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

Tag Archives: Real Toads

Milk Shakes and Enemas

Some doctors are too strict about
a pregnant woman’s “dos” and don’ts”
So I went to a good midwife
so didn’t issue “can’ts” or “won’ts”

I kept up with my calcium
the folic acid, fruit treats, too
But when the temp hit 1-0-3
I called her, whining “What to do?

“I’m sweating like a roasted pig
I’ve showered cold three times today
I need the consummate relief…
I need it NOW, without delay!”

“You’re nine months in, due any day
May I suggest, indulge yourself
Choose something cold and make it sweet
Go get the blender off the shelf”

Now Baby kicked up quite the storm,
I took it as an omen good
Some chocolate ice cream, Hershey sauce
The ultra in forbidden food

Plopped by the air conditioner
set on Freeze Off My Toes,
as Baby did the Caffeine Dance
my smile bloomed like a perfect rose

Of course, that night, my water broke
and labor quickly did commence
with my intestines like a brick…
The milk shake, oy! No common sense

Now, enemas are never fun
Less so when huffing through the pain
Were I another babe to bear,
no third-trimester shakes again

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Amy Laura Strangle
And they all lived happily ever after
(Image from Amy’s private collection, pls. do not duplicate)

Poetic Bloomings wanted a poem about two contrasting things. This was the first “odd couple” to come to mind, and it’s a true story, ugh. The only good thing that came out of that ordeal (I spared you the boomerang Gatorade!) was Riley.

Also linked to my little slice of heaven, Imaginary Garden With Read Toads’ Open Link Monday!



Image by L. Diane Wolfe, used by permission of the artist

Edgy

In the left corner
Invisible
I
maneuver this heady circumference

Rough and jagged as
I
and just as blue
Stepping lightly, lest

I
fall into the bowl
scratching again with nails
bloody from the task

See the marks from
years past
No one else here so
I

continue my inchworming
Whoops! that damned crag
I
hit it last time around

Slipdip and down
I
go, clawing my way to the top
like a silicone starlet

There is no end to this
circumspect circumnavigation
I
am doomed, Sisyphus in ceramic

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Ella interview L. Diane Wolfe, a photographer whose work has been evolving for over 23 years; Ella found her on deviantart.com. Diane graciously offered the Toads some of her pieces to use as inspiration for poetry.

Also “in the margin” at Poets United, my other outlet!  Peace, Amy


At the Great American Food & Beverage Co., Wilshire at Sixth (1979)

Joe’s behind the keys
Doug, Lisa and I singing backup until
others join the fray, Carolyn on cabasa

This restaurant is like nothing ever
Ever
EVER

Smells mingle and linger
Rib sauce, beer, whipped cream
Sweat and hot chocolate

Sounds bounce and dervish
Music: Tambourines, guitars,
ivories, voices of every color and timbre

It’s late, so Jamie takes to the piano
“Heartbreak City” in the key of frenetic
Climbing on tables, raising hell, crazed

Chuck on “Takin’ It To The Streets”
We gather around him, the army of
musicial pacifists, guitars the only weapons

No mics, just naked acoustics, so I have to
wait for a lull and take the piano with great
intention to render “Skylark” as it should be

People wait for hours outside
Munching veggie trays, waiting for
two hours just to get in

The floorboards harbor stories
of naked piano players, cooks banging
fudge pots, making fun of musicians

Of after-hours massage lines, practical
jokes magic serving starving
The life of a singing waiter or host

Poppy stops in, baby River bops in his arms
He laughs when he smells the Divine Weed
wafting from the kitchen

Enrique the dishwasher knows three words
in English: “E-spread ‘em, babeeee!”
Kitchen staff schooling him

Late nights playing pinball for free
Greggie found the key and we laugh and
drink and sing the old songs, it’s quiet now

Lights out, don’t have to go home
but ya can’t stay here…
Farewell, my youth, my touchstone

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Fireblossom wanted poems about a specific place. How about a specific place and time, with specific people? For those of you who never experienced the Great American Food & Beverage Co. in Santa Monica in the 70s, this is only a taste of the wild, wickedly fun, wantonness that was the G.A. A place that holds me fixed in time and space, a place where I went from girl to woman – and from beer to beyond. Peace, Amy


Summer Treasures Remembered

Silence is for remembrance, thoughts of her childhood.

Summers… The dappled pony on Aunt Beth’s farm, riding at a canter back to the house. Shucking corn, peeling skin from squash, separating rind from dead-ripe melons. The tang of lemonade, made from scratch. Braised ribs from Moody, the steer who kicked and broke her wrist. Dinners on a platter; breakfast straight from Grandma’s cast-iron skillet.

