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

Tag Archives: San Juan

Ted and Riley on couch

Ted and Riley, back in the States, 1993

She’s Gotta Have It

Just after Daddy flew back
to the States and I was hiring
nannies so I could sing at the
casino lounge each night…

Riley and me in Plaza de las Americas
(translation: da mall). She spied
a toy so huge, brown, sweet,
huggable, fuzzy… and pricey

“¡Mamí, es MÍ oso!” The teddy bear
to beat them all. So tall, big as Riley,
a faint smile, Hershey-Kiss eyes,
just like my beba’s eyes…

“Maybe another day,” I sighed after
checking the price; in a trice, she
sneezed, spewing snot all over
the poor bear’s head. ALL over.

I scraped the boogers off with my
credit card in the checkout line.
He’s mine, for now, as she
gypsies her way around L.A.

Ted sits on a small rocker, with a
tiny bear on his lap, waiting for her.
When I miss Riley most, I find Ted.
Sit on the bed, hug him, and smilecry.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

My sister says that once a child has peed, pooped, puked, or deposited any bodily fluids on a blanket, it’s theirs forever. And so it went with Ted. True story – I’d never seen a two-year-old put out that amount of mucus in my life. She really wanted that bear! This will appear on the side bar of Poets United, and it’s my NaPoWriMo #12 (National Poetry Writing Month:  A poem a day!)   Peace, Amy

San Juan, Riley and Mom beach 001

San Juan Beach, 1990 y 2011

Ai, mi nena Riley, two years old and growing like a weed. Her father on a plane back to the States, and me here in San Juan, adjusting to single motherhood. Around the corner she comes in her Little Mermaid bathing suit.

“Mami, yo quiero jugar con Daniel. ¿Esta bien?”

“Sí, beba. Con cuidado. Take it easy. I’ll take you both to the beach, a la playa, en un poquito.” I’m trying to keep it bilingual, but my Spanish is abysmal…
Ah, la playa… San Juan beaches are sunny, filled with naked babies running amok. Radios blare with competing salsa and rap stations; their owners oiled up, brown, and horny. They take no notice of most of the mothers, holding out for “Let’s Get Physical” bikini babes.

From the water’s edge, there are two worlds. Looking seaward, the Atlantic, churning at a faster pace here on the north side of the island; to the south lies the Caribbean, the true waters of Puerto Rico, lapping toes, warmer for swimming, perfect for gathering shells. Look toward the city, and brightly colored houses line the shore, while in the distance, the hotels and casinos loom over this strip of sandy paradise, reminding everyone of where they work, who really runs things.

The ocean is calmer than usual today, and in the distance, and angry iron steam engine of a storm is headed our way. We’ve had our hour, and now it’s nature’s turn. Soon, one huge clap of thunder will announce the current Apocalypso, dancing its way through town, ripping fronds from palms, chasing the parrots and finches back into El Junque, the rain forest. We gather our belongings like parachuters pulling in silk from the edges and, children in tow, laugh and chatter as we make our way back to our houses… but no farther. The bright lights and constant ding ding clatter spindlecircle of the casinos can wait.

The first drops of rain splat like water balloons, an assault on flowers but heaven for the kids, who now run “nakey,” whooping in English y espanol, each child learning from the other. A salamander takes refuge around the corner from her usual front wall and welcomes me with a blink.
“Riley, do you remember Puerto Rico?” I ask, slopping mochaccinos onto the table at a Madison café. “Do you remember little Daniel?”

“Yeah, but that was years ago,” smirks the seasoned traveler, the product of a broken home that Mom stitched together to shelter only two. “Oh, the salamander, I called him Eddie. But mostly, I remember you losing your sunglasses all the time.”

I sip hot cocoacoffee and exhale. “That was a tough time, you know.”

“Yeah. My only regret is losing all the Spanish I learned. And I miss the helado man… that ice cream was the best ever. Tasted like heaven. Oh, and the finches we had, Migdo and Pigdo. Will we go back someday?”

“Sí. beba, otro día. Cuando hay bastante tiempo, y mas dinero.” Teasing her with forgotten language.

“Wait, I’ve got it!” she squeals. “Yes, honey, another day. When there’s enough time and… more dinner?”

Hell, that’s close enough for jazz.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Photo of Riley and Amy and an ice cream cone from the Barlow/Dunn vaults, rights reserved by poet

Heretomost at Real Toads wanted a description of a bit of scenery, sandwiched in between two pieces of dialog. This starts with Riley as a two-year-old child and ends when she was 23, looking back. She remembers little of our time in San Juan, and almost nothing of her father’s deep troubles that ended our marriage. Just as well. Remember the good times, the warmth, the mingled scents of salt air and jasmine, the… salsafied satisfaction of Puerto Rico. Peace, Amy

Three prompts, three poems.  Enjoy, Amy


Our Big Transatlantic Move

In tropics too long…
Gazing at Autumn’s palette
we know we are home.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil




Deeply drowsy,
almost asleep,
I am awakened by

My silence possesses
a certain charisma.
Mood music melts my mind
in the key of D-flat.

As one’s eye might
perceive a heavy haze
on a lazy afternoon,
so I hear my silence.

Whispers, wishes.
Haunting harmonics
pitched aloft like angels, but
with a hint of humanity.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

FOR POETS UNITED (prompt: Third letter of your first name. And no, my first name is not “Sharp”!)

Y Not?

Yawningly waking.
Yearning aching to make love.
Yanking off your T-shirt,
purring, giggling, yowling…

Yelling, “Yes! yes! yes!”
After all these years,
you and I are youngas our first “yowza”!

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Lex, with love

For Poets United, Thursday Think Tank, we were asked to think about the beach. I’ve lived in Santa Monica, where many nights were spent on the beach (under various influences); Bermuda, where the sand really IS pink… but for my money, there was a romance in the salt air of Puerto Rico that remains unmatched. No offense to Bermuda or LA! Amy



San Juan beach at twilight
Strolling barefoot on cool sand
Sandals looped round my finger
Arm round the waist of a sweet soul
Head resting on his shoulder

We stop to regard the city from this place
The casinos at full tilt, the street filled with tourists
Then, as lovers do, we turn away and disregard
the frantic pace and rumble of night life
to discover and rediscover the essence of closeness

The sky holds a sliver of silver, stars shining all the more
for the moon’s modest reflection
Tide moving gently, water licking our toes

We sit in silence/not silence
Rhythm of a shared heart
Swish of Corona sipped from bottles
Breeze playing brushes on tall palms
air tinged with salt and
heavy with jasmine
filled with promise

© Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil