What is the significance of the title in the poem "Leaves," by Sam Hamod?Tonight, Sally and I are making stuffedgrape leaves, we get out a package, it’sdrying out, I’ve been saving it in the...

What is the significance of the title in the poem "Leaves," by 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

Asked on by yara92

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The title of the poem "Leaves," by Sam Hamod, seems significant for several reasons.

In the first place, imagery of leaves -- whether literal or metaphorical -- helps unify the poem, especially since such imagery appears in all three sections. (There should be a space between lines 11 and 12 in the transcription above to indicate the break between sections 1 and 2.) In the first section, the leaves are literally grape leaves which the speaker's father picked before he died:

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 . . . (1-5).

These leaves provide literal and figurative nourishment to the speaker. By eating the grape leaves, the speaker in a sense ingests the spirit of his father, whom he obviously loves and whom he just as obviously misses.

In the second section of the poems, however, the leaves are metaphorical leaves -- the pieces of paper, including letters, that survive from his father's life. Some of the father's writings are inscribed on the leaves of "tablet paper" (15). The speaker ate the literal leaves, but he gains a different kind of nourishment (emotional and spiritual) by reading his dead father's writings.

Finally, in section 3, the leaves are the leaves or pages of "the Arabic grammar book" (33) that the speaker might use to try to come to a better understanding of his father's life, writings, language, and culture.  Perhaps the leaves here are also the figurative leaves of the poet's own printed poems. In any case, the imagery of leaves helps unify the poem even as the poet also rings various changes on this central idea.

One might even consider the possibility that the poet is punning on another sense of "leaves," suggesting all the various things, both material and non-material, that his father has left to him.

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