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

Tag Archives: Singers

Singer, Poet, Activist

Sings of love, peace, acceptance
Writes of mental illness, protest, LGBT alliance
(plus incest, sexual abuse and other taboos)
Acts to make the second shed its shame and
be embraced by the first

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Trifecta, we were asked to write about “three things in one,” in exactly 33 words. Also at my poetic all-in-one site, Poets United (proud to be a member!). Peace, Amy

Please be sure to read the explanation at the bottom of this post; otherwise, I’ll have every single stay-at-home mom mad at me, and that’s not my intention!! Peace and an Oreo dipped in milk, Amy

Housewife Envy*

I have always envied housewives.
Each morning, pulling crisp aprons
from drawers under counters crowded
with kids’ art awaiting a place on the fridge.
Willing the bacon to crisp, flipping
hotcakes on a Revere-ware skillet.
Had I but known that it only took
one drunken prom night spree in
the back of his souped-up Chevrolet,
just blooming at the shotgun wedding…

I, too, could include myself in the
year-round bliss of Tupperware parties;
Bloody-Mary-and-Bridge afternoons;
summer months spent gazing out the
window watching our neighborhood’s
rowdy, mud-caked munchkins until
Fall. Then, one by one, my own brood
would thrill to new lunchboxes and
come home smelling of crayons and
some other kid’s egg salad sandwich…

I wish I’d realized that to spurn those
high-school advances of Jimmy Parker
was like shredding my ticket to ride;
I would not feel so darned ignorant now.
Housewives get all the real news from
their husbands, entertainment from TV.
They subtract their own little extras from
the shopping list to stick to the budget,
and the only balls they need are made of
cotton, to wipe off Noxzema each night.

But here in this smoke-filled piano bar,
as another twenty drops in my tip jar, I
abandon the sting of this jealousy and
face reality: I’m stuck traveling to cities
like Hamilton, Bermuda, wearing a daring
cut-down-to-there number, making my
way in the world. Always on the move,
waiting for the crowd to feed me their
electricity through our mutual umbilical
cord of jazz, wisecracks, and dry martinis.

If I were a housewife, I would be pampered,
cared for, and I’d only have to spread my legs
once in a while and put up with the sting of
unschooled sex. I might wonder about the
uncertain lives of girls like me, who constantly
have to update their passports, who buy their
own jewelry from this year’s collection, who
hustle their way through airports to catch a
plane to the next destination, the next show…
If only I were a housewife, I’d be lucky.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
*IMPORTANT NOTE: I hold the greatest respect for mothers who are able to stay at home with their children; in fact, I consider it the most noble of pursuits. The “housewives” moniker is insulting to me as a feminist, because I believe staying at home is a viable CHOICE among many choices. But a prompt is a prompt, and since the poem presumes that all stay-at-home moms do is sit on their asses eating bonbons, sucking up booze, and watching soaps, I will accept all criticism. Please know that, after my years as a single working mother, I was indeed envious of moms who could be with their kids after school.

For Trifecta, “tongue in cheek,” and The Sunday Whirl: Housewives, Months, Year, Ignorant, Subtracting, Sting, Rind, Balls, Fall, Drawers, Spurn, Electricity.

I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) (click on link to hear the song)
Amy Barlow (vocals) and Stuart Watarz (piano)
Music by Duke Ellington; lyrics by Ned Washington (used by permission of their estates)


Those well-known, well-worn songs
of Ellington, Gershwin, Mercer
My primer, my guide from childhood

I wanted to make them my own so
I read the lyrics poetically first
before I sang them; I grew them inside

myself, within the deep chambers
of mystery, of smoky romance
and infectious delight

I never sang a song
the same way twice, but
I tried to get it right

Not trite, this advice to
younger singers: Read the song
first, listen to the lyricist

Don’t imitate, it grates
and you will sound over-rehearsed
and you will be dismissed as a poser

Don’t listen to Ella. Ever.
She embeds in your head and
will be artist-in-residence

Sing it. From the sole of your shoes,
from the fire in your heart,
from the orgasmic desire

Though the song was written
before you were born,
know in your heart that

there’s your version waiting
to be sung from your POV
Blow your horn, baby

and give out like there’s
no turning back,
no way out

cuz there isn’t. Once you’re
lost yourself in a classic…
you’re where you need to be

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For dverse Open Mic Night. “Standards” are the jazz tunes every good musician and singer knows before accepting a gig. As Time Goes By, Fly Me To The Moon, Embraceable You, … then there is the second, special tier of songs not on “the list” but that earn a singer points with the band members for knowing them… Lush Life, I Cover the Waterfront, Cottage for Sale.

The song on the media player is a standard; however, this is the complete version with both full verses, so it straddles the two tiers above. This version makes more sense, because it deals with the weekend, THEN “when the weekend’s over.” I cut my teeth on these songs, and I hope you like this version, from my CD, “Jazz Baby Hits Her Stride,” available for download HERE.

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!).

California Dreamer

I’m here
Made it clear out to the
West Coast
Hair sticky with salt,
sand in my sandals

Beach air so fine
This town is mine for the takin
I’ll break in
Shakin what my mama gave me

No car yet, but I got two wheels
I pedal with my red metal
or skate the eight blocks to work
That’ll pay rent for now

til I find my niche
in the LA club scene
And then, Bub, watch out
No doubt

As sure as this
rock wall will stand
My talent will meet their demand
Singers as common as sand… but I’m here

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For dverse Patterns, Pictures, and Poems, writing to a photo from their tasty selection.  Photo courtesy of James Rainsford; used with permission via the dverse site.
Also at my poetic cairn, Poets United!

CHANTEUSE DELUXE (have a listen, then read the poem)

What drives her to carry on so?
No limit to grandiose gestures:
Hand thrust heavenward as she
sings of graces she cannot touch
(yet seems to know well).

Delivery of gut-bucket blues,
growled, a feral cat in heat.
Singing is her salvation;
her masquerade; her comfort;
her inherent, inherited blessing
(born of a curse).

Tapping into sources of drama
most would never dare; airing
her truth with power, to power
(and always with a whimsical smile).

Striding through dark, abandoned
psychic hallways and caverns
where others might tiptoe
(their flashlights, shivering beams).

Her early demons gifted her,
then she was lifted from hell
by an undercurrent of free-flowing jazz.
She follows in footsteps of her people
(unhinged but brutally honest souls).

She is compelled to prize a pearl
(from the slimiest of shells).

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
PROCESS NOTES: A barlette is my own creation; this one has a longer form. Normally, the barlette runs three lines plus (a commentary line). This long forms allows more flexibility before the comment line.
PERFORMERS: Carol Ackley is a longtime and very dear girlfriend who was coaxed to the mike for an impromptu duet; we had not sung together in years. “Since I Fell For You” is one of my favorite standards. Sax solo is by the great reed man/percussionist/composer/musical powerhouse Rob Weinberger, who is also my former husband and father of our little Drummer Girl and artist, Riley Dunn.
PROMPTS: For Sunday Scribblings #311 (honest) and The Sunday Whirl: Carry, Singing, Follows, Drives, Hallways, Drama, Limit, Gestures, Hand, Delivery, Inherent, Sources, Previous, Drives.

Two diverse poems; one brief, one a story that happened long ago. The first is for a prompt for Six Word Saturday, a challenge to my tendency to writeeverycompletemomentexactlyasithappenedinfullmissingnodetails. The second, for Poets United’s Poetry Pantry, a sweet memory of a sweet friend and me, a moment in time I will never forget. Peace, Amy

The End

Only get one death: Die trying.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Adapted from earlier poem in “Dance Groove Funhouse” for Six Word Saturday


Carnegie Hall, 1979

Star and her Satellite
emerge from a cab and
slip through the back door
of the hallowed hall

Tiptoeing past the massive set
being rolled into place by
Popeye-armed stagehands
who sweat for their wages

A page to be turned, this.
Billie bluesed here…
Her voice lingers,
embedded in the polished railings

Judy summoned songs
from the soles of ruby slippers
Her brilliance is burnished
into every column and niche

Now, no longer Star and Satellite,
for this brief moment, we are
simply giddy young singers
eager to trod the boards

Holding hands, the thrill
a vibrating current
running between us,
we pull back the curtain and

step onto the stage of
Carnegie’s great legacy,
the robber baron who bequeathed
this jewel to the masses

Looking up, a million stars
as lights twinkle dimly,
rimming balcony
after tiered balcony

“It’s like…” I struggle for words
to describe this moment.
“It’s like standing inside
a giant wedding cake.”

