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Sam Hamod Sam Hamod’s poems arise from “a full, generous heart” and a sensibility “keenly attuned to subtleties of feelings and perceptions.” Hamod is the author of more than ten poetry books, most recently Dying with the Wrong Name: New and Selected Poems: 1966–1980, The Arab Poems,The Muslim Poems, and Just Love Poems forYou. Hamod has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Princeton, and the University of Michigan and has served as a State Department advisor on Islamic and Middle Eastern Affairs. One of the first Arab American poets to have a poetry book published, Hamod has received numerous awards, among them grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities and an Ethnic Heritage Award. Dying with the Wrong Name These men died with the wrong names, Na’aim Jazeeney, from the beautiful valley Of Jezzine, died as Nephew Sam. Eh’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 And Ima’ Brahim had no other name than Mother of Brahim Even my own father lost his, went from Hussein Hamode Subh’ to Sam Hamod. There is something lost in the blood, Something lost down to the bone In these small changes a man 120 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 120 In a dark blue uniform at Ellis Island says, with Tiredness and authority, “You only need two Names in America,” and suddenly cleanly as air You’ve lost Your name. At first, it’s hardly Even noticeable—it’s easier, you can move about As an American—but looking back The loss of your name Cuts away some other part, Something unspeakable is lost. II And I know, these were not small men, Each was severe, though part Comic, as we will all be remembered—but Nephew Sam ran a cigar store in Michigan City, in the back room his poker game with chips and bills often past $30,000; when I was a little boy, I saw, in his middle years, Eh’sine Hussin lift the rear end of a ’39 Ford so they could change a tire and my father who threw men to the ground twice his size went from Lebanon to the packing houses in Sioux Falls and Sam Hamod 121 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 121 Sioux City to the steel mills in Gary— we went from living in a single room where the windows rattled every morning when the trains rumbled by on the E J & E, B & O and the Pennys, in that rented South Shore Hotel he and my mother ran as a boarding house, in each drop of movement from 5 A.M. cooking food for the gandy dancers and millworkers to nights working in the Broadway Tavern at 17th & Broadway, selling scotch and bootleg Canadian Whiskey while B. B. King, T. Bone Walker hustled blues, each dollar another day mixing names and money, money and music with Vivian Carter starting VJ records in the corner store behind his bar, ah— these were men, men who opened the world with a gesture of their hand, a nod and things moved, houses were built for each new relative, apartment buildings were bought and sold, cars given as wedding presents, mayors and congressmen were bought and sold, made and broken— but promises always kept. These men live now on the edge of myth—each one under a stone a stone carved in English, the Arabic of Hussein Hamode Subh’, Na’aim Jazeeney, Eh’sine Hussin lost each one sealed away with the wrong 122 Sam Hamod 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 122 name except in this poem but a poem goes out to so few but we do what we can and we trust in what we must III Eh’sine Hussin is still sitting in that old Chair, upholstered in brushed maroon wool, he Sits with his back to the window Inward, at an angle, the antique crystal lamp rests On the ornate mahogany table—Ima’ Brahim. Full-veined and old, barely managing to Walk, a Short osman of a woman no more than 4foot7 or so, but Obviously before her first child, The cameo shape of her face was more Delicate—and You know the smell of this room, fresh lamb and fried...


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