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The Italian Side

John Long

For Mabel Frati Long

Take a look at the men in the old photo

pinstripes, vests, fedoras;

that’s Nonno, my grandpa, a joke

with the banana peel.

They all laugh, caught by the camera.

“What a funny guy,”

they always said.

Uncle Harry’s on the top right

on the left is Auntie Beamba—

and today’s photo captures

those same expressions.

They still celebrate family

last ones to remember

Italy, the boats.

“Don’t they still look great,”

everyone always says.

I remember Nonnie, my grandma

like a photo:

black clothes, white hair.

She gave me candy in secret,

I thought no one knew.

Nonnie spoke Italian

I understood.

She died when I was five,

I never learned more Italian.

My mother, afraid

it would hurt my English,

didn’t teach me.

“Cucciolo, non stai mai fermo,”

Nonnie always said.

Now I pose,

acting silly for a photo

in the family history.

I make jokes

for posterity, like Nonno.

I walk like Uncle Harry,

balding like him, too.

Like Nonnie, I eat Hershey Kisses

sneaking them.

“You’re Italian, Irish named,”

my mother says

from behind a camera.

My aunt always adds

“Full of blarney and antipasto.”

1.“Puppy, you never stand still,”

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1 Comment

Sep 22, 2023

I loved your poem, The Italian side. I almost thought you were describing my nona, especially with the candy and only spoke Italian. I was her first great grandchild. I loved her so much. She died when I was 10 years old 😞. My grandma came over on the boat. Stories always filled up family gatherings.

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