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

Tag Archives: Sunday Scribblings

Attica Arrest(ed development)

One day, by my driveway
A man in a used sedan was stopped by a cop
for D.W.B. (Driving While Black)

I know this is so because I asked the officer
why the man was pulled over

Officer Smithjones replied,
“He was driving with an impaired view of his windshield.”
Come again?
“He had Mardi Gras beads hanging from his rear view mirror.”

Oh. Then my sharp little pie-eater opened wide,
first muttering, then sputtering, uttered at top volume
(for the benefit of staring, but unconcerned, neighbors):

“All the rednecks in this town with
big fuzzy dice like dried-up 20-mule-team
cajones hanging in their big ole trucks, and
you stopped this man over a string of beads?
And you wonder why people decry we’re a
‘don’t-let-the-sun-set-on-your-ass’ town?”

To make it more poignantly, patently ridiculous,
the poor guy was trying to make his way to AA

Ironic, since that town
almost drove me to drink

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For dverse, our ‘bartender’ Kelvin asked for poems in the form of an anecdote. Keep it short and sweet and interesting. Also for Sunday Scribblings, where the prompt is “sharp.”

I still can’t believe I survived five years in a town where someone flew a Confederate flag in front of his house and the “N” word was used without hesitation.  Of course, I have no time for racism and I do call it out.  I hate being in a Wonder Bread crowd and people assuming I’m “one of the gang.”  I’m social justice, hard core, sharp tongue and all.  It loses me friends, but when it does, I say, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” because they were not friends to begin with – friends share values, like integrity.

True story, edited from an old version. Though I knew many wonderful folks during our years there, the authoritarian figures were often racist and WAY out of line. I believe it’s part of the blowback of never having reconciliation sessions after the “Attica Prison Riots” of the ‘70s.

Come, Spring (a cinquain)

Pour through my pane
Melt ice around my heart
Transform my frozen mind gently
Frost free

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Image from Wikimedia Commons, by Mohylek:  “I, the copyright holder of this work,
release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.”

NaPoWriMo #2, for Sunday Scribblings (seasoned, although mine is more seasonal). Also at “It’s Always Sunny at Poets United,” my wintering snowbird delight and haven!

Can you believe it? An unprompted cinquain. Spring must be coming… Peace, Amy

Participating in National Poetry Writing Month “A poem a day keeps the blues at bay.”


When first I heard Judy Garland
sing Arlen’s “Rainbow”
(once a year, on Easter, back then)
on our old black and white
I knew I wanted to sing.
I was five.

It took another singer to
show me singing vs. performing,
a girl on the Sullivan show.
We only had one channel
out in the boonies, CBS.
So Ed it was.

She came out dressed in
a plain raincoat. No gown,
no fancy hair; a string of pearls.
Her instinct must have been
to dress plainly so they’d
look at her face.

“When the sun….comes out,”
she was whispering, and at that
moment, Mom and I shushed
the rest of the family. Dad
made fun of her nose.
I was enchanted.

By the end of this Arlen tune,
she was tearing it up, full steam,
larger than life on our small screen.
She was possessed by angels,
delivered to us with the essence
of Queen Nefertiti.

I was five when I heard Judy Garland.
I was six when I heard Barbra Streisand
for the first time and I was hooked.
When I heard Judy, I knew I wanted to sing.
When I heard Barbra, I knew I had to perform.
And so I did.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Isn’t that video tremendous (if truncated by a verse)? Both songs cited were indeed by Harold Arlen. The first, “Over the Rainbow,” had lyrics by Yip Harburg (and was almost cut from the “Wizard of Oz” score – can you imagine? “When the Sun Comes Out” had music by Arlen and lyrics by the incredible Johnny Mercer. Arlen and Mercer teamed for many songs, and Streisand benefited from their partnership: “Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “My Shining Hour,” and many more. My BFF John and I used to play Barbra in the background during long sessions of backgammon and Monopoly… and he gifted me with a boxed set of her TV specials one Christmas.

