“Amerika, Mon Amour (2003)” by Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill


The fascist in the White House can’t hear,
can’t see the faces of the suffering he authors,
nor can his brother, Saddam the Tyrant,
who remains in hiding, his finger still pulling a trigger.
All the little Caesars build their evil empires
of blood and castles made of sand. But empires
crumble, while the misery continues. Tyrants rise
and fall, and poets tell their stories.

In America, they’ve named a new poet laureate.
Caesars love their clowns, their little amusements.
But the poet from Baghdad continues in exile,
in Paris, and for twenty years couldn’t call home
to his mother, and in Piacenza sings, “Baghdad, Mon Amour,”
and his voice never trembles. Even a little truth
can prove deadly. Nevertheless he’ll one day
return to his home again, and the sweetness of his song,
more beautiful than silence, will lift me in its arms
because I will join him in Baghdad, mon amour,
because poets and people are brothers, sisters in the skin,
and because fascists can’t live forever.

Salah al Hamdani, your name and your song
is my prayer. It’s true, blood flows like oil
and burns like oil, and it’s the children who perish
for your tyrant and for mine. All the Caesars hunger
after money and power. All their empires
fall. Salah al Hamdani, I invoke your name
and kiss your cheek here in Piazza Duomo
because the dead have no names in Amerika,
the dead in Baghdad, the dead in Kabul.
The dead, the dead and the dying.
And those who merely survive.

Our Italian nights are full of wine and talk
and love. We have nothing but our songs
to stand against Caesar’s throne and his call
for blood. Old men should fight the wars. But
it’s always the innocent we send to annihilate
the innocent, filling their heads with lies.

The fascist in the White House sleeps well
most nights, guards at every door. Saddam is in
his castle or his cave, his guards guarding too.
The White House poet sleeps. Salah, what
can we tell them, what can we do to disturb these
sleeping giants? Italy is a world from ours, and ours
a world the Caesars and their jesters never knew.

Salaam, Salah al Hamdani. I invoke
your name to name the nameless, I invoke
your song to bring us all back home.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004


Sam Hamill: “I grew up on a ranch in Utah, a farm in Utah, and my old man, my adopted father, loved poetry. And he would sometimes recite poetry while he worked. And he would explain to me, the rhythm of the work would help you decide what poem to sort of say. The way you sometimes hum or sing when you work—well, he recited poetry that way, and I think that was what first turned me on to poetry.” (website)

Rattle Logo