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

Tag Archives: Poverty

Livin’ on the Minimum Wage
© 2014 Music & Lyrics by Amy Barlow Liberatore/Beehat Baby Words & Music
Dedicated to the fight for economic justice in the USA

Livin’ on the minimum wage
Slavin’ for the man who don’t need more
Bet he never felt what it’s like to be poor
My life’s a story of this sad age
I’m livin’ – givin’ – livin’ on the minimum wage

St. Vinny pray for me and mine
Jeans and sneaks and hoodies I’ve gotta find
Squeezin’ every dollar ‘til the eagle screams
Fight in pantry lines for the rice and beans
Where’s my golden ticket? Want a golden ticket!
Where’s my golden ticket? Need a golden ticket!


Does my congressman know what it means
WalMart and McDonald’s don’t pay beans
Put ‘em all together, it’s full-time work
If my kids get sick, then my boss is a jerk
“Doncha got a sitter? You should have a sitter!”
If I had the money… SURE I’d have a sitter!


Waitin’ in the clinic with the kids today
Cut off my Medicaid, now I’ve gotta pay
Why they tryin’ to tell me I make too much
Daycare, rent, food, gas, and such
Man, they make it harder. Why they make it harder?
Life is getting harder… I won’t be a martyr!


I wrote this song (think “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?” vibe for music… sorry, I don’t have a recording) for a Justice and Witness Ministries event at our United Church of Christ here in Madison, WI.  Have we all worked minimum wage/maximum effort jobs?  Sure, in our teens, our twenties, maybe… But nowadays, I see parents, grandparents, all slaving for a buck.

We need to do better by our workers.  This is America, a country of immigrants who seem to have forgotten that we stole the whole deal from the Tribal Nations and then “imported” human beings like cattle to build it up for free.  We need to regain a sense of humility and compassion.  That’s my Labor Day prayer.

For ABC Wednesday, I for Income Inequality!  Amy

My Favorite Poem of All Time (Click above to hear it read by Amy)
Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Imaginary Garden With Real Toads

By Carl Sandburg (1878–1967)
from his Chicago Poems, 1916

AMONG the mountains I wandered and saw blue haze and red crag and was amazed;
On the beach where the long push under the endless tide maneuvers, I stood silent;
Under the stars on the prairie watching the Dipper slant over the horizon’s grass, I was full of thoughts.
Great men, pageants of war and labor, soldiers and workers, mothers lifting their children—these all I touched, and felt the solemn thrill of them.
And then one day I got a true look at the Poor, millions of the Poor, patient and toiling; more patient than crags, tides, and stars; innumerable, patient as the darkness of night—and all broken, humble ruins of nations.

Omaha, Nebraska

Seated in the squalor that was
Council Bluffs in those days,
the big city seemed far away.

Even if she got there, someday
how would she find a job
that could pay? Really pay?

She dug up some money,
got a gown downtown and
she could pass for 21 (at 16).

She knew she could sing, then…
She dipped into Mama’s purse
and cursed herself for doing it, but

Mama wouldn’t miss the compact
as she was currently in the mental ward.
“I’m gonna look older, live bolder.”

And Dad was using his daughter
in ways that would not win him
Father of the Year awards.

So she packed up her pack,
left before Dad got back,
and boarded the ferry one day.

Hotel Blackstone hired her
at first sight and first song,
and yes, they would pay, hooray!

In years to come, she would
travel around, by bus, by car,
by train (not by plane).

She owed her start in large part to
Omaha. And Council Bluffs?
Only if there was a funeral.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter “O.” Also at my poetic hangout, Poets United.

Image courtesy of “Heaven’s Gates,” but DAMN!  This singer in the photo is an absolute ringer for my mom, Charlotte, in those days, when she sang as Patty Long and later as Jan Long (Binghamton already had one Patty Long!).

Another take on the Sunday Scribblings “December” prompt, but also for Jingle, Poets United, and other friends. This, in memory of houses and people facing neglect. Amy


Chipped clapboard snags bits of falling snow
The sagging porch, bulwarked by drifts
Cats wander in and out from underneath
through the hole in the latticework
ripped back in 82 by Greg’s whisky-fueled Ford sedan

The eaves troughs droop under weight of icicles
A sure sign of neglect
Bad insulation breeds stalactites
The poorer the family, the longer the crystals

Fernbeds of frost, delightful even on broken panes
Nature’s articulation of frozen beauty
Footprints a sign of life within these walls,
clomp clomp up the stairs, bristled Welcome mat
tracked by carefully brushed boots

Inside, the old man reads every word of the Pennysaver
It was their Sunday pastime years back; now it’s his alone
He clips coupons for items he will never buy
and gazes out, waiting for the gas company
to turn off his heat, the bastards.
He could do without the cable, even the electric…

Tonight he will sleep in their four-poster and let go.
The house senses this; from the crumbling chimney
comes the mournful whisper of a sigh

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil