Dreaming America by Sam Hamod (lst draft)

Dreaming America     9.15.15   © sam hamod  lst draft

 

Where it was once

This dream of a dream,

This place of dreams,

Where it seemed

Money grew on trees, where

You came to send money home

To those poor left behind, their dreams

In your pockets,  that you used

On each day, each week

And sometimes, each month of

The long voyage, on deck in sweltering sun,

No water, no food, just more cargo, not human,

Not sure of what we were after the fevers set in,

Blistering heat, and a language we

Couldn’t understand, it wasn’t Greek, it wasn’t

Arabic, it wasn’t Italian, it wasn’t Farsi, it

Was an odd language, almost like some Germans

We’d met during their field work, studying

Our Roman ruins, but it wasn’t’ clear,

And we knew it wasn’t French, even the Christians

On board, who  knew French, knew it wasn’t French,

They yelled at us, the waves cooled us off but

Ship rocking  back and forth, up and down, now

Huge waves washed some  overboard, others yelling

To hold on, to hold on to them to keep them from washing

Overboard—but we held on, held on, sweated,  felt the salt water sting,

But we held on, held on, held on into nightmares and dreams

Of home, of the fields, the quiet, the goats and sheep,

And our mothers, sisters, brothers and fathers

Waiting for us, at the table, praying

Knowing we would rescue them, but as for us,

We needed someone to rescue us

And we hadn’t even gotten to that new land yet

 

© sam hamod, 9.15.15 Section I   lst draft

 

Section II

 

After the Funeral of Assam Hamady

Sam Hamod

FOR MY MOTHER, DAVID AND LAURA

Cast:
Hajj Abbass Habhab: my grandfather
Sine Hussin: an old friend of my father
Hussein Hamod Subh: my father
me

6pm

middle of South Dakota
after a funeral in Sioux Falls
my father and grandfather
ministered the Muslim burial
of their old friend, Assam Hamady

me—driving the 1950 Lincoln
ninety miles an hour

“STOP! STOP!
stop this car!”

Why?
“STOP THIS CAR RIGHT NOW!”—Hajj Abbass
                                                     grabbing my arm from back seat
“Hysht Iyat? (What’re you yelling about?)”—my Father
“Shu bikkeee? (What’s happening?)”—Sine Hussin

I stop

“It’s time to pray”—the Hajj
                                yanks his Navajo blanket
                                opening the door

“It’s time to pray, sullee
the sun sets
time for sullee”

my Father and Sine Hussin follow
obedient
I’m sitting behind the wheel
watching, my motor still running

car lights scream by
more than I’ve ever seen in South Dakota

the Hajj spreads the blanket
blessing it as a prayer rug
they discuss which direction is East

after a few minutes it’s decided
it must be that way
they face what must surely be South

they face their East, then notice
I’m not with them

“Hamode! get over here, to pray!”

No, I’ll watch
and stand guard

“Guard from what—get over here!”

I get out of the car
but don’t go to the blanket

My father says to the others:
“He’s foolish, he doesn’t know how
to pray.”

they rub their hands
then their faces
rub their hands then
down their bodies
as if in ablution
their feet bare
together now
they begin singing

Three old men
chanting the Qur’an in the middle
of a South Dakota night

    “Allahu Ahkbar
    Allahu Ahkbar

    Ash haduu n lah illah illiliawhh
    Ash haduu n lah illah illilawhh

    Muhammed rasoul illawh”

in high strained voices they chant

    “Bismee lahee
    a rah’manee raheem”

more cars flash by

    “malik a youm a deen
    ehde nuseerota el mustakeem
    seyrota la theena”

I’m embarrassed to be with them

    “en umta ailiy him
    ghyrug mugthubee aliy him”

people stream by, an old woman strains a gawk at them

    “willathouu leen—
    Bismee lahee”

I’m standing guard now

    “a rah’maneel raheem
    khul hu wahu lahu uhud”

They’re chanting with more vigor now
against the cars—washing away
in a dry state
Hamady’s death
he floats from their mouths
wrapped in white

    “Allahu sumud
    lum yuulud wa’alum uulud”

striped across his chest, with green

    “Walum yankun a kuf one uhud
    will thouu leen”

his head in white, his gray mustache still

    “Ameen . . . “

I hear them still singing
as I travel half-way across
America
to another job
burying my dead
I always like trips, traveling at high speed
but they have surely passed me
as I am standing here now
trying so hard to join them
on that old prayer blanket—

as if the pain behind my eyes could be absolution

 

[Author’s note:] The Muslim prayer in this poem is analogous to The Lord’s Prayer

NPR READING, AFTER THE FUNERAL OF ASSAM HAMADY, SAM HAMOD

Sam Hamod– please see author’s complete biography on the home page, in additional works in this issue, and on the author’s page.

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

ځ

 

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

 

 

THE BEDOUIN DRESS

Sam Hamod

 

You run your
hand     just so
very slowly
over the dark sewn fabric of this
Bedouin dress – you feel
three thousand years rough up
against the color of your
skin      against the colors of your
memory          you tell me
“When I wear this dress
I always come out
red”      and I,
looking at the
rustle in you, say
“You must look good
all red”         and the
brightness of your
hair       is lit up by the shine of
your eyes        so predictable
a beauty    but your laughter
always surprising
and new
like this
dress     so many
years
in the making
with so many hidden     desert places
so many deep crevices
in the heart

 

 

 

SAM HAMOD/VISTA, CA. POETRY READING

 

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

Leaves

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.

 

Joe Williams at the Blue Note/Chicago, 1955; March 30, 1999

Sam Hamod

 

 “Everyday, everyday, everydaayyy 
 I got the blues, 
talking of bad luck and sorrow 
Well you know I had my share…” 

 – Joe Williams with the Count Basie Band

 

  

Tonight, they tell me you died
on a Vegas street,
Walked several miles from a hospital
Just checked yourself out and escaped toward home–
No, no–
I don’t want to believe it, rather, we’re
back at the Blue Note, Chicago, 1955
You’re standing on the bandstand, light green rolled collar, your
Big white teeth smile as the Count says,
” Now here’s a young man whose recently joined our band–
we think you’re going to like his singing”
then you smacked it out, like a 1×12 smacking water, “Everyday
“Everyday, everyday, everyday I got the bluesÖ”
and now, hearing that you’ve passed into that other side of the song,
everyday we’ll have the blues, talking of bad luck and sorrow, well you
know this will add to our share–but let me hear you, let me look at that big
smile again– swinging uptempo with the band ” The Comeback“–telling your girl, hold tight,
hold tight baby, and we could hear the pleading in your voice as you asked her
to hang on, to just wait a while longer because you’d be back–and then you were
sliding into “Rollem Pete” you made us all jump for joy, and you were up there
just like a rollin’ baby boy–and we were up on our feet dancing and clapping
Basie just kept smiling and the band kept blaring, trumpets
High- cresting, the saxes laying down that harmonic line and the trombones
filling the background, their slides darting in and out of the the light
then you’re joined by Lambert, Hendrix and Ross and you make the Blue Note shake
with “Going To Chicago” — and you tell it like it is, cause ain’t nothin’ in Chicago
that a monkey woman can do– and we were like that, hometown people, full
of good folks from home, and you knew it, and we knew it when you sang it,
and the Count said it, “Chicago is always like home to me” and somehow,
you up there with that big rolled collar have always stayed in my mind, in
my heart, now tonight, I refuse to believe
that you stole out of that hospital late at night
I donít’ want to remember you struggling down that road
Struggling for breath, each slight step a pain, a
Gasp, a pulling for air, just wanting to get back home
To those lights, to get back to that stage, to get back
Among your friends–why was it no one understood
A singer like you can’t be kept away from your people, you
Were given that voice to sing, to get out among people, to make
Them laugh, to feel wistful, to remember when they were in love, and what
Love is, that special feeling that embraces us with its happiness and sorrow,
That love in all its configurations is still that warmth, that warmth in your voice
In your broad smile, and in that way you held the mike and moved from jet black to silver hair
All in an instant–almost too fast for any of us to remember how it all changed–none of us
Noticed the time passing because there was always you, Ella, Sarah, Dinah, Count, Duke,
Hamp, Diz–now we have only Nancy Wilson, and I know she’ll cry tonight and a lot of days
And nights as she remembers your big wide voice pleading, “Please Send Me Someone To
Love,
” and she’ll ask the lord to send you to the right place, where you’ll join the others
Singing with the angels–and we’ll be earthbound, having you in vinyl, on cassette, on CD and in
our memories– so tonight, I know they speak their truth
That you have died, but my truth is that you are there at the Blue Note in Chicago
You are there at Blues Alley in Washington, DC, a little hoarse, and you are there with your arm
 

 

 

Sam Hamod has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry by Ray Carver and Ishmael Reed. He has published several books of poetry and his current book An Old Arab in My Mind: New and Selected Poems will be published this year. Hamod has been widely anthologized in print and online. He is the Editor in Chief of CWLJA

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,
turnaround…”
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

 

The World Comes Together: Dual Identity in the Poetry of Sam Hamod

Anna L. Cates

     From Fringe Magazine

 

According to Edward Said, Palestinian Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, “Many travelers find themselves saying of an experience in a new country, that it wasn’t what they expected, meaning that it isn’t what a book said it would be” (295). Often, the surprise experienced by recent immigrants upon entering America could better be described as disappointment. They may have had high hopes and dreams for a better life, only to find them not fully realized. They may miss family and friends they left behind. Or they may become bewildered, suffering from a kind of “culture shock.” Whatever the experience may entail for the creative, it can become the basis from which poems can be crafted. Such personal poems that center on culture, race, and ethnicity can sometimes reveal a “dual identity” within the poets. In one sense, they see themselves as Americans. Yet in another sense, they still identify with their countries of origin and cling proudly to their nationalities. These poets may find themselves faced with the challenging task of “resolving the claims of two potentially contradictory cultures, as well as dealing, on a more immediate level, with the conflicting demands of family love and loyalty, on the one hand, and personal growth and fulfillment, on the other.” Poems of this genre truly reflect American poetry’s multi-cultural aspect, a literature “rich in immigrant cultures,” both first and second generation (Gioia 282). Many of Sam Hamod’s poems reflect ethnic poetry’s dual identity; although he identifies with his Lebanese roots, he also expresses a sense of being an American.

Sam Hamod is among the few contemporary poets of Arab American descent. Since the 1960s, he has published poetry about his country of origin, Lebanon, as well as the Middle East in general. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, he has published ten books and has appeared in more than 200 anthologies of literature worldwide (“Window into Palestine”), Unsettling America serving as only one example. He earned his Ph.D. from The Writer’s Workshop of the University of Iowa and has taught at Princeton, Iowa, Howard and Michigan, to name a few. He was the Director of Washington D.C.’s Islamic Center and the founder and editor of Third World News, also in the capital (Hamod “Today’s. . .”).

One aspect of the dual identity in ethnic poetry, such as that written by Sam Hamod, is a strong identification with the country of origin. Interestingly enough, this particular identity seems to be on the rise today. Many scholars consider that multiculturalism and globalization may have lessened the attachment between Americans and the nation. Americans seem to be moving in the direction of a “stronger sense of ethnic, as opposed to national, identity”. Some scholars have pointed to the possibility that ethnic identity provides a source of self esteem for cultural minorities and helps to foster accomplishment of group goals. On the other hand, a number of people maintain that ethnic identity “weakens common bonds and intensifies group conflict” (Citrin 71-2). Either way, this powerful sense of ethnic identity is clearly discernable in Sam Hamod’s poetry. In the words of Marte Broehm, editor of Hamod’s Just Love Poems for You collection, Hamod in his poetry and in person expresses “his groundbreaking ethnic honesty and directness, never flinching from his Lebanese/Muslim heritage—mixing it with his rough-house and youthful gang life in Gary, Indiana” (Hamod).

Hamod’s “Leaves,” anthologized in Unsettling America, uses concrete specifics to show dual identity in an American family. As the poem opens, Sam and “Sally” are cooking a traditional Mediterranean dish: stuffed grapeleaves. The leaves are depicted as icons of heritage; cultural emblems, which must be cherished:

		. . . 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 . . .
		we just kept finding packages of them in the
		freezer, as if he were still picking them (lines 2-8)

Hamod is drawing a parallel between ethnicity and the grapeleaves. Just as heritage goes on and on, so do the grapeleaves; they are symbolic. His father, defender of the “faith,” takes extra precautions for their preservation, “packing them / carefully,” so they don’t “break into pieces” (9-11).

In addition to the grapeleaves, Hamod’s father himself emerges as a kind of cultural icon. Very little about him is American. He speaks and writes broken English in a heavy accent: “To my Dar Garnchildn / Davd and Lura / From Thr Jido” (12-14). In contrast, his Arabic letters are strewn everywhere in the upstairs storage.

But the marks of Americanization are still found in him. Hamod says the above composition of his father’s, “English lettering / hard for him to even print,” is “one of the few pieces of American / my father ever wrote” (lines 17-21). The language is significantly described as “American” rather than English. It is actually culture, the dual identity, that is being described here, though the family patriarch’s “American” qualities are rather inadequate, compared to his ethnic Lebanese.

Yet American advertising and mercantilism have still made their impact, having been found among the scraps of nostalgia in the upstairs storage. Hamod includes a somewhat humorous illustration, a letter dated 1932 from Charles Atlas to his father, telling him, “‘Of course, Mr. Hamod, you too can build / your muscles like mine . . .’” (26-27). The gadgets, gizmos, and gimmicks offered to him from American vendors are parts of his history; the partial legacy of the capitalist West.

Hamod’s father and all that he represents, culturally and otherwise, has deeply impacted his son, and is the reason why Hamod chose to write. The songs he sang in the car “were poems” (31). Hamod ends “Leaves” with a strong sense of ethnic identity: “Even now, at night, I sometimes / get out the Arabic grammar book / Though it seems so late” (32-34). “Leaves” becomes in actuality, a story about human language, communication, poesy; figurative “leaves,” and the importance of language to culture.

Hamod’s “After the Funeral of Assam Hamady,” also anthologized in Unsettling America, depicts this dual identity as well. The poem begins like a screenplay:

		Cast:
Hajj Abbass Habhad: My grandfather Sine Hussin: an old friend of my father Hussein Hamod Subh: my father me 6 p.m. middle of South Dakota (lines 1-7)

This opening suggests the impact that coming to America has had upon the “cast.” America is famous for its films. Therefore, being part of a film suggests Americanization has taken place. However, it also signifies something unnatural, unreal, or fake about the roles that the cast plays. To not be, By having a dual identity, one is not a “true” American and merely an actor. The idea of being part of a movie is enhanced throughout the poem, with short stanzas that emphasize the quickness and scene-like quality of the scenario, like a fast-paced movie that slips from one piece of action to another.

The narrator of the poem, “me,” Sam Hamod, is driving a 1950 Lincoln, an American-made car. Significantly, the model is named after, arguably, the most famous and well-favored president in American history. Moreover, he carries with him in the vehicle a “Navajo blanket.” Although Navajos may not typically seem “middle American” to most readers, they are a part of the broader category that represents the oldest residents of the land, and they certainly have nothing to do with Hamod’s country of origin, Lebanon; he has adopted foreign emblems.

But a difference exists between Hamod and the older generation. They are not as Americanized as he is; their ties to the Middle East remain stronger. As they drive back from the funeral, they demand that Hamod pull over along the side of the road so that they can get out and pray, which is the primary action of the poem:

		“STOP THIS CAR RIGHT NOW!”—Hajj Abbass
		                                             Grabbing my arm from the back seat
		“Hysht Iyat?  (What’re you yelling about?)”—my Father
		“Shu Bikkee?  (What’s happening?)—Sine Hussin

		I stop

		“It’s time to pray”—the Hajj (17-21)

But while the older generation begins their devotionals, Hamod does not join them, and instead remains “sitting behind the wheel” while “car lights scream by” (29-31). He is too Americanized to endure the nuisance of maintaining the inconvenient traditions from his homeland. They urge him to join them, but he refuses: “‘Hamod! Get over here, to pray!’ / No, Ill watch / and stand guard” (41-43). In this stanza, punctuation disappears, building suspense and quickening the pace of the action.

The whole scenario reels with irony and humor. Hamod writes:

Three old men chanting the Qur’an in the middle of a South Dakota night Allahu Ahkbar Allahu Ahkbar . . . in high strained voices they chant more cars flash by . . . I’m embarrassed to be with them (58-73)

Hamod’s confession is full of portent. He has become so much a part of America that he feels emotionally discomforted now by displays of his prior culture, literally embarrassed by them. Yet maintaining the old ways seems to be difficult, even to the family patriarchs. Their voices are “strained.” Continuing old practices are not easy for them. This word choice could also suggest the idea of belligerence in their unwillingness to compromise for the sake of convenience.

Yet this same word recurs a bit further into the poem, but this time is applied to an American: “people stream by, an old woman strains a gawk at them” (76). It is significant that she too is of an older generation. Hamod is suggesting that elderly people get “set in their ways” and lose the freedom to look at the world and at each other objectively, to try new things and posit fresh ideas. In an ironic way, despite their cultural differences, she and Hamod’s older companions are very much alike in this respect.

The word “Ameen,” pronounced with a thick accent reminiscent of the Middle East, signals a transition from the past to the present. Here, Hamod re-evaluates the past and concludes that he’s missed something cultural. Some parts of his roots are gone, and it fills him with longing and a desire for some degree of restoration:

I hear them still singing as I travel half-way across America to another job burying my dead I always liked trips, traveling at high speed but they have surely passed me as I am standing here now trying so hard to join them on that old prayer blanket— as if the pain behind my eyes could be absolution (95-106)

Hamod is now juxtaposing his previous conclusion, making a complete reversal. Whereas before he was siding with Americanization, now he is siding with loyalty to an ethnic identity. He feels that his ancestors have outdone him, “passed” him along life’s road. He regrets missed opportunities to partake in the cultural practices of the wizened of his people, and now those opportunities are lost. He will never have the chance be a part of them again. Hamod desires to recapture some of what he has lost, but now that he is older, he too has gotten stuck in his ways, and he cannot detach himself from his Americanization. He has a dual identity.

Hamod’s “Dying with the Wrong Name,” another selection from Unsettling America, continues the theme of dual identity. “Dedicated to all the immigrants who lost their names at Ellis Island,” this poem centers on the name-changing or abbreviation that takes place as people are displaced from their homelands to America. Hamod writes:

These men died with the wrong names, Na’aim Jazeeny, from the beautiful valley of Jezzine, died as Nephew Sam, Sine Hussin died without relatives and because they cut away his last name at Ellis Island, there was no way to trace him back even to Lebanon . . . (Lines 1-7)

Careful word choices convey the difficulty, even the injustice, of having your name forcibly altered upon entering America. Your name, the grand title to your personal identity, is “cut” out of you. But it is not just your name that is knifed away: “the loss of your name / cuts away some other part, / something unspeakable is lost” (21-23). A loss occurs as a result of this transaction: “There is something lost in the blood, / something lost down to the bone / in these small changes” (11-13). Forced re-naming is depicted as a dirty deed: “suddenly—as cleanly / as the air, you’ve lost / your name” (15-17). Considering the air quality of New York City, the reader must conclude that this practice is quite unclean.

As the immigrant continues carrying on his or her life in America, the process of Americanization takes place and a dual identity develops. Hamod uses second person to put you in the place of such individuals: “you move / about as an American” (19-20). Your activities may be similar to the “average” American. You drive your Ford. You run your business, “a cigar store in Michigan City, and / in the back room a poker game with chips and / bills . . .” (27-29). You may procure employment at a factory, one of the “packinghouses in Sioux Falls / and Sioux City,” before ending up in Gary, Indiana (32-33). You work hard, conform to America’s protestant work ethic, and maybe even develop a degree of prosperity, “from / nothing to houses and apartments worth more than / a million—in each sweaty day in Sioux City” (33-35). You listen to the same kinds of music as other Americans, “B. B. King and T-Bone Walker” (39). You “buy time”: “each dollar another day mixing names and money” (40). And then you die to be buried “under / a stone carved in English” (47-48). But the language isn’t right, and neither are the names:

. . . the Arabic of Hussein Hamod Subh, Na’aim Jazeeny, Sine Hussin lost each one sealed away with the wrong name (48-52)

But this conflict does receive some degree of resolution—the “world comes together,” Hamod writes. America and Lebanon fuse within the immigrant’s dual identity:

Sine Hussin is still sitting in that old chair, upholstered in brushed maroon wool . . . you know the smell of this room, meat and fried onions, fresh garlic on the salad, tartness of lemon twists into the air, and an ease toward evening as you walk in all the silence splits into hellos and hugs while the world comes together in the small room (56-72)

A sense of family is retained. You find that English words (i.e. “Hello”) are friendly too. You discover recreant pleasures in the new land, good food to enjoy, and the rift is healed; dual identity is achieved.

But just when you have begun to forget about your country of origin, its reality re-manifests itself. You remember eating fatiyah with your forebears who came to America in 1914. Two realities exist; one is America, the other Lebanon, “that other reality, where his name, that / language, Hussein, Sine Hussin, Im’a Brahim, Asalamu Aleikum / all of these sounds were part of his name, this was that other /edge of Lebanon he carried with him, that home” (86-89). Even the sounds in names, each individual phoneme, are important. These linguistic aspects are a significant component to one’s cultural identity. Hamod shows that the Lebanese identity and culture remains in the lives of the immigrants, in the moments of “good food of the rich smells” (90), in the places where they dwell, “in this house, in these people, in this moment” (93). Hamod emphasizes that the Lebanese identity has not been lost despite a name change, rather, two identities have merged.

Williams and Clifton point out in “The 10 Lenses,” that one vital part of one’s identity is the legacies with which one associates. Legacies are historical situations or important events for members of diverse cultures, races, genders, ethnic, religious, and political groups, etc. Significant events that have impacted one’s ancestors, community, and family comprise legacies. Immigration or migration to a new country is one example of a legacy (8). The act of immigration becomes a powerful moment of extreme significance; the genesis of the dual identity.

Hamod’s “from Moving” in the Unsettling America anthology, depicts this genesis and its aftermath. Once one loses one citizenship and gains another, the dual identity forces one into a sort of limbo where one never stops moving. Torn between two places, two cultures, one wavers back and forth, seeking to stabilize one’s identity.

The poem uses the extended metaphor of being lost at sea to describe the experience of emigrating from one nation to another. Through figurative language, a feeling of displacement is re-created for the reader.

The poem’s title, “from Moving,” is almost like an explanation for the phenomenon that it portrays: the aftermath of moving, of immigration, as if to say, “I got messed up like this from moving.” It is as if one never stops moving after that point. Perpetual confusion results, and a feeling of separation, as members of an extended and nuclear family float in the sea, out of reach of each other. This sense of separation is furthered through the technique of adding extra spaces between select words:

		so we move now
		my new wife and I, my children
		move further away          like lost
		shipmates crying to me for help (Lines 1-4)

Hamod conveys a desperate yearning to understand, with double entendre. He speaks of his children, “trying to grasp at these new patterns in the early morning darkness,” (8) as if they are both reaching out for some flotsam and striving to comprehend their new world. The idea of incomprehension is encouraged with repetition of the words “wondering” and “wonder.”

But despite the separation and confusion, the reader does have a glimpse of some degree, of American identity. Hamod writes, “. . . I sometimes think about a life / I’ve never known except for a little while / in some old country of time that I remember my father and / grandfather / talking about, when I kept wanting to go out and play baseball” (17-20). He wants to play sports with the rest of the American boys. He feels distanced now from the traditions, ways, and thought processes of his ancestors.

But the “reality” of his country of origin won’t abate. This reality relates to a “time” when the family seemed connected: “where at least the whole tribe moved together / it was that way in my “old country” of / stories of truth” (23-25). Whether or not “reality” is a time or a place remains ambiguous, but this confusion is just more of the aftermath of moving.

Hamod uses italics and quotation marks to emphasize key terms. Togetherness, something that has been compromised, is emphasized with italics, as is the term “old country”, with quotation marks, conveying the idea that this is a phrase Hamod has heard over and over but does not relate to as strongly as those who keep nostalgically repeating it. The idea that the older generation’s dual identity is not nearly 50/50, but leaning more towards the country of origin, is a reiterated theme in Hamod’s poems dealing with this subject.

The poem ends with extra spaces between words that continue to play up the idea of separation:

		before them
		everyone          everything stuck together          things stayed
		and when they moved
		grandfathers          grandmothers          fathers (26-29)

Here the poem trails off and ends rather abruptly, as if the family members have lost contact for good now. They have floated away in the currents, out of sight of each other. This conveys the idea that when one immigrates to a new country, there are always family members that one leaves behind that one may never see again. In addition, a parent may have always imagined raising a child within the standards of their home country, only to find that they’ve lost that child and are now raising an American.

Sam Hamod agrees that he has a dual identity, but to him it goes beyond this. In an email to the author, he relays:

i am even more than those two identities, as u read about my life in the back of Just Love Poems…i see myself as more of the “the world” than just limited to that because of my background in travel and work in what is called “the third world.” s u read more the poems, u’ll see what i mean. look closely at the poems in Unsettling America and u’ll see what i mean, and then the books will open up even more for u. (“Identity . . .”)

