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

Tag Archives: Sunday Scribbllings

Broken Angel
(based on “Angel,” my poem for Poetic Bloomings)

Back then
Back when Christmas was fun
And it was Santa’s birthday again

We had a tree
Same one every year,
Balsam fir, short needles,
dressed in pure red
A huge Mrs. Claus,
a “mama tree”

Cherry lights strung to perfection
Middle sis righting every
incorrectly placed bulb ‘til it was

Then the satinsheen red ornaments
(a hand-me-down from Aunt Pris,
the holiday window dresser at Fowler’s)
So fragile, handled like dynamite
lest one explode, one wrong move
revealing shards of thin glossy insides

We had no angel atop our tree, though
we three made many in Sunday school
and in every single grade –
back when Christmas was not a whisper
and to hell with the handful of Jews in the hallways
(some wishing they had trees and stockings too)

But angels? Our folks’d have to pick
one of our three… they’d have no trinity
And white would spoil the symmetry

Our angel, last year’s broken one
when a single slip lopped the top off
Stuck on top of the tree, inverted
Blood rushing to its head
crowned by needly thorns

“Lllight it up, plllug it in, Bud!
Girllls, outen the llllights!” slurred Mom
And there it stood
flooding the living room with
every gimmering shade of red

From the street, our tree was
a blazing hearth streaming
light onto snow that glowed
vaguely pink in its wake

“Oh, look,” said a neighbor
as folks strolled admiring
one another’s holiday handiwork,
“The Red Light District,
the Barlows’ cat house is once again
open for business!”

* * * * * * * * * *

That bulb on top
the bloodied, upside-down talisAngel of
all the other 360-some days of the year

Behind perfect suburban clapboard exterior
the heartbeat of interior fear
of inferiority comples flexing
my first scrawny girlish muscles that were
destined to beat up only myself

We’ve grown
Our kids’ angels, our new objects d’nativite
With grown-up arms, we
beat back the Barlow Bordello curse
But Christmas is still sad for me

Those shimmering red bulbs
Cherry ambulance lights on rescue that never came
A cry for help but
Dad’s hand was clamped over my mouth

A broken angel.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

This experience is based solely on my own experience and should not reflect on my siblings in any way other than before the asterisks (but middle sis WAS very meticulous about lighting, and I know she’d admit that, ha ha).

I wrote “Angel,” the part up to the “snowflake” asterisks, for Poetic Bloomings (childhood memories), but Sunday Scribblings wanted a poem about a Talisman, and this version goes deeper into the meaning of that ‘little red angel’ on our tree. Also for dverse Poets Open Mic on Tuesday, and as always, stuck in the stocking at Poets United, my “every day is a holiday” safe space. Peace, Amy

Sorry I didn’t post for two days, but here’s a slice of life from a teenage girl’s point of view.


Mirrors are cruel.

They never say she’s
the fairest one, yet she
dares another look.
She doesn’t see
herself, she only sees:


Horrible acne, festering, hideous.
A lump is in her throat as she
steps back for the full-length view.
Flat chest, not the
jiggling fullness boys like.

Hips SO not there.
And her hair, a disaster
of biblical proportions;
not really blonde,
not exactly brown,
more like puddles after
a long, soaking rain…
or the worms that come out to
get squished on the sidewalk.

And the scars on her wrists,
constant reminders that she
tried to rid the world of
this pustule of a person.

Rubbing lavender lotion on her
warm belly (at least I’ll smell good,
not that they’ll get very close),
then, donning the final insult:
the glasses.
(Bifocals at 16. I mean, really?)
She sneaks downstairs for breakfast
before catching the bus to school.

Her mom, who is of course GORgeous
and dressed the same, pours juice.
See her hands, perfectly manicured,
her flawless skin, and long,
auburn hair pulled back carelessly
in a scrunchy. Effortless.

She measures herself against
the impossible, easy beauty of her mother.
(I’ll never be that pretty, never.)

Mom turns and says,
“Paul, remember your biology test today.
Oh, look, you’re wearing the shirt
I got you at the mall!” A kiss on the forehead.
“My handsome boy. Don’t break any hearts today!”

Don’t worry. She won’t, not while
that worrisome bulge is in her jeans.
The thing that doesn’t belong on a real girl.

Gym today… she shudders,
takes a bite of a muffin,
feels the Adam’s Apple
bounce with the swallow.


© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Sunday Scribblings, the prompt was “Costume,” (and, indeed, that’s what this teenager wears every day) and ABC Wednesday is on “U.”  Also posting to dverse Open Mic Night, where a collection of more than 100 poets usually post their favorite poems of the week.  All descriptions, all diverse subject matter, all manner of poets.  Look for Aaron Kent, if he has posted a spoken word, too!

NOTE: Life is more than difficult for transgender teens; it’s often impossible. Too many kids commit suicide, caught in the confusion of their gender identity and an undefinable shame about how they are built vs. who they know they are. As with other teens with gender identity confusion, they are constantly on guard, worried their secret will come out. This “young man” yearns to go the the prom in a dress with cleavage. Who can blame her? She is, in her heart, a girl who happened to be delivered into the wrong body. Pray for our kids. High school sucks for straight kids – imagine yourself in this kid’s shoes. Peace, Amy

Fortress in Mind

Secrecy was her secret to survival.
She forgot what happened because
no one talked about it.
Not even her sisters.

She cultivated a rabbit-proof fence
of quietude and dreams,
tracing images in the gritty grain of
their plaster bedroom ceiling.

Why did she only find scared faces?

Grew up in denim armor,
ensuring no boy wanted to date
the girl in the high-top Keds with
“Don’t touch” scrawled in acne.

Landed in Manhattan and
took on a new façade: Approachable.
This, too, was a wall; after all, she’d
“lost it” so long ago, it mattered little

who used her
or when
or where
or how.

