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a Discussion, an Argument, a Conversation ~ by Annalyn Vendittelli

a Discussion, an Argument, a Conversation.

1960, a young-adult steps foot in Canada.

It’s the start of a new life.

1965, October 10th, a baby boy

is born in Canada.

It’s the start of a new life.

Part One.

I’ve loved you since the day you were born,

my son.

I love you too,

But you need to know it’s

hard for me to believe you.

I don’t blame you, but you’re not

the only one who had a hard life.

I know I’m not.

But that doesn’t mean you didn’t

put us through hell.

I left my house behind, my family, my

friends. My entire life. To make a better

life for you, your mother and your brother.

A better life? What kind of

life should we have had?

You had a life of opportunity! I gave you

a much better life than the one I had.

I would never let anyone hurt my family.

Not the way you hurt us,

not the way you hurt me.

You don’t know what I went through,

to provide you with what you have.

The only reason I don’t know

is because you’ve never told


Because you don’t need to know the

details. You don’t need to know what

I’ve done.

I know the difference between

running from your past

and learning from it.

I’ve done everything I have, to give you

a better life than I would have had.

Part Two.

I came here in 1960, that’s the year I got here.

I know, Pop. I need

to know the rest.

I got lost at Ellis Island, made your Mommanon

lose her mind.

I’ve heard the story before.

This guy on the boat was talking-

About hot dogs that’s right. Me and my brother

went with him to get some. We couldn’t find them


I know the story! That’s not

what I came here to talk


You don’t know how hard it is, completely

uprooting your life, to go from your home

to a completely different country.

No, but you moved us enough in

our childhood that I know what

moving feels like.

You moved from Hamilton to St. Catharines,

I moved from Italy to a whole new


Yeah, I wanted to ask you

a question about home.

After my story, now, where was I?

Oh yes, it wasn’t long before I met

your mother.

At a dance, I know.

Sometimes I wish you hadn’t


I met your mother about a year before

you were born, son.

I’m aware.

I’m the reason you two got

married in the first place.

You being born was a happy day for me,

I need you to know that.

Part Three.

My childhood wasn’t the best,

you know about that.

I still remember the day you got hit

by that car.

Yeah, so do I.

I remember it better than you


I came here for a better life, for me

and my family. You getting hurt was

never part of the plan.

If it wasn’t part of the plan

then why did you beat me?

Why did you beat us?

It was discipline, not abuse.

The happiest days of my childhood

were the ones I spent at

Mommanon and Poppanons.

The weekends you spend with my parents?

The Sunday nights the whole family

got together to see each other?

Of course they were.

The morning espressos,

the walks to the bakery.

I’ll never forget what they

taught me.

Do you remember the way you used to

try to sneak pasta sauce past your


I never snuck it past her,

she always knew exactly

what I was doing.

Of course, she did. She knew her husband

had sent you in to get buns with sauce on


She knew a lot. She knew I

loved spending weekends

with them.

She knew how to take care of me when my

father came to Canada. She knew what we

needed to get by.

That woman was a saint,

God rest her soul.

Do you remember a lot from your childhood?

What else do you remember?

I remember all the times I stood

my ground. The days I stood

up to you. They made

me the man I am today.

Part Four.

There’s a lot you don’t know about

my childhood, and my family.

Because there’s a lot

you haven’t told me.

Did you know that we lived in a small

apartment? 78 Garnet Street. The first

Canadian home I had.

I’ve only heard about it,

from your sister.

Why haven’t you told me more?

We didn’t have this house until 1987,

when you were twenty-two. You were

already dating your wife by then.

She’s the love of my life.

Why are you changing the


She fit in nicely, with the family.

Everyone loved her.

No, she didn’t. She put milk

in her espresso and

vomited when she ate

eel at

Christmas dinner.

She did, but we all loved her anyways.

We’re not here to talk about her.

We’re here to talk about my


Once I’m done, ask. I spent a lot of years

getting to where I am now.

I know you worked hard,

Pop. I watched it happen,

watched you work nights to

support us.