There was no tomorrow, at least not until Ma came to collect her and the boys, back to the fast-paced, grimy city, home.

She switches gears to five years ago when, after careful moral inventory, she chose. Rejecting city life for the solace of the country cloister. Truth is transitory; choosing the habit over skinny jeans, long sleeves over skimpy T’s. Her chestnut hair fluttered to the floor, shorn like a sheep at Beth’s farm. Her simple cell: table with wash basin, lamp, bed, cross overhead.

A final goodbye to family as she enters the authenticity of spiritual life, simplicity over audacity. Ma lingers at the cloister gate, remembers how little Sandy (now Sister Joan) took catechism class so seriously. Sister Joan smiles from two floors above, then joins her order in preparing a home-cooked dinner to be driven into town for the homeless.

Shuck, peel, braise, remember.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

This was for Kerry O’Connor’s Get Listed at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads; words can be found HERE. Yes, I took liberties with the word “malinger,” but hey, my Iroquois name would be “Plays With Words.”  Kerry said to use two or three, but I went to town and used ’em all!

My BFF, John, was at one time a brother in the Franciscan Order; later, he became a priest. Now he’s thoroughly enjoying life as an ex-priest/healthcare worker, moonlighting as a piano bar player in Philadelphia. Man, John can SING. He even performed “New York, New York” at his ordination party (including key change, per his instructions to the band). Peace, Amy

 


Imaginary Garden With Real Toads presented me with a real challenge – a new form! Not my strong suit, but once I got going, I was on FIRE, baby! I’ve also placed this on the shelf of the Poetry Pantry at Poets United. Process notes below.

I.
She sings
for the lonely
whose martini glasses
teeter their moods to sighs of “then”
Choosing songs with good bones, timeless, misty
Watching hookups destined to fail
Witness to a rapt drunk
who cries; to whom
she sings

II.
The blur
of is/is not
falls upon her lightly
winds around her soul so tightly
She seeks solace in the bitter bottle
Battles blues with burn of bourbon
Diff’rent bottle, the script
would help her beat
the blur

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

PROCESS NOTES:
First, thematic: She Sings is from my days in piano bars, where I was the only performer. Some nights I found that the sights and emotions of my customers were more interesting than my music. The reference to “good bones” is, of course, from old houses in terms of reconstruction.

The Blur can be any sort of mental disorder, when the person chooses to self-medicate rather than follow the doctor’s plan. In this case, she has received her diagnosis, gotten her meds, and won’t “play along.” Most heavy drinkers I know don’t gave the insurance or don’t realize they need a psychiatrist; I’ve seen this lead to the worst ends possible, including several suicides… and my mother’s lifelong battle with booze.

AS TO THE FORM: A Rictameter is a “form with a shape.”  The syllable count is 2-4-6-8-10-8-6-4-2.

A bit of history from the Real Toads site: Created in the early 1990s by two cousins, Jason D. Wilkins and Richard W. Lunsford, Jr., for a poetry contest that was held as a weekly practice of their self-invented order, The Brotherhood of the Amarantos Mystery. The order was inspired by the Robin Williams movie Dead Poets Society.



Artwork by Chelsea Bednar, used by permission of artist

In the Forests of Time

In the forests of time
grows a tree of great stature
and mythical powers

A statue and a garden and
a haven for those who crave
a little time

The Key of Life stands guard
ensuring time is not wasted
but hasty exits are seldom

Linger in this forest with me
as we examine the footprints
of the mysteries of life

Take a branch, any branch
Hunker down a spell
Lost in the growth of time

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Chelsea Bednar is an up-and-coming artist; she lent us use of this image for Margaret’s “Artistic Interpretation” prompt at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads. I was inspired by the clocks and the small ankh on the left side, known as the “key of life.” For more poets’ interpretations, click HERE, and for Chelsea’s website, click HERE. Also for dverse Open Mic Night.  Peace to all, Amy


First off, I had the pleasure of chatting with Isadora Gruye (AKA Izy) for a featured interview at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, where I am now an Official, Honest-To-Goodness Real Toad! Izy, our resident correspondent, asked some candid questions, and I did not hold back. Hope you like the interview – CLICK HERE TO READ.