All this took place inside
an elaborate labyrinth of hedgerows,
within the castle she had
built in her mind.

The only person who swam in the moat
was her father, he having the privilege
of power, which he exercised unwisely,
unkindly. Unrepentant and unchallenged.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Sunday Scribblings, the prompt was “fortress.” Also at my poetic fortress, Poets United.

The Last Time I Danced

Grocery store run
Jeans with a big raggy hole
where my knee protrudes
Tan sneaks with pink shoelaces
(no big panama with a purple hat band…
but then, that’s a long time ago)

Chugging along with a cart full of
healthy foods for our responsible diet
and in consideration that we are both
in our 50s now and then

over the intercom

“Dancin’ in the Street”

Martha and the Vandellas,
none of that Mick and whosis crap

Another woman looks at me from
the cereal section and then we both
lay excited eyes on a dude in
Harley jacket and old boots
trolling the Gatorade

Who’s on first?

As if you have to ask

I take the lead line, inciting the riot

The three of us break into song
and dance like the freaks we were
like the freaks we still are
with every ounce of hippie left in us

She’s showin her tat of Marley on her
left arm, he’s swappin a picture of Jesus
on the back of his neck and me, I got no marks
but smile lines chiseled on my cheeks

We’re reeling in total abandon and
oblivious to the folks at either end of the aisle
Even the vegetable guy left his post
And at the fadeout, we’re fading out too
back to our carts as though nothing happened

The other shoppers burst into applause
and we all run back together in the
middle of the aisle to take a bow and
hug each other like there’s no tomorrow

Haven’t seen them again
Perhaps we were all each other’s angels
if only for that moment
Reminders that you can always let that
freak flag fly high enough to glide
as long as you keep enough freak inside

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For dverse, who called for Carefree Hours, or the last time you did something out of pure delight. This is delight, rebellion, and a three-person unplanned flash mob all in one package! Also for “Strange Bedfellows” at Sunday Scribblings and “Walk of Life” at Poetic Bloomings. I don’t walk; I dance, and as for strange bedfellows, I thought it would be nice to have them be total strangers with something in common but NO business dancing in the middle of the grocery store!! Peace, Amy

First, a plug for my friend Dani’s site, My Heart’s Love Songs. I am honored to be the featured poet at her blog this week, and she speaks about the global community we are creating by interlinking our blogs. Thanks, Dani!

Always and Forever, Ironweed (dammit)

Our first spring here, a bit of garden space.
Colors came to every garden, save ours.
Only one flower – no crocuses, nor lilies,
nor tulips – but a massive bush of columbine.

Its flowers, sweet pink and yellow
Surveying the remainder: Weeds.
Carefully planted, cultivated weeds,
but who the hell cultivates weeds anyway?

Milkweed and the invasive monster
known as Ironweed, plus some grasses.
Friends took snippets, but what remained
was grief, plus my secret desire to torch it all.

I’m not hip to gardening, nor drawn to
communing with worms… so, with pretty new
red spade in hand (hey, at least I’m
fashionable), I delved into the muck.

Dug around, dug into, but never got under
the pernicious Ironweed. The stillness of
the evening shattered by my clatter, the
prying, the watering of clay dirt to loosen soil,

fingers fumbling, a botched surgery in an
intestinal mess that was the bowel of the weed,
until, YES! One last backbreaking tug – the
plant uprooted and I was on my ass, triumphant.

Attached to the weed’s butt, yam-like, marrowed
spurs of root, tangled as Kardashians in a mosh pit,
evil as Triffids – or those pods in the horror
movie that hatch your zombie replacement.

(Perhaps this is how the Tea Party started?)

Next day, peering out our kitchen window. Monica’s
birthday snapdragons, potted and hanging from
a shepherd’s hook; the lovely, swaying columbine;
fresh-planted herbs; two new begonias and…

an offshoot sprig of Ironweed, fully two feet
from the devil’s own plant I’d just dug up.
I s’pose my pod replicant can deal with this,
once it’s done growing the New Me in our basement.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Sunday Scribblings, “Always,”and for The Sunday Whirl: Secret, Colors, Window, Grief, Massive, Hips, Clatter, Marrow, Perhaps, Hand, Flower, Stillness, Crocuses.
Also at my poetic garden (which has no Ironweed), Poets United and at dverse Open Mic Night!


And though she knew
the marriage was doomed
in her womb there was a seed

that grew steadily
until that glorious night
at the Chinese place

The Quickening
The moment a soul
enters the body and

like Elizabeth’s child,
baby leapt for joy
(so did her mom!)

Blessed with a gig in
Bermuda, piano bar
No star, but paid the bills

(and his too, as he
withdrew into his shell
back in Queens)

Every time mommy
played Duke Ellington
baby’s feet kept time

Fast songs or slow
Kicking perfect rhythm
My covert metronome

And when at last
she emerged from inside
her eyes so wide, so black,

I knew they would stay brown and
I knew we would be together
weathering any storm

Mothers who nurse know
the most beautiful sight
is the top of the baby’s eyelids

as they shut tight
working on their task
nuzzling at the breast

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Image by Mahalie, used by permission of Creative Commons
For Sunday Scribblings, “In The Beginning…” Also at my poetic playpen, Poets United!

Outstanding WHAT?

Why am I limping around a hospital
in a gown open to show the whole world my ass

with a belly as big as a piñata
screaming “ICE CHIIIIIPS!!”?

Ah yes, the joys of birthing
in 98-degree September.

The baby will be born on Labor Day,
an ironic detail…

That’s what I get for
outstanding ovulation!

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

(For Sunday Scribblings, variation on “Standing Ovation,” also posted at Poets United.)