Themes and Meanings
Mura once said, “One of the things my work is about is the conjunction between race and sexuality.” Born to parents who were detained in United States internment camps during World War II, he writes poetry that traces themes of racial discrimination and betrayal. His sexual identity is subtly associated with race since even as a young boy he was aware of standards of white beauty and of masculinity to which he could never aspire as an Asian American male. Both these themes are subtly evoked in “Grandfather and Grandmother in Love,” written in 1989.
When Mura first imagines his grandparents coupling, he thinks of “the moon bluing the white/ sheets soaked in sweat.” “Bluing” is a chemical added to laundry sheets to make them look even whiter, and the word functions here to emphasize the whiteness of the sheets, or of the culture in which his grandparents find themselves. Yet the sheets are stained with the grandparents’ sweat, suggesting that the grandparents are not quite as “white” as they are expected to be. The grandparents are not engaged in the sexual act in the first stanza; grandfather is simply complaining of his problems in the brief lines of haiku, immersed in the sounds of the biwa, real or imagined, that presumably starts him on his journey back in time to his native culture. The poet, also, is traveling back to his Japanese roots on the “word,” poetically transformed into sense impressions of taste and odor....
(The entire section is 578 words.)