Ghazal of Two Lovers

Sam Hamod


She said,

if I could

I would embroider you

into my heart


He replied, yes,

and the thread

the thread would come from mine


She said,

if I could

I would weave you

into my breath


He said, yes

you are already

within my breath,

without you, I could not breathe


She said,

if I could

I would take you

into my blood


He replied, yes,

I am already

in your blood

and, as well, yours is mine


She said,

if that is the case

then your are mine

I am yours


Yes, he said,

it is true,

we are one

the same blood, breath and heart



See Author’s complete bio on the Home Page and in the Author’s page.




Sam Hamod


Tonight, Sally and I are making stuffed
grape leaves, we get out a package, it’s
drying out, I’ve been saving it in the freezer, it’s
one of the last things my father ever picked in this
life – they’re over five years old
and up to now
we just kept finding packages of them in the
freezer, as if he were still picking them
somewhere       packing them
carefully to send to us
making sure they didn’t break into pieces.

                   *          *         *

“To my Dar Garnchildn
Davd and Lura
from Thr Jido”
twisted on tablet paper
between the lines
in this English lettering
hard for him even to print,
I keep this small torn record,
this piece of paper stays in the upstairs storage,
one of the few pieces of American
my father ever wrote.  We find his Arabic letters
all over the place, even in these files we find
letters to him in English, one I found from Charles Atlas
telling him, in 1932,
“Of course, Mr. Hamod, you too can build
your muscles like mine. . .”

                   *        *        *

Last week my mother told me, when I was
asking why I became a poet, “But don’t you remember,
your father made up poems, don’t you remember him
singing in the car as we drove – those were poems.”
Even now, at night, I sometimes
get out the Arabic grammar book
though it seems so late


Sam Hamod-Please see author’s full bio on the home page, in additional works, and on the author’s page.


Bad Mutha’ Comin’ To Town





James Brown



 “Look at me,
I’m a bad mutha’,
yeah, I’m a bad mutha’, uhh! uhh! hey baby,
James Brown



you be struttin’
james, up on broadway, ho’s
just shuck’n and jive’n, laugh’n out loud,
knew you were a big fisted daddy,
a tough mutha, that no muthafucka
would fuck with you—at Buddy’s Buzz Box
Buddy said, “Shit man, u tellin’ me
james brown is’n town—got to gitup to Broadway, got ta
see that man, an’his 20 footlongCadillac” he jes’ be
hangin’ back from that be-boppin, chest thumpin’, laughin’
mutha, just laughin’, just struttin’ blues, brownie, yah!
musta been, big time on Broadway, hell I don’no everboda’comin’out
cars stop’in people jes’ watchin’ even
little Willie, drunk asa skunk woke up sober, jes’
stragglin’ out to catch’m, willett smearin’ on
bright red lipstick, rosie ran upstairs, puttin’on
her tight- white sweater, and slick, he just sayin’
“tha’s my man, yah’ tha’s ma’man”

that was Gary, Indiana, September 14, 1960


Sam Hamod – see author’s full bio on home page, additional works, and author’s page.


Sam Hamod


At the Israeli Checkpoint, Palestine (for Mahmoud Darwish, In Memory of the Greatest of Arab Poets)

Sam Hamod

    (for Mahmoud Darwish, in memory of the greatest of Arab poets)

At the checkpoint, the

Israeli private asked me my name, I told

her, my name is

Zaitoun, she asked, what does that mean,

I told her 4,000 year old trees, she laughed,

asked for my real name, I told her, “Dumm,” what?

i said, it means blood, she said, that’s no name, I told her

blood of my grandfather, my father, my uncle

and even mine if necessary, she bridled, called the corporal,

he came running up, said, what kind of threat is that,

I said, it’s no threat, it’s just a fact,

he called the sergeant, he came up and hit me before he spoke,

my mouth bled, I told him, this is the blood I mean, that same

blood, you are afraid of, it’s over 4000 years old, see how dark it is

he called the lieutenant, who asked why my mouth was bleeding,

the sergeant said I had threatened him, the lieutenant asked me

if that was the truth, I told him, I had only stated facts, that

they would be true, after they conferred, he called the

colonel, the colonel came over and asked why I’d been provocative,

I said, all I was doing was stating facts; he asked what I did,

I told him, I was a farmer, he asked what kind, I told him

a farmer with words, what some call a poet—

“yes, now I know your name, Mahmoud Darwish,

you’re well known in Israel,”

he asked me if I knew the work of Amichai, I told him yes,

that I’d met him, that he knew what I meant, that Amichai was

sorry for what he’d felt he “had to do”—the colonel shrugged

dismissed the others and told me, “pass on,

I understand, but they don’t, they are not Jews, I am a Jew,

not a Zionist”

I pulled the qhubz arabi from my pocket, pulled some zaitoun

from another, some jibbin from my bag and gave it to him–

we laughed, he split the bread in half—

we ate together, we laughed at how sad and foolish all this was

* qhubz arabi: bread of the arabs

jibin: arab cheese

zaitoun: olives


please see author’s complete biography on the “Home Page,” and in “Author’s Page.”

The Muslim Scholar Searching for the Thousand and One Nights (Alf Laila, Wa Laila)

Sam Hamod

(for my old friend and teacher, Professor Muh’sin Mahdi of the Univ. of Chicago and Harvard, all the way from Iraq and the Alf Laila, Wa Laila)


Muh’sin found a thousand versions
of a thousand and one nights,
alf laila, wa laila,
in so many dialects that after a while
he decided
no one
not one
could have
even thought of
writing those thousands
of pages, of those thousands of
versions of the
thousand and one nights, so that
it had to be the hand
of a wizard, someone from outside
this life, someone who knew the
genii, someone who knew
the secrets of Ali Baba, of
Sinbad, and all the seas, pirates
and thieves of Arabia and
the Mediterranean, that was
a bearded genius, who smoked
the nargela by night, wandering
in and out of
dreams, who knew of carpets
flying, of horses that magically lifted into
air, with lights and jewels
all around, with beautiful virgins
who could not be
violated, who understood the wiles
of women, who understood they always
play the upper
trinket, that jangles in the
minds of men, who let slip the
sounds that
tempt men, circes
whose various
cries are music
to panting men’s ears,
he had to have found
the scars of generations of
men who have yearned to
capture this single
woman, the one
who has all the
secrets, but who
only lets them
secretly, almost
silently slip out of a
dream, like each day
is a dream, in the mind
of the wizard, the maker
of the sport and
pastime, whose hand guided
even her bangles as she
danced her nine hundred and
ninety-ninth night, fully knowing
the caliph had already been
by the moon
whose eyes
almond white against
her tanned skin
were a symphony
he could no longer
control, but even as he
breathed to ask
she moved slightly
away, out of his
reach, and even at his
command, did not
in that moment
he was aware
of her hips of water, her
skin light olive
her eyes
that burned
brighter into him
setting him afire

see author’s complete bio on the “Home Page” and “Author’s Page”


At Fakhani, The Shoe: Lebanon, After the Bombing

Sam Hamod


It is a
Shoe     a
Single baby’s
I pull it from the
Wreckage in Fakhani, a refugee
Separated from its
Foot,   it is April
And it is darkening in the covering
Black Lebanese earth, the soft earth
Has cracked its white surface, marked with
Streaks of blood

And who wore this shoe, what
Little girl, or was it a
Boy, what did the
Father say when he
Smiled, did he laugh
Back, or was she a shy girl who had
Already learned to be a
Coquette – or was she
Chubby and withdrawn among
People, if he was a boy
Was he already strong, his
Dark hair flying as he
Wrestled his father’s
Arm – and what
Did her mother say to her
Father when they heard the jets
Screech across the sky, did they
Hear the whistle, or was it an
Offshore song, Israeli sirens at
Sea who sent in wave after wave of
Glistening silver sheets of
And why was
This little shoe
Left by itself to wonder
In the dark, to find its way
To the surface by itself, and how
Did it feel

Leaving its foot behind­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­―
And what did the foot say
As the shoe slipped away
In the darkness
Toward the surface, did the
Child turn over as if in
A dream
did he dream
Mother and father were blowing

And what am I
To say, a stranger now
To my parent’s land, in the
Bright Washington afternoon,
Here in Fakhani, holding onto this
Little shoe, feeling grief in
Arabic saying it in English, so
That it is flat against
The round care of this shoe, something
Is missing, how did this shoe come
To surface today to meet me, the
Child who can explain it
Is sleeping
Under the new coming
Grass, under the splintered boards and
Shining glass, and how
Long can we stand in the
Shadows hiding what our hearts know – like
A telegraph beacon repeating
Someone is missing
Someone is missing
Someone is missing.

