to sleep
until two days later and even then
you are still talking VERY fast).

On 9/11 we sat in her kitchen and cried.
Later on Muna’s porch
(all too soon snarled at by passersby)
we sipped her coffee
and cried some more.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Also at the poetic oasis, Poets United.

Living Love (for Kate)

So far down on his luck, he’s under it.
Living beneath a bridge called Home.

Gathering other folks’ flotsam by day
to make do, then retreating to his camp
where he sleeps unmolested each night.

From her window, she spies the man.
She ventures out, offers some food, scopes out
the soul hiding underneath his misfortune.

They don’t talk much, but then,
true generosity is not a grand, chatty deal.
Her gifts are met with quiet gratitude.

She buys him a propane grill and this and that.
He probably needs psych help, but she’ll never
push – so easy to scare a rabbit from its hutch.

She says, “When the president came to Madison,
he drove right over that bridge.”  The irony
is thick as brick, and just as heavy.

That’s not a troll under there; no beast from
a Grimm tale.  He’s a human being.  And she
acts out of the words of Jesus, quietly.

She lives out of love.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Sunday Scribblings; the prompt was “investigate.”  Iif Kate had never checked out this man and his circumstances, she’d never have had the chance to help him. Also posted at the wonderful 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.

We were asked to write a poem about ourselves by the wonderful poetic collective, Poets United. I chose the musical facet, because everybody’s been deluged with too much about my mental health and Wisconsin/national politics lately! So consider this an early Hanukkah present…


Faceless in the realm of True Believers
Nightclubs were my church
Midnight congregations
Not Sunday stewards
Saturday night souls hungry for the words

Holding fast to faith in
languid, lazy Hoagie
self-indulgent Cole
snobby, snappy Noel
Billie and Judy, my fallen risen angels

The smoky cloud of witnesses
for souls such as I

A baby grand, my heaven
our voices, the choir
Music, my religion
controllable, comforting balm

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil