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

Tag Archives: Writing

Dentists and Origami

Dentists cling to
ass-slinging phrases:
“Only $3,000,” and
“We prefer implants,” or
“It’s easy, and it’s only $2,700!”

You are entering a world of pain,
paralyzed in their sterile chair,
these hair-raising inestimable estimates
tossed off like freshly folded
origami vampire bats
circling the cubicle,
jugular-bound to bleed you dry

Count the scales on
his alligator shoes
Take notes, the personal pix
of Peruvian vacation with
family, a long row of
perfect pearlies

The iron-clad irony:
We pay,
they play

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Isadora at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads asked us to use one of our favorite movie lines in a poem… Just saw “The Big Lebowski” for the first time in years, and although it’s irredeemably filled with swearing – haven’t heard that many F words since labor – John Goodman’s line, “You’re entering a world of pain,” seems so appropriate here!

My empty tooth canal is stuffed with clove oil-soaked gauze and it’s still 85 degrees at midnight and I cannot go outside because the humidity is too much for my lungs, like breathing warm pudding. “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you find the play?” Amy


Passion for Stinkin’ Plants That Will Die Anyway

84 degrees in the shade and I
drag my tooth-just-extracted self
to the garden store so all the
folks at church will see that
I am really making an effort
on the parsonage to… why
am I here? Oh, yeah, to buy plants

One purple, something pink, posy, daisy,
varietals, variegated, annuals, manually
cartsweatpushed to checkout

Then to the smoldering car
Four windows down and still
sweat pours through cleavage
pooling in my belly button

Home, quick, dig, plant, hose
A real Choo-Choo-Charlie effort
or is it “I think I can…?”
I start stripping at the door,
long line of socks, shorts,
shirt, until
(still in underwear)
I drench clenching teeth
in cold water shower.

Was it all a mirage?
No, merely stupidity

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Fireblossom at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads wanted our passions. Well, the point behind this was more like Protestant guilt to try and “homey up” our new pastoral residence, but hey, the passion is what you make of it! Amy


The Couple at the Altar

They stand before the altar
Penitent and sure of their love
Pastor eases them through vows
Rings, unbroken circle of commitment

Pews on the bride’s side are empty
because relatives disapprove
damaging Cathy’s feelings
on her wedding day

Friends move across the aisle
to ease her distress
Her fragile ego soothed
by their kindness

Final moment: Pastor
pronounces them married
They kiss; the congregation
goes wild, whooping, cheering

Cathy and Mariana Smith-Lopez
had to visit Iowa to receive a
legitimate marriage certificate,
but this is the real wedding

Mari’s mom, Aida, smothers Cathy,
“my new daughter-in-law,” con besos.
The four Lopez brothers lift their
new sister aloft, like the World Cup.

They parade her around the hall.
DJ spins Indigo Girls and Regina Spector.
Their first dance, “You Do Something to Me,”
a duet by k.d. lang and Tony Bennett

“Tough luck for Mom and Dad,” whispers
Cathy, “they looooove Tony Bennett!”
Mariana holds her new wife closer
as they snicker and dance on air

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Our church is UCC (United Church of Christ), the first mainstream Christian denomination to recognize “same-sex marriage,” although I prefer “marriage equality,” more descriptive of the struggle for civil rights LGBTs and their Allies wage. I’ve been an Ally since age 5! While equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people is not yet recognized in Wisconsin, our church performs blessings for LGBT couples. Ray and Oscar, paz siempre a su casa.

Three Word Wednesday gave us Damaging, Ego, and Legitimate. This is also “in the margins” at my two poetic homes, Imaginary Garden With Real Toads and Poets United. Peace, Amy


Are We Not Meat Puppets?

They say jump
We don’t ask why; we say, “How high?”
They say pay
We don’t question “Evil Axis”; we ante up the taxes

When did we become a numbskull nation of
Stepford meat puppets? Coughing up money to
support the Machine that pukes out bullets and drones,
that rains down death on the defenseless and our kids,
that defends “democracy” like it’s alive and well
in this incestuous hellhole of a republic that should be
called the Citizens United Shambles of Anglophiles.

