Monday, May 31, 2010

A Snow-Globe Mind (Meditation vs. Reality)


God, grant me a snow-globe mind
where visions swirl in sensuous patterns
lovely and peaceful
Only to settle and wait to be stirred again
at a time of my own choosing

Better than this incessant strobe light
An intermittent blinking neon sign
Shining through my eyelids, shaking awake my mind
It has me on my knees
begging for a blackout
if only to cease the pulsating distraction
of a senseless, endless, unrelenting
throb of thoughts

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Sunday, May 30, 2010

EMERALD ISLE (The Soil From Which I Spring)


The soil from which I spring
Land from whence came the Laughlins, the Gordons, the Dunns
who made it over the Atlantic during the Famine
probably in steerage -
never much cash on Mom’s side of the family

The fields of green they no longer remember
Too far from home for too many generations
But there remains an impish, macabre sense of humor
that makes for stifled laughter in church
coupled with acceptance of the inevitable:
The English rule us
Invaders roll our women over and give us brown-eyed kids

All of this dances in my soul, a reel of real destiny, a pride
My Dad’s side was Mayflower, doncha know, D.R.A.
(Me drinking tea with that many white women? Don’t think so)

I am my mother’s girl
Pigs in the parlor, bathtub gin, poker in the back room
I love the smell of a beer-soaked tavern floor
Shanty Irish til the day I die

(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Frances by Night (the cruelty of gay-bashing)

Based on a person from my hometown, name changed for dignity's sake. No one should ever have to suffer because they live without lying about who they are.


Frances took a lot of shit
back when cross-dressing was even more misunderstood
On Saturday nights, she’d dress to the nines
Scarves, handbag, nails done, bejeweled pumps
The Pink Cadillac was the only bar in town that would serve her
Sometimes she’d get bounced early for
flouncing around the married guys too much
They were undercover, like the CIA

This was back in the day
when you came in the back door and showed ID
Humiliating for closet cases, but worse for Frances
who had to show her license with her real name, Frank
It set her on edge every time, and she had a mouth on her

A few cocktails would set her right
She’d be fine ‘til closing time
If no prime escort took the bait
she’d wait as long as she could
before leaving for good (or for worse)

Fag bashers staked out the back door, on their beat
Ready to beat the crap out of “the little whore”
Yelling, “Frankie! Frankie!”
No cops were ever around that part of town
despite the shouts of the frantic rumble

She put up a good fight, that little queen
for all the mascara and cashmere, she was a scrapper
Her Georgette Klinger lipstick smeared on the knuckles
of some macho boy who really only wanted to touch her
but couldn’t admit it in front of his buddies

“Frankie,” they’d shout, “we’re coming for you”
“Boys,” she’d retort, “do come!
You need it more than I do”

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Friday, May 28, 2010

AFRODISIAC (alert: not for the prudish)


Hey, it was lonely on the island
Living solo, slaving six nights slingin songs
My friend went stateside and brought me a present
Something Special
a vibrator – not just any vibrator, mind you
The biggest, fattest, most finely articulated, blackest dildo in creation
“He’ll keep you company,” she winked naughtily

That night, I tingled, mind wandering amid music
about the wonderous wanker wand
I named him Billy Preston (it was the 80s, mind you)
Billy was waiting for me
under my pillow
ready for our first close encounter

Finally home, just the two of us.
Billy, meet Betty (don’t ask)
Working our way into a complete union
Then I flipped on the switch
and screamed (but not in a good way)
Billy Preston had an impressive thermonuclear engine
Not a purr, nor a roar – something more excessive
like a jet revving before liftoff

I pulled out fast
(now, that’s weird for a girl to say)
and in my haste to extract the genital buzzsaw from my fertile forest
I flung it clear across the room
He landed in the wastebasket, still cruising at 120 mph
The basket overturned and Billy Preston was
“goin’ round in circles”
like a poodle on double espresso

Poor Betty still flinches when she recalls the trauma
Doc said you can’t treat a twat for PTSD, only VD
But she was gently cajoled and healed
by the real thing

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Thursday, May 27, 2010

WAYS TO... two poems

From our Poetic Asides prompt, Ways To...
I have two. One fun, one deeper. Enjoy.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil



Give it up
Push it away
that ego, whispering “me me me”
(like a bad soprano warming up)

Let it go
Listen to the echo
(the voice that says the world revolves around you)

Let it in
Breathe it in
Creation, the Creator, who loves you
(and only wants you to give love back to the world)

Come full stop
Close your eyes
Let love catch up to you
(you were running too fast anyway)

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

THERAPY (Two places. WWP)

At We Write Poetry, we were asked to write about two different places we had been recently. This was a no-brainer, or rather a scattered-brainer and sore-shoulderer!