She grins. She’s headlining,
and I’m only singing backup
Yet, at this sublime moment,
we’re simply two starstruck girls

basking in a pinspot of destiny fulfilled

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For dverse (yes, I really do talk this way) and Poets United.

Bobbi’s Mom

After the weeping wears down,
the fog of loss and regret

After the last interview (because
inquiring minds want to know)

After the blur of has-been celebrities
trading her confidential secrets for
visions of their own names in print

After her life has been ransacked,
laid out in pieces like a tacky
Hollywood lawn sale, as customers
lay claim to a bit of her charms

We will remember the girl who had to
grow up too soon, the bronzed beauty
with the punk-ass husband who put a KICK ME sticker
on her back and showed her his belt

and helped her to addiction she couldn’t kick
We will honor the icon – but let’s not forget
she was a daughter, a mother, and a fragile soul
No one can outrun an Achilles’ heel

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

The Sunday Whirl: Belt, Fog, Sticker, Interview, Weeping, Visions, Blur, Ransacked, Confidential, Customer, Charms, Trade.

Rest in Peace, Whitney. You will never be forgotten.

Escape Can Be Forever

Authentic, unapologetic
Manic-depressive, chose Meth over meds
Yowling cat-scratch vocals

Wound-up top
Inviting us for a spin
Next to none, under your skin
Energetic, enigmatic
House-high beehive
Outrageous, bawdy “bad girl”
Undulating at the mic
Soul singer to the end
Everlasting, never built to last… Amy Winehouse

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

NOTE:  For ABC Wednesday, took longer to complete than I imagined, but wanted to get it right.  Amy Winehouse’s legacy is not just her incredible music.  She serves as a symbol of the confusion between addiction and mental illness.  It’s true that many times, as with my own mother, people who need other help self-medicate… the difference is, Amy was DIAGNOSED as manic-depressive (bipolar) and refused to take prescribed medicine or stick with therapists.

To say she was an addict and post “Just say no” on FaceBook does a great disservice to many people who might see themselves in Amy’s downward spiral and possibly seek medical help.  As a person living with manic depression and PTSD, I wanted this message to go out to as many folks as possible. 

Also posted at Poets United. RIP, Amy Winehouse, and peace to her family and fans, Amy Barlow Liberatore

And now for something completely different, song lyrics. You can hear the song at my music link below (sorry, can’t upload it here.)
Hope you like it! Amy

Tioga Moon (free listen at – my music site)

Tioga moon starts her song around eight
High above the maple, the color of marmalade
Spills on the rooftops and dances on the dewdrops
And drenches all the sumac in the glade…

Tioga moon, shining clear and bright
Tioga moon, shining on you tonight
When Cape Cod gets colder
and chills your shoulder,
that old Tioga moon will keep you in her sight

Oh, say…
when the gardenin’s done today
let’s escape the sun, and
run off to a place I know
where there’s shade
a little glade where the jack-in-the-pulpit grows

And then…
we’ll linger on ‘til after ten(derly you’ll call my name)
And then we’ll start to whisperin’ low
While the owls’ eyes and the fireflies
put on their show

Tioga moon, like a big brass bowl
Tioga moon shines like a prophet’s soul
When Buffalo winds blow
snow through your window
that old Tioga moon will make your insides glow
(repeat last chorus)

So stay well, sleep warm;
when the cold starts to bite,
that old Tioga moon will be your blanket tonight.

(Words and Music © 2009 Amy Barlow Liberatore)