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

Tag Archives: Three Word Weds.

Charlotte business pic edited

Mama’s Gone

Still can’t believe
the ‘heart on my sleeve’
gone on heaven’s highway

Mom’s grief now has passed
Since she breathed her last
She’s taken the skyway

Let’s raise glasses now
to the one who knew how
to smile in earthly hell

Tell stories, we will
as bar counts its till
of Charlotte, pre-death knell

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Three Word Wednesday, which gave us Grief, Bask, and Raise. Sounds like an Irish wake to me! Also for ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter “M.” I don’t know whether this poem is a form, but it makes some sort of sense!

My mom could tell stories ‘til the cows not only came home, but went back out to pasture. I think she was a undiagnosed manic depressive like me and like her mom, Blanche, and she had that gift of gab. When she was drinking, she was either hilarious or hideously depressing; either way, I heard every story she could spare and committed it to memory and soon to memoir. Momoir?

Her death should have been scored by Puccini – agonizing, the slowest two weeks the world has ever seen, full of drama and angst. Twenty years later, I can still remember having to shoo close friends away from her bedside (“Don’t let them gawk at me, promise, Amer”) and take her home (“Promise me, no nursing homes”) to die in her own bed, another promise. She had not had a drink in 10 years, and after that last breath, I left sister’s side, clutched Charlotte’s hand, and sent her up with, “Mama, you died sober!”

Amen. Amy


ALL AT ONCE
Charlotte Lil Iodine 001
She drank to forget
But when she drank
she remembered
as though reading from
a volume of Dickens,
reciting a poem
by Gwendolyn Brooks,
exhaling a road song
by Woodie Guthrie
Slowly, no rampage,
these ramblings; recalled
in a trance of romance and
morbid, mothballed memory

all at once

Cloistered as she and I were
in our clapboard ranch house
To me, she was home
To her, this house,
this home meant a range,
a fridge, a freezer,
a coffee pot, a yard
a car, and especially
a bathroom that locked

all at once

“Back then,” as it always
started, these old stories,
“back then” was a
cumbersome load
carried by a little girl
whose mother would
disappear mysteriously
in the middle of the night
and come back weeks later
haggard but much calmer
after being committed

all at once

She told me of
late-night runs from
the landlord and the
perils of being the
only girl with an
absent mother and
a drunken father
and a brother who was
sent off to Auntie Ruth’s
All this turmoil
milling through her mind
In a gaze hazy with
absolute truth

all at once

She confessed it all
I was her eight-year-old
confidante, her committed,
codependent kid and I
maintained that role
until she died. It’s hard
being all things
to one person

all at once

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Photo of Charlotte at age 9 (with “Little Iodine” bow, all the rage back then), all rights reserved by Amy Barlow Liberatore © 2013

When I read Three Word Wednesday’s prompt words (Rampage, Morbid, Cumbersome), they took me back to The Kitchen Table Days, afternoons with my mom. She had gin and I had chocolate milk… later, coffee. I’d listen for hours; sometimes, she’d fall asleep in her folded arms and I’d wake her and lead her to bed. The three writers cited (Dickens, Brooks, and Guthrie, “all at once”) were embedded in this one woman forever. The poverty and sharp observation of the British author; the African-American jazz flavor of the poet; and her Midwestern upbringing in Iowa, along with her support for social justice (just read the unpublished final verse of “This Land Is Your Land”) by the songwriter.

There is much alliteration in this piece, among other “tricks of the trade,” so dverse’s Poet’s Toolbox will also receive a link. Check these sites out, folks. There are literally HUNDREDS of great poets contributing to these blogs.  Also check out Poets United, my poetic family.