Sucking in the air
We drink Palestine, we taste
Lebanon, we hear Syria, we remember
Jordan, all the same
Land, the home of the same shoes,
Split now,   like this foot
From its shoe,     the blood smell
Coming from the piles of
In the hot Lebanese sun, and
So we are at home, tearing away
The language and names
Of countries, of village,
Tearing away the memory of these
Past two weeks, believing this shoe
Never had a foot, something lost
From a shoe store by mistake, something made
Alone and single in the tannery of
Rafik Dibbs in Machgara in southern
Lebanon, some sort of dream of what it was like
In Alay and Zah׳ le, when people
Would stay up until early morning
Doing the dab׳kee, eating olives and
Kib׳bee by the flowing creek

A place where there were
No airplanes, a place where
There were no rockets, no
Ships lobbing in shells from
The blue and glistening Mediterranean, but
This shoe, we know
Is missing its foot –
Shall we search in Tel Aviv, in Washington, in
Moscow – shall we search, or
Shall we make another
Speech, shall we make another
Poem, shall we empty the canister
Of language and simply

The shoe
I give you this
It is
Not mine,
It is



Dr. Sam Hamod





Sam Hamod



To most, Allen Ginsberg was known as this wild Jewish, Buddhist, homosexual poet, who wrote HOWL and KADDISH, so most assumed he wouldn’t eat pork and most likely was, as were many Buddhists in the 60s, and today, a vegetarian.

But when he came to Iowa City, to read and to talk with old friends at The Writers Workshop like Ted Berrigan, an old friend from NYC, and Anselm Hollo, and a few others from around America and the world, he decided, since he was in Iowa, that they should have a pig roast.  Everyone talked about it for about a week, then they all laid out the plans.

They would have the roast at Ken McCullough’s house out in the country, where they would have enough room for everyone in the workshop to come.  Allen also told them how he wanted to roast the pig.  He wanted them to dig a big hole in the ground, so they could put wood down, then bake the pig all day, so that it would get smoked and be done by nightfall.

None of us knew much about how to cook a pig, and in my case, as  a Muslim, I didn’t eat pork, so it was no big deal to me, but I was curious how you cooked meat in the ground in a hole.  I’d heard of it, but knew nothing about it.  But Ginsberg and ken seemed to know what they were doing, and they had others help them prepare the ground, the wood and the fire in the ground.

After they got the fire going, they put the small pig in the ground, covered it with some kinds of leaves, Ginsberg said it was an old Hawaiian way of doing it, and then covered the hole and everyone went back to Iowa City for his reading, with plans to return that night for the big party and feasting on the pig.

The reading was very good, but some of the homosexual matters in the poems made some of the more genteel professors a bit uncomfortable. But in the end,  but all agreed, even those who were uncomfortable, that his poetry, and his reading of it were something wonderful, and that no doubt, he was one of the important poets of our time. It was a reading that was far different from many who had come, some of whom were a bit stuffy; Ginsberg’s voice rose and fell, he gestured wildly as he read, he stared down at the large audience in the auditorium like a magician, almost as if he was saying, “See,that’s how you do a poem.”

When the reading was over, though many wanted him to sign  their books and get his autograph, he was in a hurry to get back to Ken McCullough’s farm house to check on his pig.  So we were off.  He grabbed me and Hollo and said, “Let’s go!  Do you know the way to McCullough’s?” After I confirmed it, we took off down the country road to McCullough’s and the fabled pig.

When we got there, a lot of people had stayed around all day, smoking pot, shooting up, and others drinking cheap wine and singing, or maybe they were trying to sing, it was hard to tell because there was so  much noise and so much was   going on. 

Everyone crowded around Ginsberg, and started asking him how the reading went, and when would the pig be done.  Allen told them the reading was great, that he was very happy to be in Iowa City with all the poets, and to be in the country and to finally have a chance to cook a pig in the ground. 

After he talked and talked with everyone and had a few drinks of the jug wine that was being passed around, he raised his arms, and almost as if was in a trance, he began a Buddhist chant.  I wasn’t sure what it was, but it had words, not just the famed, “OMMmm…”

After a few minutes of the chant, he jumped up and shouted, “Now it’s time, now it’s time to take our friend the pig from the  hole.” He called Ken, who knew how to take the pig out of the ground, but Ken said, “No, the pig is not done yet.”  Ginsberg insisted that he knew it was  done.  Ken kept saying, “NO, it hasn’t had enough time to cook all the way through yet.”  But Allen would have none of it, he was sure it was done and he wanted it out of the ground 

Ken said, “NO, once more and walked away,” refusing to take it from the ground. 

By this time, the hundreds of drinkers were getting hungrier and hungrier because they’d been drinking and  most had been smoking pot all day, and hadn’t eaten since late morning when Ken had put the pig in the ground.  They all began to say how hungry they were, and they wanted to eat, and that no pig should take that long to cook.