Meanwhile, at my other poetic home, Kim Nelson at Poets United wanted offerings about the universe. Here is mine. Peace, Amy

The Universe Within

Deep inside our outer skin
Underneath that layer, within

Past the muscle, stretching leather
and our arteries’ coursing tether

Deep within our very bones
a universe that cries and groans

Waters of our bodies’ form
Chemicals upset the norm

Feel the balance quiver, shake
Know that inner, dark earthquake

Hormones, drugs in all our meat
Stay within us, to compete

Weak, our natural defenses
Only diet recompenses

Choosing the organic way
Balance will once more hold sway

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

The effect of CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, also known as Factory Farms), where animals are captive and packed tightly together, means not only growth hormones but antibiotics in grocery store meats are partly stored and partly excreted into sewage. Meanwhile, Monsanto continues its stranglehold on the produce farms, expanding to a point where their air-sprayed delivery of (sometimes human waste) fertilizer is threatening to migrate onto organic farms. Your best bet? Buy local, organically grown produce – and support small, family-run farms.

Peace and health to all, Amy


Hydrangeas on Block Island, 1988
Image by Joanne Bergenwall,
licensed under Wikimedia Commons

Blooms began to give way to age
as summer heat set in, bushes and
hedges of hydrangea, a veritable
fantasy of violet on the small island.

The guys were gigging there and I
was large with Riley, up early each
morning to watch blossoms adorning
the pathway to town. I walked down

to the gate and set out around the block
taking stock of purple bunches, hung
on branches like ornaments. The most
lovely stage of the hydrangea is in its

swan song: Faded to a pinkish hue as
crisp brown edges form, they look like
the silk inside of my Grandma’s purse.
Violet, you were never lovelier than

that summer, me in full childbearing
bloom, you holding on long enough
to strut your stuff and bring me peace
before the band awoke, grumbling.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Riley’s father had a gig on Block Island, just off the coast of Rhode Island. I skipped a lot of the performances, preferring to sit on a rocker on the front porch and talk to our hostess about our baby to be. We’d watch as an elbow or foot almost punched through my thin summer dress, chatting. We spoke of the bushes, and violet was the choice of everyone on her block. In Alice Walker’s novel, The Color Purple, the character Shug declared, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” I think she was onto something.

This was for Kim Nelson’s “violet” prompt at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads.  During my meditation today, I was whisked back in time, when I was in as full a bloom as the flowers.  Peace, Amy


Little Amy stereo
Image: From Amy’s personal collection, not to be copied without permission.
Amy next to the family stereo, circa 1965 (she’s workin’ that leopard print!)

Glued to Sis’ Transistor Radio

We had a stereo at home
One of those looks-like-furniture
big honking wooden pieces
It was fine, if you bought the records

But who bought every record,
and who knew what to buy until we
heard it on the radio, on my sister’s
tiny transistor, huddled round it

Bound to hear the latest
Beatles, Dusty, Petula Clark…
Radio was alive with sounds and
smooth voices on the intros

First time we heard a new tune, we’d
break into mad dancing, flipping the dial
until we found the song again, screaming
when the new cut was (ah!) Beatles-born

Today, I still listen, as videos turn me off
I like to create my own videos in my mind
With videos, it’s a full-out performance and
the musicians must lip-synch at concerts

trying to recreate the video moves, wearing
unearthly metallic outfits, arriving in plastic
eggs or flying over the arena like Peter Pan
on acid. There’s a word for that action:

Borrrrr-ring!

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, we were “treated” to a Rob Zombie song about “Dead City Radio.” The song was on a video, which made me think of the connections between the two. Many otherwise throwaway songs became classics because of the video performance via MTV. But Jo’s transistor radio was our savior, listening out back by the pool. Those tinny classics became some of our favorites. Then we’d go buy… the 45! This is also at my other poetic station, Poets United. Peace, Amy


Prelude to a Kiss
Lex & Amy Web
First time I saw him,
I had that feeling.
We would either be
friends forever…
or we would be, forever.

Eyes so warm and
chocolate brown,
that stubble after a day
of fighting The Man
for social justice.

His voice so warm,
slightly scratchy from
day-long phone calls
to legislators over
rights for others.

He showed up on my
doorstep, after leaving
a red heart-shaped vinyl
single of Bobby Caldwell
and a little anonymous card.

Admitting he was the
“secret admirer,” he
carefully waited until Riley
disappeared into her room,
leaned in with a smile, and…

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

That was what sealed the deal. We both knew it was fate, from the UCC New Members’ Class to his thoughtful, appropriate dealings with my daughter to launching a praise band to flirting while we helped at the kids’ fundraising car wash. The teen girls who had crushes on him asked repeatedly if we were sister and brother. I asked why, and they said it just seemed like we had known each other forever. From the mouths of budding “babes”!

For Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, the prompt was “prelude.” Couldn’t think of a sweeter introduction to fifteen years and counting.  Also at my poetic place for conjuring, Poets United.

Peace, Amy