Now a 200-year old experiment gone horribly wrong
reveals the abysmal truth: We were set up to fail.
Ben Franklin knew it; we blew it according to his
prediction that the predilection of the predator rich
would supplant rights of the “lesser born.”

American royalty (the Bushes, the Kochs, the WalMartons),
bred and more often inbred into simpering, faded Xeroxes
of hypocrisy, invading Congress (or buying a senator or two,
plus a Supreme, a real bargain these days)

They co-opt the middle class covertly
Privatizing public schools
(Susan B. Anthony reels in her grave)
Privatizing health care
(Big Pharma wanks the banks)
Busting unions and demonizing the rank and file
(Mother Jones rattles her bones)
Abusing immigrants
(State of Liberty or Torch Your Ass, Amigo?)
Espousing the Trickle-Down Theory
(Paul Ryan, please pass the toilet paper,
or your budget – they’re the same thing)
Citing voter fraud and discouraging minority voters
(we NEED ID because four cases were proved)
Continuing worst practices in banks
(FDR was a socialist; rich people deserve bonuses)

With help from some bastard pastors who live
in mansions, drive limos (or are driven in same),
who wouldn’t give Jesus a dime or the time of day
if they passed Him on the street (Private police
will handle homeless, and they won’t have any
Big Government oversight in how they handle it)

With help from us, the pathetic apathetic…
they strain our brains and even our mercy through
media propaganda and corporate corpulence
And we fall for it, fall into it, ground up into
walking, talking, FOX-spewing meat puppets

And as Monsanto and their ilk skip off to another
Koch Brothers cruise to the mutilated, prostituted
Caribbean, we say

Have a nice day and
Why doesn’t somebody do something about them and
Kim Kardashian is really getting fat and
Honey Boo-Boo is on, microwave some popcorn and
Wow, this (genetically engineered, dye-infused,
growth hormone-laden, e coli infected) beef is
too expensive, but fire up the grill and pass me
a cold one or two or twelve

Where is our indignation?
Is it American Idol or American Idle,
cause this sure ain’t American Idyll

NRA, FOX, ALEC: know your acronymns and
dismantle their poisonous, licentious, homophobic,
woman-hating, war-profiteering, racist, divisive
shitmongering, unconstitutional, IMMORAL machinery

By any nonviolent means necessary

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

So Kerry at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads wanted a rant, in remembrance of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”  Since this angry state of mind is so utterly foreign to me, I did my best to act like a political activist and member of the Christian Left.  Hope I succeeded.  (wink)

Peace, Amy


Milk Shakes and Enemas

Some doctors are too strict about
a pregnant woman’s “dos” and don’ts”
So I went to a good midwife
so didn’t issue “can’ts” or “won’ts”

I kept up with my calcium
the folic acid, fruit treats, too
But when the temp hit 1-0-3
I called her, whining “What to do?

“I’m sweating like a roasted pig
I’ve showered cold three times today
I need the consummate relief…
I need it NOW, without delay!”

“You’re nine months in, due any day
May I suggest, indulge yourself
Choose something cold and make it sweet
Go get the blender off the shelf”

Now Baby kicked up quite the storm,
I took it as an omen good
Some chocolate ice cream, Hershey sauce
The ultra in forbidden food

Plopped by the air conditioner
set on Freeze Off My Toes,
as Baby did the Caffeine Dance
my smile bloomed like a perfect rose

Of course, that night, my water broke
and labor quickly did commence
with my intestines like a brick…
The milk shake, oy! No common sense

Now, enemas are never fun
Less so when huffing through the pain
Were I another babe to bear,
no third-trimester shakes again

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Amy Laura Strangle
And they all lived happily ever after
(Image from Amy’s private collection, pls. do not duplicate)

Poetic Bloomings wanted a poem about two contrasting things. This was the first “odd couple” to come to mind, and it’s a true story, ugh. The only good thing that came out of that ordeal (I spared you the boomerang Gatorade!) was Riley.

Also linked to my little slice of heaven, Imaginary Garden With Read Toads’ Open Link Monday!



Image by L. Diane Wolfe, used by permission of the artist

Edgy

In the left corner
Invisible
I
maneuver this heady circumference

Rough and jagged as
I
and just as blue
Stepping lightly, lest

I
fall into the bowl
scratching again with nails
bloody from the task

See the marks from
years past
No one else here so
I

continue my inchworming
Whoops! that damned crag
I
hit it last time around

Slipdip and down
I
go, clawing my way to the top
like a silicone starlet

There is no end to this
circumspect circumnavigation
I
am doomed, Sisyphus in ceramic

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Ella interview L. Diane Wolfe, a photographer whose work has been evolving for over 23 years; Ella found her on deviantart.com. Diane graciously offered the Toads some of her pieces to use as inspiration for poetry.

Also “in the margin” at Poets United, my other outlet!  Peace, Amy


Summer Treasures Remembered

Silence is for remembrance, thoughts of her childhood.

Summers… The dappled pony on Aunt Beth’s farm, riding at a canter back to the house. Shucking corn, peeling skin from squash, separating rind from dead-ripe melons. The tang of lemonade, made from scratch. Braised ribs from Moody, the steer who kicked and broke her wrist. Dinners on a platter; breakfast straight from Grandma’s cast-iron skillet.

There was no tomorrow, at least not until Ma came to collect her and the boys, back to the fast-paced, grimy city, home.

She switches gears to five years ago when, after careful moral inventory, she chose. Rejecting city life for the solace of the country cloister. Truth is transitory; choosing the habit over skinny jeans, long sleeves over skimpy T’s. Her chestnut hair fluttered to the floor, shorn like a sheep at Beth’s farm. Her simple cell: table with wash basin, lamp, bed, cross overhead.

A final goodbye to family as she enters the authenticity of spiritual life, simplicity over audacity. Ma lingers at the cloister gate, remembers how little Sandy (now Sister Joan) took catechism class so seriously. Sister Joan smiles from two floors above, then joins her order in preparing a home-cooked dinner to be driven into town for the homeless.

Shuck, peel, braise, remember.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

This was for Kerry O’Connor’s Get Listed at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads; words can be found HERE. Yes, I took liberties with the word “malinger,” but hey, my Iroquois name would be “Plays With Words.”  Kerry said to use two or three, but I went to town and used ’em all!

My BFF, John, was at one time a brother in the Franciscan Order; later, he became a priest. Now he’s thoroughly enjoying life as an ex-priest/healthcare worker, moonlighting as a piano bar player in Philadelphia. Man, John can SING. He even performed “New York, New York” at his ordination party (including key change, per his instructions to the band). Peace, Amy

 


Imaginary Garden With Real Toads presented me with a real challenge – a new form! Not my strong suit, but once I got going, I was on FIRE, baby! I’ve also placed this on the shelf of the Poetry Pantry at Poets United. Process notes below.

I.
She sings
for the lonely
whose martini glasses
teeter their moods to sighs of “then”
Choosing songs with good bones, timeless, misty
Watching hookups destined to fail
Witness to a rapt drunk
who cries; to whom
she sings

II.
The blur
of is/is not
falls upon her lightly
winds around her soul so tightly
She seeks solace in the bitter bottle
Battles blues with burn of bourbon
Diff’rent bottle, the script
would help her beat
the blur

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

PROCESS NOTES:
First, thematic: She Sings is from my days in piano bars, where I was the only performer. Some nights I found that the sights and emotions of my customers were more interesting than my music. The reference to “good bones” is, of course, from old houses in terms of reconstruction.

The Blur can be any sort of mental disorder, when the person chooses to self-medicate rather than follow the doctor’s plan. In this case, she has received her diagnosis, gotten her meds, and won’t “play along.” Most heavy drinkers I know don’t gave the insurance or don’t realize they need a psychiatrist; I’ve seen this lead to the worst ends possible, including several suicides… and my mother’s lifelong battle with booze.

AS TO THE FORM: A Rictameter is a “form with a shape.”  The syllable count is 2-4-6-8-10-8-6-4-2.

A bit of history from the Real Toads site: Created in the early 1990s by two cousins, Jason D. Wilkins and Richard W. Lunsford, Jr., for a poetry contest that was held as a weekly practice of their self-invented order, The Brotherhood of the Amarantos Mystery. The order was inspired by the Robin Williams movie Dead Poets Society.