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

Tag Archives: Trifecta

Diva Heart in Denial

Her heart was not one that accepts age as
progress toward wisdom a crown of silver
Hot flashes were mere preludes

In tinny wraps, her stylish tinted glints of
highlights, long tresses still brisking bare shoulders
in waves of tragic peroxide passion

The insidious flaps under arms, on her belly,
her lazy limbs and gut splitskinned and resewn
A Bonwit Teller Raggedy Ann

French tip the perfect nails; affix false lashes:
Color her vivid. Boy Toy Nick not allowed to drift far
He stands flexed, assurance of her youth, her comeliness

She will not go gentle into that good night
but brittle, breakable, frightened, but
always with a mirror at hand

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For the Sunday Whirl (Wordle belw; thanks, Brenda!) and Trifecta, which wanted a poem about heart as personality or disposition. Also at my poetic salon, where we’re all GORgeous, Poets United. I’ve known women of means who have had their faces lifted so many times, their noses begin to turn inside out, a slight ring around each nostril.


Rocket Ship To The Sun

“Last call for boarding the
Sharp Little Special Rocket Ship to the Sun!”
(now that’s what I call a red-eye flight)

(They’re all showing up because
it’s free, no matter the destination
That’s how dense they are, accepting my invite)

“Your pilot, George W. Bush (in a codpiece)
Co-pilot, Marcus Bachmann (he’s submissive)
Flight attendants, catering to your every whim:

“Britney Spears, Michelle Bachmann, that preacher who
keeps predicting the end of the world” (I just want to help)
“All the Wiggles (sorry, kids, it has to be done)

“Your mechanic, Ted Nugent (resume too long, see below)
Your super-secret incognito flight security man
will be Tom Selleck, replacing Charleton Heston

“The guys who checked you all in but will skip
the actual flight: Scooter, Glenn, Rush and Dick”
(should get those last two too close, it’s Dick Cheney)

“As for the passengers: Neo-Nazis, skinheads,
bullies, homophobes (too bad Anita Bryant didn’t
stick around for this one, she would have loved it),

“Christians who think anyone who’s not ‘their brand’
is banned from heaven, from America, and of course
from their church of undesignated affiliation…

It’s a mighty big ship, so there’s room for everyone.
No need for safety precautions; just sit back, sip
a martini, and enjoy the music, which will be

428 hours of Slim Whitman, plus an in-flight movie,
First Class’ Tom Cruise in “Rock of Ages” (barf bags provided)
After that, your final destination will be a relief

Enjoy your flight!

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Trifecta, who wanted us to use the world “flight” in a poem, as in: a trip made by or in an airplane or spacecraft; a scheduled airplane trip. Also at my poetic launching pad, Poets United.

My dear friend Jason Ward introduced me to the concept of planning his “rocket ship to the sun.” His roster changes from time to time, but mine is startlingly similar.

NOTE ON TED NUGENT: He’s a darling of the Right now because he offers his ranch to Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, mostly amputees. He gives them assault weapons and lets them shoot animals he’s imported for their killing pleasure. (Mind you, many of them have PTSD and this is the last thing they should be doing… if Ted really cared, he’d pay for their counseling and psych meds.) Yet the same TED NUGENT, when it was his turn to serve in Vietnam, smeared himself with feces and pretended to be mentally ill at the draft board. Anyone who avoided Vietnam, hooray, it was another stupid White Guys Know How To Rule Everyone war… but to come back years later and claim solidarity with people who actually served and were wounded? Please.

If you don’t see your favorite purveyor of hate and would like to have them added to the passenger list, feel free to mention them in your comments. I will review the list before issuing final invitations. (When Pres. Bush heard the pretzels were free and we’d have N.A. beer, he said, “Hell, yeah, when do we take off?”)

Yeah, I’m going to catch heck for this one, but somebody’s gotta say it. Amy


Hello, friends. I have two pieces of good news. First, my entry for the Trifecta “Week 35 Challenge,” which ran an entire month, was cited as the second-place winner – check out all three Trifecta winning entries at THIS LINK, including my friend Misky (Da winner and still champeen!!), and a new friend, Lucy Robinson Miller in third place.

Also, another great friend, Lady Nimue, edited the latest edition of the ezine, Fried Eye, and one of my poems is in there as well! So a big week, and truthfully, I needed the lift, so thanks, Nimue, for asking… and thanks to the folks at Trifecta for always having a wonderful challenge.