My mother: Singer, writer, storyteller, alcoholic, mental health history unknown. But if YOUR mom was institutionalized repeatedly and came back looking like Blanche did  (haggard, calm after massive electroshock) in those days, you’d have thought twice about seeing anyone except your clergyman. I do not blame her, nor do I attempt to demonize her. Charlotte was a helluva lot of fun, and she and Blanche are a huge part of the reason I’m the sharp little pencil I am today. Peace, Amy


UNSUNG HEROES IN MY INKWELL

My ubiquitous inkwell, home of
fluid blue poems-yet-to-be

Out pops an indigo sprite who
scribbles sillies and twizzles about
the ‘California daze’ or who’ll
juke-jive to the jazz

Sometimes a slate drudgeluckless
slithers over the side of the inkwell
seeps to the page
smears thoughts of illness and
acidic, acrid, lucid memories

There’s a crotchety navy man
who marches out, ten-huts at paper’s edge
and vigilantly decries the evils of war
He’s a vet of many battles and says
victory has neither a smell nor a hint of glory

My favorite inkwell denizen is
the periwinkle fairy who dusts the page
with a harvest heart and loving words
Who inspires hope with ageless
meditations on love

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Three Word Wednesday (Battle, sumptous, harvest – what a combination of words!), and for ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter U. Hope I post this in time…

And to tell the truth, I do have an inkwell on my desk for inspiration, but I write with my trusty Ticonderoga #2 pencil. Peace, Amy


We Interrupt Your Regularly Schedule Program
(a full-tilt boogie political rant)

As the prez drones on
Americans are bored.
As the drones fall on
Afghanis, they’re gored, ignored by
the drumbeat of war, the military
rhythm of their streets, their football meets,
their homes, Rumi roams their graveyards.

American values pressed upon them
like Nagasaki tattoos in hues of death
searing their flesh, a mesh of
indelible reminders that cling to
the very marrow of their own beliefs.

Skies, fly-bys, murmurs of surprise,
more stealth attacks by wealthy whackadoodles
with poodles whose pedicures cost more than
the Dewers that fuels their mules, duly noted.
I voted, but it didn’t matter, records
shattered for brazen fundraising.

TV talking heads walking through it,
praising Lindsay Lohan working the program,
no grams up her button nose; I suppose it’s
intensely interesting to the Real Housewives of
Stepford, but it IS. NOT. NEWS.

The view expressed by Fox’s best,
yelling bellicose foghorns with degrees in
anything but journalism, kernels of truth
plus one ton of pure Hereford fertilizer?
THIS. IS. NOT. NEWS.

Our rights taken from us, our voices choicely
squelched by Citizens United, dividing the
green from the lean, the rich bitch from the
working, lurking stiff upper lips standing in line
at the Union Hall, all shirking off unemployment
because there’s always a job for any slob who will
do it. Screw the indignity of the position, it’s their
mission to have purpose percolating in the mass of days,
rife with strife, but it passes for life in America.

Meanwhile, Koch-heads yacht a lot, spend and spit
on us, that’s your trickle down theory, they piss and
don’t miss as we struggle, strain to avoid their toxic rain,
strive, staying alive even if it we lose our house to the bank that
tanked playing rushing roulette with our debt. The rich
don’t create jobs, don’t create anything, moving
money around is their pursuit of happiness.
Happenstance made them rich, not effort.
THIS. IS. NEWS. The kind that should be reported,
not distorted, nor distended, deliver as intended.

Families living in cars, sitting at bars, behind bars,
that’s news. Mental health strategy a traumatic
tragedy, that’s news. Not Happy News that gives you
a toy made by a Chinese boy in a sweatshop, top of his
head covered with Communist slogans, paid in tokens.
It’s not Good News for the FUNDAlack of MENTAL
functionISTS, but it passes like gasses from blowhard
Beltway asses whose glasses were replaced by Lasik on
our dime. I’m sick and low-income? Sorry, chum,
you’re a lazy bum. What becomes of you won’t show up
on The View. Gee, you think? Don’t blink.