They kept this up until Ginsberg asked if anyone else knew how to get the pig out of the ground.  At that point,  some of the drunker ones said they knew how to do it, that they’d done it before. Having worked with drunks in my bar business days, I  was sure they didn’t know shit from shinola about getting the pig out of the deep hole it was cooking in. But Ginsberg was also hungry and impatient to get the show on the road. So, he enlisted these drunks to help him pull the pig out of the ground.

It was clear from the first few minutes, when one almost fell into the hole, that none of them knew what the hell they were doing, and furthermore, they were so drunk, even if they knew, they wouldn’t have been able to lift the pig out of the ground.

After the drunken crew flailed around for I have no idea how long, Allen himself gave up and asked if anyone else knew how to  get the pig out of the fire hole.  Some said they’d like to help, but had no idea how to do it without getting burned.

Finally, Ginsberg prevailed on McCullough to pull the pig out of the ground, even though Ken kept saying it wasn’t done.  Ginsberg said, “I don’t give a damn, let’s just get it out so we can eat,” and some other choice words I can’t remember at this time.

Ken called some of his buddies who were relatively sober, and so was I, so we all followed Ken’s directions of how to pull on the blanket or whatever the pig was wrapped in, to pull the pig from the ground.  I felt sorry for the poor little pig; as we pulled it up, I realized how young it must have been.  But with all the wood on top, the blanket, and whatever else, we tugged and pulled until finally the pig reached the surface and everyone began shouting. but for the hell of it, I can’t remember any words, just jumbled shouts all around by a bunch of hungry drunks, led by their pied piper, Allen Ginsberg, who was as anxious as they were to get to the pig.

After Ken unwrapped the pig, with Allen’s help, the butcher knife was brought out and Allen began cutting up the pig, as if he knew just what he was doing. But, having seen butchers and my father butcher cows, lambs and chickens, I knew he didn’t know what he was doing.  He cut the meat awkwardly, in chunks, and as he cut into the pig, it was clear it was not done, because some of the meat was pink and other slices were red, but it made no difference to the crowd, they were hungry and they wanted to eat no matter what condition the meat was in. So, the meat was cut, handed out as fast as it was cut, and people were wolfing it down as fast as they could chew.  It was a madhouse, a medieval feast, people all spread out on the lawn, their plates full, their wine glasses and jugs full, wine all over their clothes, people singing, people shouting for more, people smoking joints, and Ginsberg praising the pig and how wonderful it tasted, while Ken and I just shook our heads, he still sober along with me, and neither of us with a taste for the pig, he because it wasn’t done, and me because I didn’t eat pork, as a Muslim.

The eating and drinking went on, and on, and one, especially the drinking and the smoking.  Finally, I told Hollo and Allen I had to go, and felt they could get another ride back to town if they wanted to stay. Of course, they stayed, in fact, they slept at Ken’s farmhouse that night, along with a lot of others who had brought their blankets.

Ginsberg stayed another day or two, I can’t remember for sure, but when I saw him years later in Del Mar at a reading he did at a bookstore, that sadly is now closed, we laughed about the famous pig roast and how crazy we’d been in those days because after he left Iowa City, Ginsberg went on to try to  levitate the Pentagon, as his protest against the disastrous Viet Nam War. 

Though he didn’t know how to properly roast a pig, Ginsberg was right about the Viet Nam War, and also about dope being sent home to the states in body bags with the dead, and about how our soldiers were getting hooked on dope because our military made sure they had it in Viet Nam so they could stand the heat and dangers of battle in those God forsaken jungles and rivers, where snipers picked off our people at will.



Sam Hamod has his PhD. from The Writers’ Workshop of the University of Iowa and has taught in the Workshop; he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, has published 10 books of poems, and has appeared in dozens of anthologies in the U.S. and abroad.  He has also taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Princeton, Michigan, Wisconsin, Howard and overseas as well. He has had praise from Neruda, Borges and such American poets as Ishmael Reed, James Wright, Dick Hugo, Jack Marshall, Amiri Baraka and E. Ethelbert Miller among others. He is the Editor In Chief of Contemporary World Literature: Journal for the Arts (www.contemporaryworldliterature) and Contemporary World Poetry: Journal for International Voices.