THERAPY (Two places, WWP prompt)

Strrrrretch two-three-four-five
Bend this way
Now resist when I pull on your arm
…eight, nine, ten. Good
The film showed
some damage
You may need to up the pain meds
Possibly surgery
A little ultrasound and that’ll be it for today
Schedule our next PT session for Tuesday

It’s a stretch
to relax
when my brain is bent this way
I’m resisting, but I view
the film again
slow-motion emotional damage
I may need to up the anxiety meds
But I won’t need surgery or ECT
A little more crying and that’ll be it for today
Schedule our next counseling session for Wednesday

Therapy: Physical, Psychological
Both to stretch and strain
Both with all to gain

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

IT'S COMING (Shadorma)

IT'S COMING (a shadorma)

It's coming
Slimy black monster
No escape
Not our fault
Tragedy wrought by their greed
Killing our homeland

(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Monday, May 24, 2010

SLICK (For Linda and other Gulf Coast dwellers)

Poem by poem, many of our community are venting our anger about the Gulf Coast tragedy, which was completely preventable. It's true that writing poems does nothing to hands-on help victims or restore the environment; it's a way to vent. I post this is hope that it will get you on the phone to the White House and Congress, demanding heavier regulation of the oil industry; an end to off-shore drilling; and finally, get us walking to the store more often instead of driving.


Big Oil greased the palms
of elected officials
Thousands weep; their lives destroyed

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Elementary School (a pivotal moment)

Robert Lee Brewer asked us to create a poem based on an "aha" moment (shades of Oprah!). This was one of the formative moments of my childhood.


I knew a lot by second grade
The alphabet, counting to one hundred
How to write my name in cursive, and perfectly
What not to try to flush down the toilet
(for example, all my broccoli smuggled in via dinner napkin)
How kittens get born

One thing I didn’t know
was something the whole class learned at the same time

The grownups were mumbling something about
President Kennedy
A grownup was sobbing in the hall
and Mrs. Darrow almost fainted

Until second grade
I didn’t know that teachers were allowed to cry

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Lunes" - sweet, sad, salty

Robert challenged us with a new form: the Lune. A Kelly Lune works in 3-5-3 syllables; a Collum Lune in 3-5-3 words. Here are attempts at both… a little sweet, a little sad, and a little salty!


My daughter calls
No matter when or where
I pick up

Speaks of days
School, friends, gigs, new paintings
I listen

We are different
Yet our laughter’s the same
And our crying


God I am so tired
Yet my eyelids will not close
Tomorrow hovers


Come here often?
Are you a real blonde?
Live near here?

Wake me up…
I must still be dreaming
Want a Quaalude?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Back home... to a new form!

Well, after a wonderful gig in Binghamton where I played a full hour overtime and with lots of friends (and some new friends) present, I am back at my little computer, yippee. God bless my wonderful husband, Lex, who lugged all the equipment, etc., because the bursitis in right shoulder is not getting better... OK, enough about real life.

Poetic Asides has a GREAT interview with The Poetry Bomb (check out his bright blue suit on his Facebook profile) and a new form, called a Lune. There are two forms - one 3-5-3 syllables; one 3-5-3 words. Sort of a haiku broth with some extras. This is based on a Long Beach, Long Island walk in the 80s.

Barefoot beach combing
A purple and white stone
the simplest treasure

Pleasures my pocket
Keeps me warm silent company
Til I'm home

Monday, May 17, 2010

A quick and less-than-stellar poem

Hey, all... Wanted to let you know
I'm on the road with "music to go"

I'll be back again quite soon
To post my moon, June, spoon!


(Hey, that's all I have in me... I'll post better stuff when I'm home again on my own computer!!) Peace to all, Amy

Sunday, May 16, 2010

BOX ROOM (adult theme)

Is this a form? Is it my own form? Who knows? Feel free to comment! On the We Write Poetry prompt for Boxes.


Counting ceiling tiles, blurred
She loses track

Was that a scream she heard
falling through a crack

Her words not quite right, slurred
The drugs’ve made her whack

Straps on her wrists, tethered
Detox. The Rack.