Such poems as “Leaves,” “After the Funeral of Assam Hamady,” “Dying with the Wrong Name,” and “from Moving,” all portray the dual identity of Sam Hamod, an American with Lebanese roots. In an email to the author, he affirms that his poems “. . . are autobiographical and all true, not fictive” (“Re: . . .”). His experience, as depicted in the content of these poems, parallels that of many other ethnic poets. His portrayal of dual identity supports the researched conclusions of those scholars who see less of a sense of solo American nationalism within the U.S. populace, and more of a hybrid self-conception, perhaps even a greater sense of ethnic identity than in years past. As Hamod conveys in his poem, “At Fakhani, The Shoe: Lebanon, After the Bombing,” from his The Arab Poems, The Muslim Poems collection:

		. . . what am I
		to say, a stranger now
		to my parent’s land, in the
		Bright Washington afternoon . . .
		. . . feeling grief in
		Arabic saying it in English . . . (Lines 53-60)

In the final analysis, Hamod shows that we are all Americans, but we come from many different lands.

 

Anna L. Cates – Born in Brunswick, Maine, Dr. Anna L. Cates received her BA in English from Asbury College before earning an MA in English from Indiana State University and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction/English. She’s a recipient of the I.S.U. Van Til Graduate Award for Writing in Spring 2001 and is currently working on an MFA in Creative Writing from National University. Cates resides in Wilmington, Ohio and enjoys nature, animals (especially dogs), writing, literature, music, and art.

Works Cited

Citrin, Jack., Cara Wong, and Brian Duff. “The Meaning of American National Identity: Patterns of Conflict and Consensus.” Rutgers Series on Self and Social Identity 3 (2001): 71-100. 7 June 2008 .

Gioia, Dana and X. J. Kennedy. An Introduction to Poetry. New York: Pearson, 2007.

Hamod, Sam. “After the Funeral of Assam Hamady.” Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry. Ed. Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan. New York: Penguin Group, 1994. 288-292.

Hamod, Sam. The Arab Poems The Muslim Poems: New and Selected Poems. San Marcos: Cedar Creek Press, 1999.

Hamod, Sam. “Dying with the Wrong Name.” Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry. Ed. Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan. New York: Penguin Group, 1994. 130-132.

Hamod, Sam. “from Moving.” Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry. Ed. Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan. New York: Penguin Group, 1994. 19-20.

Hamod, Sam. Just Love Poems for You. Ed. Marte Broehm. San Marcos: Contemporary Poetry Press, 2006.

Hamod, Sam. “Identity . . .” E-mail to the author. 9 June 2008.

Hamod, Sam. “Re: Questions 4 Professor Hamod.” Email to the author. 17 June 2008.

Hamod, Sam. “Leaves.” Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry. Ed. Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan. New York: Penguin Group, 1994. 132-133.

Hamod, Sam. “Today’s Alternative News.” Requested Article. 26 Apr.-May 2006. Today’s Alternative News. 8 June 2008 .

Said, Edward. “Crisis [in orientalism].” Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader. Ed. David Lodge. New York: Longman, 1988. 294-309.

Williams, Mark A. The 10 Lenses: Your Guide to Living & Working in a Multicultural World. Sterling: Capital Books, 2001. 7 June 2008 .

“Window Into Palestine.” Sabra/ Shatilla: in Sorrow Poem by Sam Hamod. 2007. 8 June 2008.

ALLEN GINSBERG COMES TO IOWA CITY TO READ AND TO ROAST A PIG

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.

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
person
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
eclipsed
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
come–
in that moment
he was aware
of her hips of water, her
skin light olive
her eyes
flames
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
Shoe
I pull it from the
Wreckage in Fakhani, a refugee
Shoe
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
Sorrow.
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
his
Mother and father were blowing
Away

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.
 

Now
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
Debris
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
Cry.
 

The shoe
Yes,
I give you this
Shoe,
It is
Not mine,
It is
ours   

 

 

Dr. Sam Hamod

 

 

 

Rumi

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

 

 

PHOTO BY KRISTEN SCOTT

 

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
again
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
poem
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
heard
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.