The new news is glitzy, blonde tanned ditzy reporters
distorting but clueless that their teleprompters spew
lies on abortions, on choice, our voice no longer heard
because “Corporations are people, my friend,” will that horse’s
end please shut up, four deferments from Nam, never heard
a bomb, cuz he was Mormonizing in France, dancing at
draft rallies all the same. Who’s to blame if he dodged it, the
logic is on his side, but don’t turn hawk if you balked
when it was your turn. Even had de Gaulle to show up at
draft rallies, tallies not in his favor, but winning’s his
favorite flavor. THIS. IS. NEWS. (reported on the BBC, not
through Corporate Corpulent American Broadcasting)

Today the news is: Gays are hated, Liberals are jaded, Latinos
berated, Treyvon wrong-shaded and Dems are Commies. Filthy Zim,
the trimmer of black population, zoned on medication, toting
a habit of hatred, a habit of meds, side effects include an itchy
trigger finger. America is for the armed, the beautiful, and
the moneyed. Honey, it’s the way things are; don’t complain
about CEO gain and golden parachutes or hoot and holler about
the borrowed dollars Bush cushioned on a credit card to wage war
on a third world country, Weaponless but we brought the Mass
Destruction. The fact is, that war never made our taxes, and no
draft left the middle class daft. Elections cost billions, one
candidate worth millions, he laid off thousands, and though he
says his corporation may be a person with a thumper of a
tickertape heartbeat… it has no heart. THIS. IS. NEWS.

Reporting live from the edge of democracy, trying damned hard
not to be pushed off the edge, this is Amy Barlow Liberatore from
WASHthemoneycleanINGTON. Good night and good luck.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Thank you, Aaron Kent, for reminding me to rant away like I used to, spitfire style and purely politically.
For Three Wd. Wednesday: Cling, Murmur, Taken. Also at my poetic tickertape access, Poets United.


C’mon. Don’t tell me you didn’t see a rant coming this week! Politically yours, Amy

Naked at the Tea Party

Morning mist lifts over Madison
yet a cloud remains
following the foolish victor who
occupies a solid gold throne
furnished by a Faustian family
from a land far, far away

As he breaths through his mouth
he complains his crown
is bulky, unwieldly (gotcha! He doesn’t know that word)
adored as it is with spangles, sparkles
the spoils of ill-gotten gains
and still – ill repute remains

He resigns himself to another day
of allowing teachers to go home (forever)
Freeing children from pesky doctor visits
Yet his doom looms: HE IS JOHN DOE
Jump one hurdle, slam into a wall
The drumbeat grows: Indict “Koch Lite”

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Three Word Wednesday: Bulky, Mist, Reign.
Also at my poetic soapbox, the ever-trusty Poets United (not a PAC, incidentally!).
Image courtesy of the magazine named for my patron saint: Mother Jones.


If you are not prepared to read about sexual abuse of a child, please skip this poem. If you have nightmares of being “invaded,” this poem may help you to seek therapy. Your call. Scroll down for the poem.  Peace, Amy

 

My Turn Tonight

Door opens, cringe-creaking
Covers pulled over my head
Keep still, stay quiet
Someone else’s turn instead?

No, I’ve drawn the unlucky card
Trembling as he turns my face
to face the unfaceable and
endure this sick disgrace

Morning, choking back chalk
Sheets dampened by sweat and the sinner
I’m pretty quiet at breakfast
But he grins like a Derby winner

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Three Word Wednesday: Dampen, Keep, Tremble
Also at my poetic haven, Poets United.

NOTES: Through therapy, I made the journey from remembering to understanding it wasn’t my fault to shrieking truth at the long-dead man in the empty chair to acceptance, and ultimately, forgiveness. Once I forgave, the whole thing became a bubble over in a corner of my mind, where I could examine it on my own terms. The journey took 15 years, and I write about these events to help others connect. May incest, child abuse, child pornography… all die away, and love prevail.

If you suspect a child you know and love is being sexually abused, whether by their father, uncle, brother, teacher… be it a boy or a girl, let that child know they can talk to you about anything at all. Tell them that no matter what, grown-ups should never make a kid keep secrets, especially secrets that scare them. You could save a young person from suicide. Trust me. I was almost there. Peace, Amy


Pelo Malo/Pelo Magnifico*

Keesha fiddles with the beads in her hair.
This bugs her mom, who carefully combed
and applied conditioner and spent
quite some time braiding her daughter’s do.