Sunday Scribblings had “instinct” for their prompt. In addition, my new friend Gretchen Leary co-hosted dverse Interactions with everybody’s fave, Brian Miller. I’m old enough to be her mom, but we have a lot in common. We both have much to say about busting stigmas regarding mental disorders. I was going to post for Gretchen’s prompt, to write about a song that had a big effect on me, but I was… only 22 hours late for Mr. Linky! Check Gretchen out HERE. And, of course, Brian Miller’s blog is HERE. And I probably will post this for dverse Open Mic Night on Tuesday! Peace, Amy

DIVE RIGHT IN (from the mini-series, “Amy: The Lost Years”)

I know it’s a dive but
I dive right in anyway
Thigh-high boots first and
black silk bustiered boobs
not far behind

A drink; I start to shine; a
dim bulb sidles over, his
best pick-up line the
cobwebby question
of the truly unhip:

“What sign are you?”
After all these years,
you’d think it would
no longer be laughable
to answer, “Virgo”

But sorry-ass dudes
who think they can
get you with a ‘lude*
also seem to think it’s
hilarious to say “virgin”

Now he’s making fun
of my birth sign
“Hold on, Jack,” I snark,
“who’s the one with the
fake tan and a wink

that tells me you watch
WAY too much old
Magnum, PIs? Let me
illuminate you, buddy
I may have been born Virgo,

but I’ve a Gemini eye:
I can see Taurus rising
in your attitude, cuz
you’re way past horny
and full of B.S.”

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

*Back in the day, a “lude” was a Quaalude. It not only put you into a dreamlike state, it also cured constipation and shyness.

For Poetic Bloomings, Marie Elena and Walt wanted poems about our astrological signs. Since a whole poem about the anal retentive, positively OCD nature (OK, some people call me “meticulous,” but that’s because they’re trying to avoid my hypercritical, snarky attitude) seemed like a bore, so I put it within a salacious story. I mean, how much can I say about arranging your bookshelves by age of the volumes, then rearranging by subject, then again by author…

Also, Sunday Scribblings wanted a poem using the word “illuminate,” and I dare say this guy may have achieved some enlightenment. Man, I was caustic back then! Peace, Amy

So obviously I’m lousy at taking breaks; although, truth be told, I’m making much progress on the damned taxes, so I’m back for Sunday Night Funnerific-a-go-go, AKA “Four Prompts in One Poem.” Whew!

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

In the past, a vast empire of
mighty newspapers broadened minds.
The scale of subscribers was enormous;
most papers did not more than inform us.

Eventually “news” skirted the real story
under orders from rich men who tend to
eat the truth raw and spit it out, tattered and
slimy, pro-corporate, inaccurate drool.

The print version has since been scattered
all over cyberspace – in case you haven’t
notices, HuffPost will soon make The Daily News
a ghost (it’s on the edge, like most).

As for TV, I mist over remembering
Cronkite and Murrow, mirrors of our national
conscience (back when there was such a thing).
Now it’s “Happy News,” reported by interns and

delivered by softly curved Barbies with white smiles and
a light-skinned Black meteorologist. They report on
straw polls; they pitch their network’s upcoming
programs. Even the crawl crawls, clueless.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

(Inhale.) Sunday Scribblings wanted a poem on the word “Subscribe”; Brain Miller at dverse Poets wanted writings on media; Brenda Warren, at The Sunday Whirl, gave us a dozen words, and Poets United (all the poetry that’s fit to print!) has Poetry Pantry. So that’s FOUR prompts in one poem, and it’s still properly snarky, as befits my sharp little pencil.

I do miss real journalism… Moyers is all I have left, except for! Peace (and a plea for something more than birdcage liner), Amy


“Don’t bother with that now,” says he,
that little devil in me, and with a smile.
“The pills aren’t good for you – you, who are
too special to be tamed by doctors’ doses.”

I gaze through cobalt blue glass. It’s all over
our house, in unexpected places and all the
windows. Blue soothes. Blue cools my brow.
She, color of cornflowers and lobelia.

“Don’t look there. And remember,” says he,
“there is so much more fun in dancing without
benefit of discretion, in writing on the walls
before the thought skitterclatters down the hall.”

I do not listen to that voice. Not a voice, really,
that would be schizyfreaky… it’s the pull of
the World, of Things To Be Bought, of Drinks
To Be Drunk (Too Many and Too Often).

He stops, knows he’s been recognized. “Girl,
I’m only trying to help. The meds keep you under
a scripted thrall of ennui. Remember the old days?
You were the good time that was had by all.”

Had and had again, says I, searching for the
new blue top, periwinkle. Blue cobalt strand in
one ear, a blue bejeweled post in the other. I’ll sing loud
the blues. Sing over him. Sing past him and out the door.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

A continuation of writings probing the “many-splintered thing,” my depression! Sunday Scribblings asked for “you and me” poems. This poem takes an abstract turn because, as I continue to fight a deep depression, I’ve had an internal dialog of sorts: the relationship between the “devil” of my chemical imbalance (and temptations to go off meds) are tempered by my relationship to the color blue, a healing shade for my blues, and isn’t that ironic? For some reason, it has always brought me solace; hence, the many blue bottles and jars all over our apartment.

Anything that works. And it WILL get better, even though I was born without bootstraps by which to pull myself up… that’s where meds and therapy take over to breach the gap.

This is also posted at my calm blue writing room, Poets United. Peace to all, Amy

Wisconsin Mud

Autumn task
Baskets of weeds
Seeds fall to soil
Toil with the tiller

Clay ground first
Curse of my garden
Hardens like rock
Mocks my feeble shovel

Red, this level
Beveled by tilling machine
Green detritus mixes
Fixes a greyer hue

Potting soil on top
Prop myself with a rake
Stakes then reposted
Toasted from our labors

Add soil meant for pot
Plot now proper brown
Garden set for sleep
Steep some tea and rest

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Sunday Scribblings, the prompt was simply “mud.” I’m also putting this on a shelf in the Poetry Pantry at Poets United and spilling on the bar at dverse Open Mic Night!

Of course, the damnable ironweed of earlier in the season (CLICK HERE) refused to disclose the center of its evil web of roots, and the pye wede followed suit. Monica planted some spring bulbs in front; a failed daisy plant finally sprang into life in late autumn, surprise! More daisies will be planted, as well as tiger lilies, the bulbs go in now. Next spring, we hope to have a plethora of pots: Herbs, petunias, Sweet William, lobelia, and Johnny Jump-ups (my favorite).

First, I’d like to congratulate Laurie Kolp and Beth Winter for joining the Pretzels and Bullfights arena at dverse poetry. Both are wonderful, warm, talented women, and they will no doubt present us with challenging prompts!  I am adding this to the dverse Open Mic Night in their honor.

Sunday Scribblings (#344) asked for poems about healing. This is also at my “home base” blog, Poets United.

Healing and Healing

“But Aunt Nelda, God didn’t answer my prayer.”
And your prayer was…?

“I prayed for my mother to be healed.”
And what happened?

“She woke up one day in hospice – and,”
the boy breaks down in tears, tears hard won in a world that
doesn’t afford males the luxury of such a balm.

“She was talkative, told me to stay in school,
reminded me of the walks we took in the forest,
pressing dried autumn leaves, all sorts of stuff.
Must have been hours, all about how I should
go to college and not decide my major right away,
that I should dabble with everything until
something catches me by the throat and won’t
let go! Funny, I’m only in eighth grade. Oh, and
the year she helped coach my baseball team, even though
she was the only mom to do that in the whole league. I
was embarrassed then, but I told her that day I was
so proud of her for doing it. I told her she had balls,
and she laughed so hard!”

And then?
“She seemed so well that afternoon, we thought she was
making a comeback, and that night I got on my knees and
thanked God for healing her. The next day, she died.”

Are you angry with God?
“Damn straight. Really pissed. I don’t give a shit about God
anymore. He didn’t give me what I needed most, my mom.
First, He made her suffer with the cancer, the chemo, the
radiation, and then he didn’t let her live.”

What do you think your mom needed?
“Well, healing, coming home, taking care of Dad, seeing
friends. Like it was last year.”

Honey, listen to me.
There’s healing and there’s Healing.
The first, you come home from the hospital, back to
the way things were for the most part, until the cancer
returns, as it often does, and you go through all the pain
and suffering and indignity all over again, until eventually,
your body gives up.

The second, you go home to God.
It’s called the Final Healing.
Your mom went through three rounds with the cancer, and
she didn’t have anything left to fight it. But one thing
God did give you was one last day to talk. It was her way of
saying goodbye, giving you the best memories as a gift.
Don’t blame your mom; she didn’t give up. And yell
all you want to at God, because God has the
widest shoulders you can imagine. God’s giving you
the gift of tears right now.

“So she was healed… but not in the way I wanted?”
Hon, we pray to God for all sorts of things, and
you prayed for your mother to have the best. It
wasn’t what you expected, but remember this:

Your mom doesn’t hurt anymore, doesn’t cry out
in her sleep from pain at 2 a.m. And she left with us
her greatest gift to the world – you.. You hold her
stories, you have her eyes. And trust me:

One day, you will know that God loves you.
Even when you yell and swear at him, God
still “gives a shit” about you. I know it.
So go to a counselor, here’s a card. After my mom died,
I screamed into pillows at my therapist’s office.
Sean, it was cleansing and it healed my grief.

So go ahead, rail at God, and you’ll do fine.
C’mere and give your auntie a hug…

and I dare you not to let go first.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Thanks to all who sent notes of support during my recent “computer Blue Screen Of Death” crisis. Took a day or so to read the work of others before starting to post again.