Detour Ahead? (an etheree)

Where
he leads
she follows
Whether he’s right
she dares not question
If she does, usual
answer, the back of his hand
Unfortunate girl, brought up by
a mother whose own questions were rare
Mirrors mock them both: Their “normal,” scarred, scared

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Poets United (Follow/Lead and Usual/Rare).

NOTES: An etheree is ten lines with the first line having one syllable, the second two, and so on until you have ten lines with then syllables. There are variations. I only use form when it comes easily to my theme, and I hope Viv is proud of me! (She’s seen me struggle.)

The song “Detour Ahead” was (in my opinion) best sung by Billie Holiday, and best played instrumentally by pianist Bill Evans. Just in case you were wondering where the title of the poem came from. One of my favorite songs when I was in jazz clubs.


Houseguest Pest

Jake, old friend, relic of a rake,
dropped in and occupied our couch
to catch off-Broadway plays
during our Manhattan days.

Friend of my folks, fan of my mom’s music,
I inherited him along with
scrapbooks my sisters didn’t want
and the extra odd silver that didn’t match.

Always fun visits at first, but then
there was the eventual price we’d pay
for his monthly long-weekend stay.
Did I mention his death-rattle breath?

He never picked up the tab, even for coffee.
His girth shattered a rung on my prized
rocking chair inherited from Jeffery and
seriously challenged the shocks on my Fiat.

Boy, oy, ready the clothespins for the kicker:
He never got over living in postwar Germany.
Or maybe he was simply too damned cheap
to buy soap and shampoo. Eeeeeeew.

My olfactory senses may never recover
from Eau du Jake, the scent that made
neighbors complain. If he’d actually smelled
like fish, it might have been an improvement.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Trifecta, which asked us to recount our personal Monty Wooleys – guests who overstay their welcome and begin to “smell like fish,” literally or figuratively!


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.


Sounds easy peasy, right? Trifecta says, “Take your favorite book and tell it in 33 words. No more, no less. So, my friends, here is my Cliff Notes version of the Bible. Peace, and please keep your humor! Amy

THE BIBLE (condensed version)

God creates everything,
pulls Adam’s rib to form Eve.
Except in Genesis 2.

Moses delivers Commandments.
People mess up, drown, turn to salt.
Jesus comes, says “Love,” gets killed.

Revelation still scares kids.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Also at my poetic home, Poets United.

NOTE:  In Genesis, Chapter 2, the Bible says that God created Adam from dust and the Spirit blew life into him, completely contradicting the first account.  Biblical literalists, please take note!


Blue Babe

Funk-flattened by that man,
the one who stole her whole,
heart, soul… grassy knoll.

Blue, blank, busted,
burnt by a formerly formidable passion
that now passes for bitter brittleness.

Lost love takes the shape of
a long tall martini, in her limp hands,
as she holds up her part of the bar,

awaiting her next mistake.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Trifecta, use the word “blue” in a 33-333 poem as an adjective meaning melancholy… Been there, done him…
Also at my poetic watering hole, Poets United. Peace, Amy


Wonder, Wander

Young girl lies in tall grass
loves seeing flowers from underneath
Queen Anne’s lace, a parasol in sunshine
Timothy grass swinging above her
She wonders why buttercups shine thing
under her skinny chin

Mother looks out the back window
at her daughter and wonders where
life will take her in ten years
Will she also marry and submerge
in the suburbs, eager for her next drink

Billy finds Ginny in the field
Offers her a bite of his apple
“Ha,” says Ginny, “you’re Eve”
He grins, lies down beside her
innocently, wondering
when he will be attracted to girls

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Poets United Think Tank Thursday, the prompt was “Wonder.”
For Trifecta: Three 33-word stanzas, each describing the thoughts of one person connected to the next. I chose the situation each was in, mirrored against the naivete of youth versus the bitter truth of the suburban housewife. This is me, my Mom, and my best friend, John (who finally figured it out: Never!)


Dreadlocks and the Three Rednecks

Shaniqua was only 13, but she took the A train uptown every Saturday to visit her grandmother, an invalid who depended on help from neighbors for everything from groceries to doctor visits. Her grandma loved these visits for the sheer joy of her granddaughter’s sense of humor and her growing knowledge of old jazz records. This was the day Shaniqua would be introduced to “Ma” Rainey on 78s.

