STILL A PRISONER
During WWII, 600 Italian Canadians were interned by the Canadian Government.
Here we were, Daddy’s little girls,
on stage at the Toronto
Canadian National Exhibition, the CNE.
We were dressed in our Sunday best,
sitting side by side at the piano
playing the Petite Suite, a duet by Debussy.
Our father tried to listen, to concentrate,
but our performance just wasn’t enough
to still his mind. Again and again it
crept backwards in time.
He joined the audience in their applause,
but he really just wanted to go home.
He never wanted to come here in the first place.
Now, he heard us again! We shrieked,
we screamed, we hollered,
Daddy, Daddy! And we gripped the crossbar,
as the roller coaster soared through the air.
He steadied himself
against the steel grey fence.
Our cries jolted him, and he tried to smile.
We begged our father to throw darts for us.
We wanted to win that life-sized doll
with the porcelain skin, the one
in the white crinoline dress.
But the bull’s eye was just too much for him.
He took our brother by the hand,
and moved towards the exit gate.
His mind frozen in memory.
It happened right here,
June 10, 1940.
rounded up in Timmins,
pushed into the back of a truck,
on these very grounds,
the holding tank for enemy aliens,
all with targets on their backs,
all speaking Italian, a language
he barely understood,
yet he was one of them.
Our voices moved
in and out of his mind,
in and out,
in and out.
Daddy. I wish we had known.
EPISTLE TO CARLO LEVI
Epistle to Carlo Levi
Carlo Levi, a Jewish Italian physician was exiled to Aliano, Basilicata, as an anti-Fascist in 1935.
We drive the empty roads of the Aliano Badlands
wondering how in God’s name
Mussolini knew of such a place,
and imagine you, Carlo, being brought here, a prisoner.
We slowly wind our way up to the edge of town
where limestone cliffs crumble, houses slide away
from the pounding rains, and people hold on for dear life,
nails filled with white clay, hands covered in mud.
We wonder whether isolation means poverty
as we meet the blank stares of old men
sitting on broken chairs outside Bar 666,
waiting for the next rains to fall, the next stone wall to collapse.
Yet, still, we do see the beauty from the open shutters of your window,
the hills rolling into the sunset from your terrazzo,
your home now a museum, your eyes now our eyes,
and we understand how you, Carlo, conquered your suffering.
Your paintings show your love of the children held by mothers
scarfed from the cold, of the people with desperation etched
on their faces by your oils, and of the hills of Basilicata
separating you from your beloved Turin.
And now, we lay rocks on your grave, mixed with flowers and pens,
the only sign of life left here on this remote precipice,
besides the howling winds and your memoir,
Christ Stopped at Eboli.
Eloise Carbone explores both her Italian heritage and her own life experiences through writing poetry. In 2019, she attended the Italian Diaspora Studies Writing Seminar in Italy and is a member of the Italian Canadian Writers Association. Her poetry has been published in the USA: The Paterson Literary Review, Issue 48, and Voices from the Attic, Volume 27; in Italy: Celebrating Calabria: Heritage and Memory, and in Canada: Pocket Lint. Eloise lives in Vancouver, Canada.