The Colors of Desire (Paperback)


By David Mura

Random House, 9780385474610, 128pp.

Publication Date: January 1, 1995



The poetry of David Mura has been praised for its verbal music, its contradictions of rage and reconciliation, and its curious sense of hope in a world riven by racial and cultural differences. Of his first book, After We Lost Our Way, Amy Clampitt said, "The range and force of his evocative gift are counterbalanced by a quick intelligence and a redemptive and surprising tenderness." In The Colors of Desire, his second book of poems, Mura explores the connections between race and sexuality, history and identity, through the lens of desire. From an Issei farmer's lament for an America he knew before internment to a French prostitute who speaks of her Asian lovers, the various voices of these poems reveal how cultural desire shapes personal history and how collective history shapes individual desire. In the title poem, Mura assembles a collage of memory and history that links America's racism to our sexual culture, whose pornography equates whiteness with beauty and color with degradation. In the longest sequence of poems, "The Affair," Mura portrays an obsessive, destructive adultery between two married lovers, an Asian-American man and a Caucasian woman, that unmasks the painful conflicts among sex, race, and fidelity. Confronting the promise of a multicultural America, Mura ends the book with a series of poems addressing his legacy to his daughter. In "Gardens We Have Left," Mura contemplates how his daughter will inherit both his father's internment and his own rage over assimilation as she fashions her own identity. As he traces his family's path from a Japanese village to America, Mura sees the "rocking unbroken joy" of love in his daughter, who becomes his "hymn to America." TheColors of Desire offers a powerful meditation on the nature of desire within the matrix of race and culture.