“Mommy, why don’t I have hair like yours,
blonde and straight? Why is mine all kinky
and hard to do stuff with, like the beads?
I want hair like yours, why can’t I have it?”

“Keesha, honey, part of being adopted, the
really cool part, is that we don’t have to look alike
to be family. Just like Maya is from Japan and
has coarse, straight black hair and I’m blonde.”

“But MomMaya says her hair is… well, I heard
her say it’s ‘bloody awful’ to take care of, too.
You’re lucky.” Mom wraps her in a tender hug and
says, “I am, but it’s got nothing to do with my hair.”

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Three Word Wednesday, “Bloody, Kinky, Tender”
*PROCESS NOTES: When I lived in Puerto Rico, stylists referred to African hair as “pelo malo,” literally “bad hair.” I asked them why; they replied it is difficult to work with, especially with extensions. I was embarrassed to consider the notion of “bad hair.” I cannot look at a picture of Angela Davis or Billy Preston, with their tremendous Afros, and see anything but beauty. Beaded, natural, extended, even straightened (hey, it’s all about personal choice)… it’s all “pelo magnifico” to me, because it’s the hair our worldwide population started with, deep in the valleys of the Tigris-Euphrates.


Whew!  After a bout of allergies that almost went bronchial on me, I’m back. Sorry I’ve been absent. I’ll send you all a note from my mom. (Welcome Back Carter: “Signed, Barlow’s Mother.”) And I’m catching the tail end of posting for Three Word Wednesday; this week’s words were: Amateur, Diligent, Nurture. Also for Poets United, Poetry Pantry.

What We Need

What America needs to nurture
is a new-style politician,
who won’t afford rich white guys
such undue recognition.

“Clean Money, Clean Elections,”
lots of diligent candidates.
Amateur by Beltway standards.
but that slate would be first-rate.

We’ve been so disillusioned;
lost our voices to Big Money.
But some unspoiled men and women
will take back Main Street, honey.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


Memories of His Dad

Antique, the shaving brush atop his side of our bathroom counter.
Memories of his father come forth,
back when Dad used soap and an old-fashioned razor,
how the blade grazed his flesh with precision.

Later, his father lost that control
as Lou’s legacy sent him flailing
Hard for a WWII vet, an engineer, a man of science,
to revert to unexpected infancy, utter dependence.

The badger-hair brush reminds his son
of happier times, watching Dad pull up his nose
to stop that mustache from gaining ground.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Three Word Wednesday: Razor, Flesh, Control; also at Poets United.
Image courtesy of http://www.tjrakowski.com


Three Word Wednesday gave us these words:  Cherish, Guarantee… and Nausea.  Hmmmm.   Amy

ABSINTHE

And after the sumptuous Creole meal, our host
revealed the piece de resistance.
Carefully inserting a skeleton key
into an antique burlwood cabinet,
he extracted a cherished treasure:

His smuggled bottle of Absinthe.

“Plan to stay awhile,” he murmured.
“This is guaranteed to take you
directly to the Source.”

A row of glasses topped with slotted spoons;
a cube of sugar atop each spoon.
He poured through the sugar cubes
slowly, lovingly – as one would bring forth
nectar from the gods.

Green liquid swirled; we held it up to the firelight,
our personal tickets to the Emerald City.
Conversation slowed.
Speech slurred,
then stopped.
In our mutual stupor, we awaited the Divine.
And waited.  Then waited some more.
Still, no inspiration, no introspection,
no insights.  We stared at one another, then at our host.

Vague notions of Interview With The Vampire flickered,
then faded.

My one and only encounter with Absinthe ended a bust.
And in the morning, a touch of nausea.
Perhaps in the future, I mused, I’ll stick to ‘shrooms.

©  2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Also at my poetic oasis, Poets United!