Sam Hamod


It was never the spinning

Never the turning

Nor was it losing one’s self,

It was from inside

From that part of the heart

Attached to Allah’s heaven

From within

It was always from within

Tied to Allah from without,

That rope

We never let loose of,

That deeply felt, invisible

Binding that helps us ascend,

Frees us, spiraling upward     

I’d Rather Not Talk About It (For Palestine…)

Sam Hamod


I  really didn’t want

to talk about Ali losing his leg

to an Israeli shell last week, or

samira,scarred still in the hospital

her body napalmed

from a fast moving jet, but

as I said,

i’d rather not talk about it,

but it seems

there is nothing else

we can talk about except, maybe

the zaitoun* trees, the tanks

and bulldozers made short work of them,

but their stumps remain, gravemarkers

some say, but they say,

they’d rather not talk about it

between muffled sobs their women

knot their hands, shake their heads, their

scarves wet from tears, but even they say,

they’d rather not talk about it,

and as for me, I’d feel the same, but

as a poet, I have to give them voice, even though

they say,

they’d rather not talk about it,

I want to, and I want u to know

more about Mahmoud who lost an eye to shrapnel,

to Miriam who lost her 7 year old son

because an Israeli sniper decided he was a threat

as he picked olives in his own orchard, and

I want to talk about Father George, who was on his way

to church on Sunday, but walked too close

to the Israeli wall, and lost his brains

as they scattered along the wall, red and white

as another sniper made sure no one came near

this land they stole from Palestine, and,

Hussein who lost his foot from a cluster bomblet

that had been left behind in Gaza, he was simply

on his way to the mosque to pray on Friday, the

Imam said it was “Allah’s will,,” but I doubt it,

when asked why it was Allah’s will, he said,

I’d rather not talk about it, but we go on,

and, there is another story, behind another bed

in the emergency room, and another stretcher

bleached white with red stains all over,

and,  and,

and, and, and, but I could go on,

but as I said, I’d rather not talk about it,

as they all said, there is nothing to talk about,

nothing,  nothing,  no, 

nothing at all


*zaitoun:  olives in Arabic





Sam Hamod – please see author’s full bio in additional works SPRING ISSUE, Home Page, and Author’s Page.

Keeping the Cancer Letter to Myself

Sam Hamod

           (for my late mother, Zinab)


It’s as if
I can hold time back
 as if
I can keep that letter in my briefcase as if I can
keep my mother
still alive
upstairs in the white room, as if
I can still hear
her blood soaked
cough           want to tell her
it is something that will pass, lie to
her, tell her the letter is good,
the treatments will
work, tell her that we’ll make
that trip to Romania
get some of those “miracle drugs” we keep
reading about,
that we’ll sit on the front porch again
in the spring marvel        at the clarity of air,
talk about when she was a little girl in Iowa
when the circus would come to field across
the road, when she raised her brothers
and sisters after her mother died
when she was nine – baking bread each morning
and each year the exciting circus would return –
that we’ll get her passport ready
it will be a long flight we can – then
there’s that deep wrenching cough
And I’ll lie
again, tell her that she’s worried for nothing
that the pain in her stomach is only
gas, I’ll choke up again
unable to talk
turn away     my swelling throat
tight, unable to – then we’ll
strain out talk of dandelions and grapeleaves
we’d pick when I was a boy, by the river in Iowa,
by the roadsides in Indiana, then she
falls asleep, moves fitfully
Go back to my briefcase      not open it
wish the letter away –
now that she’s passed, that
briefcase sits, full of papers, unopened, but my eyes blur in this
because in this life
there are some things we never fully close



photo by Kristen Scott


please see author’s complete bio on the home page, additional works, and on the author’s page.





Waves At Isla Negra

Sam Hamod

            (por Pablo Neruda)


always there are the waves
at Isla Negra,
unless you understand the
motion of rocks
as they stir
against the pounding surf,
you will never understand
the motion of
loving a place
or a woman,
each moves
in her own way, undulating
like willows
high up
on cliffs as they extend
their branches downward,
enticing you
as do the waves
at Isla Negra,
so many colours,
so many rhythms,
so many songs
and unheard
known only in the heart



Sam Hamod has his PhD. from The Writers’ Workshop of the University of Iowa and has taught in the Workshop; he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, has published 10 books of poems, and has appeared in dozens of anthologies in the U.S. and abroad.  He has also taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Princeton, Michigan, Wisconsin, Howard and overseas as well. His most recent books were, JUST LOVE POEMS FOR YOU (2006), Ishmael Reed Pub. Co/Contemporary Poetry Press and THE ARAB POEMS, THE MUSLIM POEMS (2000), Contemporary Poetry Press/Cedar Creek; he has two more books of poems under contract and his memoirs as well. He has won many awards over the years, and in addition has read with such poets as Kinnell, Ginsberg, Merwin, Wright, Knight, Baraka and others, and has had praise from Neruda, Borges and such American poets as Ishmael Reed, James Wright, Dick Hugo, Jack Marshall, Amiri Baraka and E. Ethelbert Miller among others.