To followers of this blog, THANK YOU for your patience. If Sadie doesn’t Blue Screen again, I’ll be happy and she won’t be carted back to the shop sniffling. (OK, I was the one sniffling…)

Sunday Scribblings asked for poems about creativity. Seems like a good starting point for getting my groove back, also to post at dverse Open Mic Night, as well as the site that never BSODs me, Poets United (become a member, y’all!) and the whimsical Imaginary Garden with Read Toads for Open Link Monday. The seed for this poem was in a note to my dear friend Sidnie, with whom I share certain parts of the bozosphere.

Creative Juices

In the game of Poetry*
there are no winners, nor losers

Our creative juices flow
sometimes in rhythm and rhyme
or perhaps in chaotic streams of

One man’s Keats
is another women’s drivel

So please accept
these dribblings
from the
howling bloodhound slobberjaws
of my
creatively juicy life

(or not)

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

*Shout-out to Buddah Moskowitz, who disdains “Capital P” poetry!! You’re my bruddah from anudda mudda! Ameleh

Well, before I Blue Screen of Death again and haul this thing to the shop, I have to get in two more poems. One for Sunday Scribblings, the other for the Sunday Whirl; both are also at my poetic screen that’s never blue, Poets United.  I will log on at coffee shops to see what y’all have written and comment there… “Quick, before it melts (down)!” Amy

Pages of Stone

Fabricated from actual mineral
My favorite journal
Pencil circles, meanders
Glides with ease, with grace

Number Two lead, sharply honed
sings as it moves along the surface
Needle of an old phonograph
Playing Ellington from a shiny vinyl

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Sunday Scribblings asked for poems around the word “ease.” This was the first thing that came to mind… I found a journal with pages actually fabricated from STONE! How different, how environmentally intriguing. Then, when I ran my pencil over the surface, it was like writing on a whiteboard… it almost squeaked! Find some and tell me what you think.

The Ballad of Marie Dressler (1962-1977)

At the dealer, climbed into a Volvo sedan
Paid cash; remained in the driver’s seat for years
My first car, a ’62, back when Swedish mechanics
crowded into one room, hovered in corners
and built them by hand, bolts to bumpers

My singing mother said, in her husky whisky tenor,
“Always bring mascara in your gig bag. If something
happens on the way to make you cry, you won’t show up
looking like a damned raccoon.” Good advice:
That night, my eyes were dampened in this way…

Stopped at a red light, rearview mirror shows a large car
barreling behind me; instinct pulled foot off brake and
left heel jammed in the clutch. Trapped. Impact. Moment.
Bundles flew, slow-motion; shocks shook with sounds of
metal bending. The anger and the floodgates opened together.

Dazed, I pried open the door, stormed back to give
that son-of-a-bitch the old what-for. Window rolls down,
old lady (sure!) says, “I’m Sister Elizabeth. I think I’m all right
but my Mama seems to have cut her lip.” Suddenly, I
got it: God’s dope-slap for sleeping with a priest.

I opened Mama’s door, her face was ash. “S-s-stay here,
ladies… sister… Mama…” Closed the door – on the nun’s
mother’s rosary beads. Clinkclickclink, all over the pavement.
(This, the coup de grace, surely sealing my ticket to Hell.)
Car was totaled, but I insisted squad car take me to my gig

where I played for eight hours straight with one potty break.
Songs I’d never known. “Piano Man” heard once in the dentist’s
waiting room. “Havah Negilah.” I was a shock savant.
Made $200 in tips, turned out that was down-pay for a one-way to LA.
Nun didn’t get a ticket (she was doing 75). Catholic cop.

Always name your cars. “Marie Dressler,” for the 30’s again actress:
Big, old, white, and beat up, but she still had a lot of class.
Her rear end was wide enough to absorb the impact. (Bless all in
Sweden!) Cop said, “You’d be DOA in a Chevrolet.”
Marie Dressler, faithful old gal, rest in pieces. Fondly, Amer

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

The Sunday Whirl (click to see the Wordle) gave us a dozen words, and this true story is the result. The Church gave me $600 for my car, and that with the tip money was enough for the plane ticket and an efficiency apt. in Venice Beach in 1977 (this is back before Venice looked like Starbucks threw up all over it). Thanks, Greggie, for urging me to go West. You SAVED my life and helped change my destiny.

NOTE: “Amer” was my family nickname, and all my East Coast friends call me that. LA friends call me “Amers.” But the praise band’s director, Ben, calls me “Amypants,” because I’m so opinionated. Now they just call me “Pants.” Go figure! Peace, Amy