(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore, Sharp Little Pencil

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Pine Box (We Write Poems prompt)

We were asked to write about a box. Any box, literal or imaginary. These types of prompts are grist for the mill - they challenge the poet to think OUTSIDE "the box" and go deeper, ever deeper... this is about no one in particular. It's an amalgam of too many funerals over the years.


it’s being left behind
No matter how long the letting go
a piercing pain of loss permeates
every point of human contact
The look in their eyes
Phone calls from relatives you wrote off long ago and
acquaintances from bridge and board meetings
They’re all so sorry (they never really knew him)
They remember him (vaguely, but you never had us over to dinner)

The Viewing
A blur of
I’m sorry call me are you OK (duh) call me
he was such a good man what a loss to the family
the community
the world
call me

The Funeral
Same readings as your parents’ services
Same minister, even (wow, he’s getting old)
At the words, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms”
you break down, everybody cries, all fall down
Whoever wrote that part of the Bible
really understood torch songs

The minister drones on about our beloved
He didn’t really know my husband
This is more my church than it ever was his

If funerals are for the living
they should skip the eulogy

Soon The Box will be planted
but our love will continue to grow
through tears and healing and memories and stories we tell
He was just that good

(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Friday, May 14, 2010

THE WRINGER (Me, Mom, and laundry)


I was the baby so I
spent a lot of time with Mom
watching her perform the mundane tasks
of suburban housewifery
that would eventually lead her to alcoholism

But back then they were fun
The radio was always on
Roger Miller singing King of the Road
We'd sing along
She taught me to harmonize when I was four

Downstairs to do laundry
A humungous circular washer, a wringer
And a clothesline out back
To her this was heaven
having survived the Depression

All these conveniences
meant just for her
In those days, she saw her life as luxurious
And she saw me as company
and the only friend around

After poking a stick into the washing
to make sure the detergent had really dissolved
She drained it and refilled to rinse
Man, she really took the stick to that
Everything had to be clean, perfect, worthy

But the best part
Before the hanging on the line with wooden clothespins
(Someone should invent something with a spring,
she said absentmindedly one day
Her mom was a genius, too)

Was the wringer
The clothes being strangled as they
gave up almost every drop of their being
I pretended they were bad people who were being punished
I prayed for them but secretly relished their fate

Back then it was easy
We'd go upstairs and have coffee (mine was mostly milk)
She light a Lucky and we'd sit
gazing out the window to the fields beyond
Soundtrack by The Lettermen and Peggy Lee

(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Thursday, May 13, 2010



First it was a stomach bug bugging him
two, three times a night I’d hear the bathroom door squeak open

Then came glands standing out on his thin neck
as though he had been hard-wired from within

The cough, “smoker’s hack,” that became the bronchitis
that became the infection that became the ambulance

that became a bronchoscopy, my friend lying prone as doctors
looked upside-down and straight into his chest

All this led to a hot-pink, stigmatizing sign on his hospital door
“Blood and Body Fluid Precautions,” because hospitals had not yet

gotten the concept that all patients should be treated with the same sanitary care
all needles should be disposed of properly, and

no patient should have to suffer the indignity of the Mark of Cain
tacked up on the entrance to his room, nor friends and family

gowned and gloved and masked before entering
as though we were thieves (these contrivances we refused to use)

The other Monster was in the White House, afraid his son was gay
and so he chose denial; he ignored the disease, when he could have

nipped it in the bud, possessing the foresight and gumption to tell the world
we needed to act. He was called the Great Communicator

but he flunked this, the greatest test of our age, and the fire rages on
globally. Locally, we each care for our loved ones as best we can

If God sent AIDS as a punishment, it’s not just death – but grief of survivors
If God sent it as a test, it was to test our response to those in need

If God sent it to slay gay men, then sans-needle lesbians are the chosen people
If God sent it to break our spirits, we will not let it happen


In memory of G. Jeffery French, my angel
(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

When First She Knew (ghazal, imaginary)

Not strictly autobiographical - I didn't marry because I was pregant, etc. But we were challenged by Robert to write a "ghazal" (Persian form; complicated rules, including using your own name in the final stanza) but gave it a try anyway), so here goes:


When first she knew, it was big-deal time
A few short weeks to hide, to conceal time

To see how the life she’d known until now
and the new life within would congeal – time

to see if the man she loved would be a worthy father
to this child… a critical moment: “I’ll” or “we’ll” time

All day, absent-mindedly clicking away at her desk
until they meet back home, it’s give her spiel time

For if they start a family, it won’t be casual
It’s make or break; it’s “get real” time

His warm smile says more than his words
Her eyes fill with tears, then it’s squeal time

A quick but lovely wedding, the blessed event before
the blessed event… two hearts make a seal time

Life grows within, she grows round and wobbly
Harder to find her even-keel time

Yet expectation grows in Amy too, keeps pace, keeps peace
God watches the child at her breast, baby’s first meal time

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

POETIC FORMS (a little commentary/rant!)


are not within my norms

too small a hoop to leap through

I meant “through which to leap”

piecing together words, a jigsaw puzzle

I gave up, frustrated… pro forma

I’d rather eat Wheateena

who excel in forms, I offer you kudos

Just another free-verse devotee

(Online meetings for Haiku Anonymous forming now. All comments must be in 5-7-5 format.)

