The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

David Mura’s “Grandfather and Grandmother in Love” is a poem of thirty lines divided into two fifteen-line stanzas, which celebrates the union of “the bodies that begot the bodies that begot me.” The poem is written in the first person and opens with the provocative line “Now I will ask for one true word beyond/ betrayal.” This is followed by a scene in which the poet imagines the circumstances of his grandparents in bed between sweaty sheets; the grandfather whispering haiku about clover, signifying good luck; and the cuckoo bird, a symbol of betrayal and cuckoldry. Grandfather also complains of misfortunes such as “blight and bad debts,” while both grandparents hear the quavering sound of the biwa, a Japanese stringed instrument.

The word the poet seeks is found by line 10, in which the poet cracks the word “like a seed/ between the teeth,” to spit it out in the soil of his grandfather’s greenhouse roses. Although the word the poet seeks is never stated, it is associated with positive images of sweet teriyaki and the smell of sake. This longing for the “one true word” leaves the reader to imagine what the word might be and draws the reader into a contemplation of the grandparents’ life. Words such as “redemption,” “trust,” “success,” and even “luck” come to mind, but it is fairly certain that the found word is associated with the grandparents’ Japanese roots, transplanted to the...

(The entire section is 508 words.)