Today, the A was hopping with Yankee fans, headed up to watch Steinbrenner’s investment pay off once again as they chugged warm beer and scattered the bleachers with peanut shells. Shaniqua noticed the predominantly white ridership, so she pulled up her hoodie and gazed obliquely out the greasy subway window.  Three rednecks were harassing a gay guy when they turned their attention to someone they assumed would be more intimidated by them.

“Hey, little girl, you ain’t related to Rosa Parks, are ya?” drawled an out-of-towner, sitting pretty even though several older women were forced to stand, strap-hanging. His buddy caught on, got up from his seat (a senior widow slipped in fast as a New York minute, smiling smugly about getting off her tired feet). The second guy: “Why’re you wearin’ that hoodie? You a gangsta type? Member of a gang? We hear tell there’s all sorts of you people on these trains, stealing wallets and such.”

Finally, Number Three, cracking his knuckles, bellowed, “ARE YOU DEAF, LITTLE GIRL?” They surrounded her now. Sweat on her brow, dripping into her basket of homemade muffins. (C’mon, Mr. Ellington, make the A Train go faster.)

They ripped down the top of her hoodie to reveal her spectacular dreadlocks, woven by her mother since age five. “Looky here, boys, we got us a real Jamaican girl. Say, why don’t you teach us to dance? Do you know any Bob Marley?”

Her stop was coming. “Well, I can’t dance with you,” she said to the first cracker, “because I don’t like guys in flannel shirts. And you,” she pointed to Number Two, “are racist and just plain mean. I don’t think you like yourself much.” By this time, the grannies had all surrounded the group, ready to take action with purses and canes if the men got too close to Shaniqua. She was somebody’s granddaughter, after all.

“And you,” she said to Knuckle Cracker as the train pulled into her stop at 171 and Fort Washington. “You are so pathetic you’re wearing a Mets cap to Yankee Stadium, you have a mullet, and your pants are hanging so low my pastor would kick you out of the church. You’re a wannabe with bad underwear and a butt-crack.”

As they stood slack-mouthed, she hopped off the train. “And you don’t pay attention, because you missed your stop. Go back to 161st Street and catch the B over east.” Then the grandmas smiled knowingly at each other. It was going to be a long trip to the stadium for the non-residents of Harlem.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Trifecta: Unlimited words, rewrite “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
Photo courtesy of www.littleafrica.com.


Morey’s Wake

“What a schmuck,” murmured Gordo, swigging from a bottle of Coors. “Still owed me twenty bucks. Now I’ll never see it.”

“Hey, Morey was a nice guy,” countered Amber. “He gave me my Tilda, and she’s great.”

Sasha sniffed. “Didn’t give you a weddin’ ring, though. Shitty deal, you ask me.”

Morey lay stiff and starched in the coffin. The mortician had dolled him up special. Amber wanted the bruises and cuts hidden and four missing front teeth replaced. Morey looked like a million, and Mr. Burry wasn’t making out too bad, either.

Morey was laid out at Sharkey’s Bar. The owner couldn’t refuse. After all, Morey was his muscle at the door for twenty years. Mr. Bury fussed that a bar was hardly a place for a mortician of his stature, but an extra five bills took care of any objections.

By noon, everyone was drunk, and Morey? At least you couldn’t smell him, what with the beer and perfume and Mr. Bury’s scented flower arrangements. Not much high-brow drinking, mostly beer, but they tipped Louie extra. Dino got all homesick for Crete and started in on the ouzo too soon… he fell flat off the barstool. People stepped over him discreetly.

“You know, Amber,” said Louie from behind the bar, “I’m gonna miss that bastard. He shouldn’t oughta got mixed up with that fix at the Downs. Backfired, and now here he is, all dead and shit. Sorry.”

Amber downed a quick lime-tequila-salt slammer and said, “He was in the right place at the right time with the wrong luck and no gun. I told him, ‘Morey, take some protection,’ but then again,” another shot of tequila and a grimace, “I told him to use protection with me, and that’s how I got Tilda.”

Morton “Morey” Kelley, aged 52, eulogized by a chorus of semi-friends and a couple of enemies who sang along with Credence on the jukebox and slipped Amber cash. And the occasional tongue.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Trifecta: Third definition of “Observe”: To celebrate or solemnize (as a ceremony or festival) in a customary or accepted way. This is as customary as it gets in my family! As for “Mr. Bury,” there actually is a funeral home in Buffalo named “Bury Funeral Home.” And Sharkey’s is in my hometown, Binghamton, best spiedies going and the whole place smells like old beer and marinated pork.