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Big Top


Under the big top streaked with gray
They dance and perform; they’re at constant play

One is careening across center ring
in a clown car with spears – a most treacherous thing

The acrobats tumble across beds of nails
Trapeze artists regularly slip amid wails

There’s no net to catch them, so when they have fallen
for sweepers with hoses the master comes callin’

The freak show’s so real even grownups grow faint
There’s one star: it’s me, off my meds - fun it ain’t

A banchee, a dervish, and funhouse in one
My bipolar circus has merely begun

(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

CRITTERS (Writer's Island prompt)

For the Writer’s Island prompt, “Stowaways,” comes a poem a bit less ethereal than other offerings, but absolutely true… from the late 70s, a time my friend John calls “Amy: The Lost Years”!


Cardboard boxes chockful of
my few worldly possessions
lugged one flight up to a friend’s apartment
My third Venice digs in two months

Communal in a sense but
each to their own room
and roommates didn’t seem to bedhop
I liked it that way

Day One a girl wanders in and
announces she has scabes
Little disgusting lice-like creatures
their place of embarkation most likely her privates

“But I just moved in,” I wail
as I’m forced to empty my boxes and
hot-water bleach all clothing
and then comes the fun part

My first day with my new roomies was spent
naked on the rooftop in the California sun
slathering each other with Quell
but better than being infested with sex cooties

Such a glamorous place, LA
Such high rents to pay
Such dangerous games to play
Such toxic stuff to make it go away

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Thursday, May 6, 2010

MY FIRST POEM, because Mary asked!

As I mentioned yesterday, I was inspired to write poetry by scribbling down a rant about the gentrification of my beloved Venice Beach, where I lived in the late 70s. I didn't know it was a free-verse poem until my friends Marcia and Jesse and my daughter, Riley, told me. The original went on for about five pages; this, lucky you, has been edited from that first version. Thanks for asking, Mary!

Venice Beach Now and Then and Now Again (1979/2008)

We were free spirits, flowing with our Karma
Floating in a pot-scented breeze
But now it’s all money disease
Dis-ease about security sucks marrow from bone
Creativity from full-blown, fine, eclectic minds
The intersection: Hollywood & Vine… correction: What I Owe vs. What Is Mine
In your soul, the blues; on your mind, the dues
Paying for the right to live here, by the whispers of waves
Near palatial pavilions of the potently paid
Praying we could once again live back then, back when all was sensual, all serene
And the Venice Boardwalk a little less Green
Rave all we want, the money’s moved in
It’ll never move out ‘til tsunamis tumble Venice back to the trashy look of hash-clouded,
bearded marginals
Undulating madrigals with open guitar cases
Accepting quarters from faces unlined by gotta do gotta go gotta take this call
It’ll take the fall of L.A. to get it back to stay
No matter how much money they spend, there’s always more expense
for parking meters, Margaritas, Mercedes-Benz
What became of the real-deal drifters, grifting their way
through a shroom-filled haze
Jingles and Frank and ragged reggae days
Muscle-bound bods of men well-oiled, well-pumped, unshod
Stores with honey-drenched Haagen Dazs in paper cups with wooden spoons
A pennyweight on a Mylar balloon – we sent it skipping ghostlike
toward the Venice Canals
They’re now scum green
But the ducks don’t mind, they’re doing fine
Today I said hi and they called back
Money can’t make ‘em go anything but QUACK
If ducks = local charm, then why not beach bums, doing no harm?
Charm, like beauty, in beholders’ eyes
No room for human clutter, sweep ‘em in the gutter
like Rudy’s 42nd St., makes me shudder
The rich have L.A. well in hand
No handouts, no hand-me-downs, just put ‘em out, put ‘em down
Set down roots upon roots much deeper, roots of hippies without beepers, laptops, Blackberry speakers attached to the ears of societal sleepers
Cops in Oakwood busted humble places - put those grandmas on their faces
Fat cats watch the breaking story - 5:00 talking head in her glory
Unless it’s your grandma’s face on the floor, it’s a sound byte, nothing more
And folks who really give a shit don’t have time to protest it
Scrimping, scraping takes its toll – staying, praying Rent Control isn’t eaten whole
by well-heeled leeches who want their condos near the beaches
Rich vs. Poor, at the boiling point
God, this city needs a joint

