‘Spooning’ is written by the American poet David Mason, the former poet laureate of Colorado. In this poem, Mason’s speaker talks about his grandfather who has died recently. He shares how her grandfather died and some interesting facts about his life. Through the title, the poet hints at the concept of feeding by a spoon. It is a metaphor of a child, feeding on stories told by his grandfather. A sense of sadness and nostalgia encompasses the text from the beginning till the end.
‘Spooning’ by David Mason is about a speaker’s dead grandfather. Mason explores their relationship in this poem.
The poem opens with a speaker talking about the events after his grandfather’s death. When he died, the speaker went back to his house to help her mother in sorting his belongings. They found some old photographs of his wife and another woman. His grandfather liked the woman but could not marry her. His grandfather did not tell anyone about her.
He went to his shop regularly and had to give up his business after the first stroke. The third time he left the speaker all alone. When he was alive, he used to talk a lot. Often he would tell stories about his past jobs until the time of dinner.
You can read the full poem here.
After my grandfather died I went back
as she was meant to.
David Mason’s ‘Spooning’ is written in the past tense. The speaker thinks about the days after his grandfather’s death. He misses his grandfather. The memories keep his existence alive in the speaker’s heart. He talks about the events occurring after the old man’s death. They went to his house to sort out the things he left behind. There was some of his furniture, especially the old chair that still reminds him of his grandfather. He used to sit there and tell stories to the family.
Later, they found some letters, canceled checks, and old photographs in his boxes. Mostly, the pictures were of their relatives whom the speaker hardly knew. Besides, there were his grandmother’s photos and that of another woman.
This woman was publically known (or rather made fun of) for the way she kept her hair. She arranged them like a polished, black helmet. The woman posed in front of a cardboard shell. Besides, there was a painting of waves. The “waves” on the wall hints at the similarity between them. Like the waves, she was unattainable for the speaker’s grandfather.
For years we thought he lied
the first of three strokes forced him to retire.
The second stanza pulls the thread of thoughts. According to the speaker, they knew that the lady whose photograph was found in the box was an old friend of his grandfather. But, after noticing her picture within his belongings, it makes them think that he might have lied to them. He might have an affair with her even after his wife’s death. The irony is that he hated liars. Yet, he lied effortlessly.
However, the speaker thinks he, like other human beings, lived with his “tarnished virtues”. None is perfect. So, it is meaningless to judge the one who is no more. Apart from this extramarital relationship, his grandfather was a diligent man. He used to go to his shop daily at eight, without delay. But, the first of three strokes (the last one took his life away) forced him to retire.
He liked talking. Somebody had to listen
sold the car and worked back on the railroad.
The third stanza presents a different thought of the speaker. This section is about the bond the speaker had with his grandfather. He was talkative. Often, he would tell stories or talk about his past life. The speaker had no other way out than listening to him. Besides, somebody had to listen otherwise he would be offended.
After returning from school, the speaker listened to his stories for hours until his parents called him for dinner. They would sit on his glass-covered porch and have dinner. There he always kept a box of apples wrapped in newspapers. Such little details he shares help readers imagine the story better.
His grandfather told him about the time when he lost his job at a mill. He belonged to the indigenous Nooksack people. In this line, the poet refers to his grandfather by the term “Nooksack”. It hints at their cultural roots.
According to the speaker, he did not care about his boredom. He went on telling about owning a 1924 car model of Ford and driving to the east. He went on until he was at Spokane’s desert. There he sold the car and worked at the railroad. So, he did not have a settled life. He was always on the go, changing from one job to another, and lastly fixating himself in a business.
‘Spooning’ appears in the periodical The Hudson Review. It was published in the winter issue of 1991. David Mason is an advisory editor at The Hudson Review. His poems appear in several periodicals. This piece is about the poet’s grandfather who died of a stroke. He nostalgically shares the memories of his grandfather. Besides, Mason was the former Poet Laureate of Colorado. His well-known books of poetry include The Buried Houses, The Country I Remember, and “Sea Salt: Poems of a Decade, 2004-2014).
Mason’s ‘Spooning’ is a free-verse lyric poem written from the perspective of a first-person speaker. The speaker is probably the poet Mason himself who talks about his grandfather in this poem. There is no regular rhyme or meter. The overall text is divided into three sections. Each stanza is connected with one another. The number of lines per stanza is not regular. Besides, the style of writing chiefly follows the modern, conversational technique. It feels like the speaker telling a story of his grandfather to readers.
In ‘Spooning,’ Mason makes use of the following literary devices.
- Enjambment: It occurs throughout the text. Mason uses this device to internally connect the lines. For example, it is used in lines 1-7.
- Anaphora: It occurs in lines 3-4 and lines 7-8 of the first stanza. Each set of lines begins with the same word.
- Repetition: Mason uses this device in the last lines of the first stanza. The term “she” is repeated for the sake of emphasis.
- Simile: It occurs in “she wore her hair like a helmet”. Here, the way she kept her hair is compared to wearing a helmet.
- Irony: The line “a man who worshipped all the tarnished virtues” contains this device.
David Mason’s poem ‘Spooning’ is about a speaker recapitulating about his grandfather after he died of a stroke. This image-rich poem is filled with several short episodes of the events happening after his death. Besides, he also shares the memory of his grandfather telling him stories about his past, uncertain life.
The poem was first published in 1991. It appeared in the winter issue of The Hudson Review. Mason is an advisory editor of the periodical.
It is a free-verse lyric poem. There are a total of three stanzas with an uneven number of lines. The poem does not have a set rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. Mason wrote it from the first-person point of view.
Mason’s ‘Spooning’ explores the themes of relationship, memory, love, and past. It also taps on the theme of death and the void it creates in a family. The overall poem is about a speaker thinking about his grandfather and the events that happened after his death.
The tone of this piece is sad, nostalgic, calm, and straightforward. For the most part, the tone reflects the speaker’s mental state. The memories associated with his grandfather do not make him sad. Rather it makes him think about the transience of life.
The following list contains a number of poems that similarly tap on the themes present in David Mason’s poem ‘Spooning’.
- ‘Climbing My Grandfather’ by Andrew Waterhouse — This poem is about the poet’s grandfather and his childhood memories. Read more Andrew Waterhouse poems.
- ‘A Child to His Sick Grandfather’ by Joanna Baillie — This poem describes a boy’s efforts to soothe his dying grandfather. Explore more Joanna Baillie poems.
- ‘Digging’ by Seamus Heaney — It’s one of the best-known poems of Seamus Heaney. This piece is about family tradition and the poet’s relationship with his father and grandfather. Read more Seamus Heaney poems.
You can also read about these poems about missing loved ones.