Then what did you come to ask?

I don’t understand what you are

confused about.

Why have you never taken me


Taken you where?


Why have you never taken

me to your home?

a Discussion, an Argument, a Conversation.

            The poetic process of writing this specific poem was a daunting one. One that took several hours of several days in order to become what it has been. Although my choices were an autobiography or a biography, I decided to go along the route of a conversation, encompassing two biographies into one short conversation. The conversation happens between a father and son. A father who has not told the son much about the immigration process and refused to share stories of his past, and a son who just wants to know more about his father.

            The poem is cut into four parts, each part encompassing more and more of the story. Beginning with the first part, it begins before the conversation. The father’s story begins when he first steps foot into Canada, to the “free land.” The son’s story begins on the day he was born, four years after the father came to Canada. The repetition of the phrase “It’s the start of a new life” brings forth the two meanings behind the words. The meaning of a baby being born, bringing a whole new life into the world as well as the meaning of a new life entering Canada, whether or not it is a life that started as a new born or a life that started at sixteen years old, a new life entered Canada. The first part brings forth the emotion of love, but not the traditional love between a father and a son. Although there is love shared between the two, there is also so much pain and anger. I spent hours re-writing most of part one, because I couldn’t get over the own anger I had towards the father. The father in this story, being my grandfather and the son being my father, I couldn’t get over the anger I, personally, had towards him. I rewrote it, angrier and angrier each time before I realized what my father had been fighting to teach me my whole life. That there was no use being angry over things you couldn’t change. The first part speaks of love, but shows no trust, no happiness, no bond between the two. It doesn’t show any of it because how can something that does not exist be represented?

            The second part was almost just as difficult to write. Most of my days were spent from writing lines of anger and hurt to lines of peace and hostility. Part two begins with the start of the story, and ends with a line of love. A line of love from the father, not from the son. Part two begins with the start of the father’s story. The part that he has always been open with to everyone in the family, the year he got here. All of the information in this poem are the things my grandfather shared with either my father or with myself. Most of the information I have on my grandfather is about what happened after he met my grandmother; he never speaks of anything that happened before hand.

            The lines

            “Oh yes, it wasn’t long before I met

your mother.

At a dance, I know.

Sometimes I wish you hadn’t


I met your mother about a year before

you were born, son.

I’m aware.

I’m the reason you two got

married in the first place.

About my grandfather meeting my grandmother and the way my father replies to it come from a place of hurt. Do I truly believe that my father wishes they never met? No, because from it he got to meet my mother, and have my brothers and I. At one point in his life, maybe a darker time, I do believe that maybe once he wished for this. Not knowing how wonderful his life would become once he met my mom.

            Part three focuses on the past, beginning with the day my dad got hit by a car. He was around 9 or 10, and the reason he got hit was because he chose to get the ball from the street. He refused to let his younger brother get it; he is the oldest, it was his job. Going farther into the past, they speak of my great-grandparents. My father has spent hours of time telling us about his grandparents. The pride and love he has for them, the happiness he gets from those memories, the happiness he gets from them making him who he is, is extremely evident behind his eyes.

            Part four, the most questioning part of the poem, comes from the questions left in the family. The final line, “Castellino. Why have you never taken me to your home?” comes directly from my father. It is the one question he has always wanted to ask my grandfather, the one that will most likely go unanswered. Sad, although true, the poem ends off on a question. A question that may always go unanswered, whether it be from my grandfather or from the reader. The question is not to be answered until it is able to be answered by the one man it is meant for.

            All of these things, the questions, the pain, anger, happiness, love, trust, a lack of a bond, helplessness and more are what inspired me to write this the way it is. It may not rhyme and it is not inspired by another poet. It is inspired by true events and by real people, who have flaws and perfections of their own. It is a poem that started off angry, and ended up truthfully. It is without question, that while is does not dig deeply into the immigration story, the poem itself holds an immigration story, and the story of a second generation Italian who was raised by first generation Italians.