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

Tag Archives: Sunday Scribblings

OCD (Overwhelming Crucial Demands)

Rituals ruled his life
Tapping the front window four times when passing
Adjusting his chair twice after sitting down
Most noticeable at table, where his mother
would fret over her son’s obsession

Each bit chewed exactly 18 times
and finishing first the meat, then potatoes, and finally
vegetables – no portion touching the next
as his dish was divided into three compartments

Followed by a milk in his blue glass
swallowed in five long, perfectly even gulps
Napkin folded into a perfect triangle threading it through
a silver ring placed just so on the table

Brooks arranged first by genre, then by author,
then by color – spines aligned in precise rows
He measure boundaries for his daily routine;
I understand the gravity of crack avoided

One thousand, two hundred and eighty-nine
steps to the psychiatrist’s office downtown.
Unfortunately, he never opened the door,
lacking a Kleenex to ward off germs

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Sunday Scribblings, “I Understand” was the prompt. Yeah, ya think?

Kids are cruel, and peers pick out students like this boy to bully, an easy target. While OCD is a minor part of my chemical imbalance, it loomed large when I was younger. One example: If I misspelled a word in English class, I first was compelled to complete writing it in full, and then, with a calm sweep, I would erase the entire word… but finishing it was critical. There were fingerprints by the exit to our bedroom from my habitual taps, and grazing a fence with a stick, if I missed a picket, it meant going back and starting the whole fence again. I get this kid because I was this kid, but the symptoms abated when manic depression started to take over. One pain in the ass replaced by another is small comfort.

Notice these traits and show understanding to the “different ones,” those who may not be diagnosed but whose disorders are easily recognizable. Good example, if you see a “twirler” who eventually singles out one hair to pluck, be aware. It’s called trichotillomania and can be managed NOT by drugs, but by behavior modification.

Peace and health – physical and mental, Amy


Comes the Revolution…
(For Riley)

Comes the revolution,
I want you in my trench.

Comes the day we say “No more!”
I want you at my side.

I schooled you on our rights;
you’re steeped in the shameful history

of slavery, of suffrage, of civil rights denied,
of how it’s always someone else’s turn

to be not white enough, not male enough,
not straight enough, not American enough;

to be trod upon, to be spat upon
especially via metaphor and the airwaves.

You, a Jew raised in the U.C.C.
(Upfront, Confrontational Christians!)

In your blood, remnants of the Holocaust;
in your training, social justice for all.

That pedigree makes for speaking truth to power,
for passion, for radical, unconditional love.

This revolution will be
one of words, not weapons

Only the undereducated run out of words,
falling back on hate speech and violence.

Though their sound bytes nip at our heels,
we will not run. We will turn and debate.

Comes the revolution, our trench will be
filled with books, journals, and understanding.

So keep sharp your mind, daughter mine
because the revolution is at our door:

The War on Women – our rights,
our bodies, our station, our future.

What we do now is “not for ourselves alone,”
but for all females in generations to come.

We claim our right as citizens of the world
to be who we are, love who we may, and

figure out for our selves what is best
when put to the test of The Pink Stick Follies.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Sunday Scribblings, Revolution – and for dverse Open Mic Night. Also “in the margin” on Poets United. Also for Trifecta: Radical.

The quote “Not For Ourselves Alone” is usually attributed to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but its first usage came from a man, Marcus Tullius Cicero: “Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)”

NOTE: When Riley was a senior in high school, I wrote a piece for her yearbook, as did many parents. Mine included the phrase, “Comes the revolution, I want you in my trench.” Since then, she has come out, moved West, entered an art institute, and continues to blossom. Happy birthday, beba.

It seems quite ironic that we are indeed on the verge of an actual revolution, and the stakes could not be higher. We are lucky to have so many enlightened men alongside us in the fight. Let’s hope that the “White is Right and Women Should Shut the Hell Up” militias disband… due to pressure from their mothers!


I’m finally back from vacation. We are well but tired… I watched most of the Republican Convention and am in the midst of reviewing the Democratic Convention. I wish more people would watch BOTH sides of the damned “aisle”!

Couldn’t stop thinking about the troops as I watched those foolish delegates in their funny hats, all having fun during what should be a defining moment in politics. So here is my tribute to one selfless servant.  Peace, Amy

Nurse in the Field (Afghanistan)

Nine hours into her shift
she steals a moment to smooth
errant hairs, captured and secured by
mock tortoise side combs.

The last wave was
a mind-numbing parade of
the barely living
and the too-soon dead.

Checking the morphine drip on
an amputee, she wonders why
nurses dress in pastel scrubs.
Cruel joke, the blood spatter,
carrying iodine-splattered lost limbs
across to the bins.

She used to count the number
of fingers and toes per shift; something
to divert her mind from the horror.
Now she breathes in madness, exhales exhaustion.

In WWI, they were gassed and blinded.
In the Second, shot or blown to pieces by grenades.
In Nam (where her mom served), they bathed our boys
in the finest toxins Dow and co. could manufacture.
Agent Orange could kick 007’s ass easily, if slowly.

Now men and women are hit by drones, as
stateside geeks “do battle” like a game of Pac-Man.
They cannot be sure of their target other than from
“actionable (questionable) intelligence.” Tonight
it might be a grandmother and her family, or the
piece de resistance of warspeak: “Friendly fire.”

The nurse strips fatigues from a screaming airman.
His legs lie still but arms are flailing like a meth-head.
Restraints: cruel but necessary as she injects morphine.
Evidence of spinal damage, extensive brain trauma…
She croons, “Slooooow down, we’ve gotcha.” Her
honeyed voice seems to sooth him, “You’re gonna
be all ri-” Then the flat line no greased paddles will stir.

She’ll hear five final, strangled exhalations before
her break comes up. A few hours of sleep, and
she’ll emerge looking refreshed, gearing up for
the second-roughest game in Kabul:
Patching up the pawns, gurneyed pieces
from the chess board of battle.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For The Sunday Whirl (Wordle is shown below), dverse Open Mic Night, and Sunday Scribblings (the prompt was Soothe). Also at the site where I am always soothed: Poets United.


Iowa

In the stifling summer of ‘34
when drought hit Iowa hard
like brick on bone

my grandma Blanche packed up the family
for another Midnight Shhhhh! Move
(before the landlord came for the rent)

This time they hitched a ride
out of Council Bluffs to Lake Manawah
and settled in a summer cottage

They squatted there year-round
as did other families, who had
their own stories of landlords

Blanche fed every man who rode the rails
They put up signs for the next hobos:
A cat (“kind lady”) and two shovels (“work here”)

She felt that every person deserved food, medicine, and
shelter (today, this is called Socialism) and that
giving the men a task helped build their egos

So Dorney swept the steps and Gibb fed the chickens
(“borrowed” by Blanche on their way out of town)
while another collected eggs and so on. They never

stayed long. Blanche later insisted the term “Hobo”
was not slander but, as in H.L. Mencken’s writings,
it meant “homeward bound.” Indeed, some went “home”

right in their back room, too sick, too weary to go on.
Blanche knew the doctor, got them morphine, helped them
sip broth. She also washed them, like family, before burial.

When I asked my mom about those days, it began a years-long,
booze-fed, continuing conversation about poverty, the
Dust Bowl, generosity, and the human spirit. Blanche, before her

in those days, was Ma Joad incarnate, with a touch of
Woody Guthrie. “But Mom,” I said, “you got to live in a
cottage by a lake. Where did Grandpa get that kind of money?”

My mother Charlotte, Blanche’s only daughter,
gazed out the back window and smiled ruefully: “Child, it
may have been a lake, but there was no water in it back then.”

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Sunday Scribblings, the prompt is apropos: Drought. The Great Depression coincided with one of the worst droughts in American history. Bad agricultural practices were largely to blame, and it seems all we’ve learned is how to bio-engineer Frankenseeds to forestall the inevitable. Indigenous Americans knew how to plant and harvest; how to move south in the colder months, giving the land a chance to renew; and how to treat the earth with respect.

NOTE: Ma Joad is one of the main characters in John Steinbeck’s classic novel, The Grapes Of Wrath. The movie starred Henry Fonda as Tom, the eldest son, and Jane Darwell as Ma. Her embodiment of that character, Ma’s feistiness and compassion, won her an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress of 1940.

I like to think of Blanche in those days as part Ma Joad, part Steinbeck. Although she never wrote a book, Blanche was a voracious reader and self-taught scholar. That’s how she knew about Mencken, Upton Sinclair, and the like. She went to her grave despising Ayn Rand’s opinion that “altruism is evil” and her novel, The Fountainhead, which espoused that every person should look after themselves: “If we hadn’t lived near the tracks, who would have fed them? All the other houses had hobo signs like rectangles with a dot in the middle, ‘Dangerous.’ People thought I was nuts to try to feed these men. I guess that’s why I got committed eventually – Bill thought so too. But what’s crazy about taking care of each other in hard times?”

I’m proud to be Blanche Laughlin’s granddaughter. This is also at my poetic lake with water IN IT, Poets United.


Going the Distance:
“Who Do You Think You Are, Amy Barlow Liberatore?”

Let’s hear what everybody else says first:

“You were born 40 and you’re working your way backwards,”
said my mom, when I was 7

“Charmful little armful,”
said my musical mentor

“She can SANG!
said our African-American piano player

“Get that bitch off the podium!”
snarled the Buffalo cop at a peace rally

“Please don’t say that about your dad,”
cried my mom, when I was 35

“You’re not a dyke, why should you care?”
asked a Fundie at a PRIDE rally (when I challenged their ‘God Hates Fags’ sign)

“Good thing you can sing. Your dancing sucks,”
joked my friend at a big band concert

“You’re not a victim; you’re a survivor,”
said my therapist

“You wear manic depression well,”
grinned my psychiatrist

“You have the soul of a dinosaur,”
said the oracle Sidnie

“Don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel,”
say bloggers (with a wink)

“PLAY ‘FEEEEELINGS’!!”
slobbered countless drunks at my piano bar

“You’re just a gay man trapped in a straight woman’s body,”
said Jeffery, may he rest in peace

“You’re going to hell for encouraging those homosexuals,”
say… too many people to mention

“If you’re going to hell, it’s gonna be in a FABulous handbasket,”
giggled Jason

“Thanks for the lessons,”
said my BFF (and only he will understand that comment)

“I have no dramatic coming-out story because you were so accepting,”
laughed Riley

“She’s a pain in the ass,”
said the FBI agent, flipping through my file

“Take it off! Take it off!”
cried Christopher after I sang a comedic song about stripper envy

“Because she questions my authority,”
said the principal to my mother, as I sat in detention

“You are SO worth it,”
says my husband, over and over again

My life is chaotic peace.

I’m a sharp little pencil, still writing my life.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Poetic Bloomings (“Who Do You Think You Are?”), for Sunday Scribblings (distance), and for the Poetry Pantry at Poets United.


LIFE WITHOUT LIMITS

Were I granted
life without limits
I would bind hatred,
tangle it in silk threads
all shades of red, gold, green
and send it hurtling
into space, no trace
of meanness left to feel.

I would surround
a golden box of pure love
with small fans
pointed up at
wind turbines
and set it free in
breezes of sweet thoughts
strong enough to
surround the earth and,
if the silk balloon’s helium should fail,
all hatred would drift into space
and be forgotten.

Were I granted
life without limits,
I’d press the edge of
the invisible envelope
until
peace
would
reign.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Sunday Scribblings, which asked us to envision “no limits,” and for Three Word Wednesday: Tangle, Shade, and Feel. Also for Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, in honor of Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday. Well done, good servant of humankind, and good health to you, sir. Peace, Amy


“You’re…” EEEEEK! uh…

Mammograms are the only day
when it doesn’t suck to be moi
I take ‘em out, I flop ‘em on
the glass, and they squish like foi gras

Then came two voice mails
on the same choice day
from the same office.

And suddenly my world morphed
from “as controlled as possible with meds”
to head-spinning dread, fed by
one freakin’ phone call.

All I must do is careen
back to the scene of the crime,
primed sans deodorant and scent,
rank with my own odor and fear.

It may be one mammo;
it may need more ammo.
a big needle thrust
to left of my bust.

“They’ll take the sample
with ample drama, mama,
and a big-ass needle, so
close your eyes and tell them
you have PTSD,” my beloved
survivor friend says.

“Then set phasers on STUN -it sounds
like a staple gun or Pac-Man as it
chomps in search of tissue.
Make them issue enough painkillers
to knock out a horse.”

“Of course,” I reply,
she laughs, knowing I
am immune to OTCs*
thanks to the 70’s…

…during which I imbibed
enough pharmaceuticals to
peel the cuticles off
a gorilla’s thumbnails.

It’s this Wednesday, folks,
please pray it’s a hoax,
and Old Leftie is “clean,”
if you know what I mean.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

* OTCs are “over the counter” drugs like Advil, Tylenol, and aspirin. I could take a whole bottle for a headache and it would do nothing for the pain… but the Advil would trash my liver!

Sunday Scribblings asked us to come up with a poem about a “Eureka moment.” This is the down side of that concept, and we’re hoping and praying it has a happy ending! Will keep you posted. Also at the one office where nothing ever hurts… Poets United! Peace, Amy


Refractions

Recounting the reflexes
that led to down and out.
Remembering that December,
the thin coat, the glances
of passersby wondering why
the girl who was talking
to herself had not found
a warm shelf on which to perch,
the chilled canary fairy without wings.

Ruffles her feathers that they might
have thought of her so.
Regretting the rejection by men
after they’d had their fill, having
sucked her soul from within its
sand castle, the frailty of her ego.

She winding-wanders on but
pauses at odd moments to reflect.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

National Poetry Month, Day Three! One more take on Sunday Scribblings’ prompt, Reflect. Also hangin’ with my kin at Poets United: Scroll down their right column and meet some amazing poets! Peace, Amy


Whoa, babe, first day of PAD (Poem a Day, all April), and it’s a trifecta!  Process notes below, but first, the poem.

REFLECTOR BABE

If I could have one power
it probably would be
a magic mirror carried
all over town with me.

If someone shouted, “N*****!”
I’d take it from my purse
to hold it up before them
and then they’d want to curse;

for they would see a black face,
they’d stare quite quizzically.
And then I’d asked them plainly,
“Do you see what I see?”

Or bullies shoving gay kids
into the garbage bin.
My mirror’d show them how they’d look
once they had been tossed in.

The rich would see the homeless,
the cheaters, a square dealer.
Oh, with my mirror, I might have
the powers of a healer.

For even if they didn’t change,
perhaps they’d take some time
reflecting on their ways, o Lord!
Would that not be sublime?

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Sunday Scribblings (reflect), Poetic Bloomings (super hero), and Poets United’s Poetry Pantry. I thought about the prompt “reflect” and, rather than render another reflection about politics, child abuse, depression, or whatever the heck was on my mind, I’d use the mirror image. Then Blooms wanted poems about super heros, and since I had already posted “Volume Control Grrrl” (with a flick of my wrist, I could render booming car stereos mute, as well as people loudly discussing their gall bladder operations while I’m trying to eat at the next table), I thought this would be more in keeping with my values. And Poetry Pantry? Hell, I post EVERYTHING at Poets United, because they are my Gang of Many Wonderful People! Peace, Amy


TO ALL READERS: Not for the squeamish.  I have used another John Rainsford photo (credits below) because one was not enough.  Thanks, dverse, for turning us on to an amazingly talented photographer, web designer, and all-around artist.

THE LOOK

He enters my bedroom;
I raise my eyes slowly
The unspoken message
unsettling, unholy.

Dad went and filled
his Viagra again.
What am I in for?
And how bad? And when?

No use attempting
to pull up the cover.
I wonder if Sue’d mind
another sleepover?

Cause I’m in the crosshairs
and he’s got the gun.
The battle is lost –
I am Dad’s “little one.”

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Photo © John Rainsford, courtesy of dverse poetry.
For dverse Open Mic Night.