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Poet Is Born ("I Was Pissed")

Robert Lee Brewer prompted us to tell the group how we got started in poetry. This came flowing out in 15 minutes. One hundred percent truth, and baby, I have witnesses! Thanks to Marcia, Jesse, and Riley for urging me to keep at it.


Back in Venice Beach after 20 years
visiting my kid, my gears whirring
I was cheerless beyond belief
There were no familiar haunts left

Like visiting the City and not seeing Grey's Papaya
at the corner of Amsterdam and 72nd
But in this case, Dupar's Diner was gone
and in its place was a T-shirt shop (made in China)

A great historic Black neighborhood
(full of low-income folks, natch) was
going to be razed to make room for condos
and Starbucks were breeding like bunnies

All these thoughts swirled in my head
I ducked into a bodega, bought a pad and pen
and ranted to the empty page
that my Venice was dead, or on the verge of being

vivisected by the rich, disembowled like William Wallace
until only bones would be left to be
picked clean by whoever survived the onslaught
But what do you call something that's

five pages long (later edited) and possesses
emotion and some semblance of alliteration and
internal rhyme, but no format resembling my
well-constructed songs, jazz and gospel?

I read it aloud that evening to some friends
Read it with force, conjuring emotion from
the ocean of words scribbled in haste
and they said, "Shit, Amy, that's some powerful free verse"

And so a poet was born

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Grey: On Depression


The Grey appears in a corner of the ceiling
No prayer, no plea can stop it
seeping slowly into view

The Grey
slipping down the walls
slithering across the rug and
slowly onto the sofa where I
sit paralyzed
Can’t leave the house
Can’t leave the couch

Now The Grey engulfs me
a nothingness
that is everything
Seeping inside
penetrating me roughly
like a bad lover

No drug can treat
Nor force defeat
this cement wall
this tightly grouted guest

Tomorrow or so
The Grey will snake away
And colors gradually
gratefully reappear

But for now, I sigh
slide on my shades
Open the door and force my way
into the day
Still grey
(c) 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Sunday, May 2, 2010

One Single Impression: Prompt 114: Enigma

One Single Impression: Prompt 114: Enigma

Sunday prompt: Enigma

The Blog "One Single Impression" asked us to create a poem around the theme, "Enigma." Lots of ways this could go... I pondered a WWII theme, but then came a vision...


How to describe this vision in black capris
black turtleneck and unprepossessing flats
Hair chopped swirled wildly dancing
Eyes of a fawn, deep brown, large, innocent

Posture perfect, but not posing
Unconscious that her aura
followed her like a cloud of jasmine
pervading the gathering with a palpable sense
of curiosity, of wonder, of imagination

Only one word for this gamine, this muse


© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Hear Me Read One Aloud

Thanks to my friend Buddah Moskowitz, you can hear me read a couple of my poems at the link attached. Give it a try, and make sure you listen to some other poems there, especially Buddah's "CSI: Golgotha," which is fascinating, especially since it has that extra spice of the poet's own voice.

Message in a Bottle

Now that Poetic Asides' April Poem-A-Day challenge is over, my friend Linda Goin (google her; she's great) suggested other sites for "prompts," which are themes to which a group of poets, etc. write. Then we compare notes! This, from a prompt on Writer's Island, of "Message in a Bottle," titled, aptly...


Scrawled on a torn brown paper bag:

To Whoever Finds This,

Whatever your poison, it’s not worth it
Mine fit neatly in this bag and was
smuggled, stashed into the back of the pantry
Kept me company while the kids were at school
and later, while hubby was out nightcapping with the boys

Repeating the methods of my father’s mistakes
to avoid inhabiting my mother’s madness
I thought if I sought less than electroshock
I’d be home free, free at last, thank God almighty

The kids tried to help with An Intervention
the tension was palpable; I wasn’t pliable enough
to get with the AA stuff, or therapy
And today the doctor said my liver’s failing
So I’m off to the beach to deliver this message myself

I’m taking it as far out as I can swim
and then letting it go
and letting go
Just letting you know it was my choice to start
It’s your choice to stop, or not

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil