Of Families, Legacies, and Spoons


The two poems in this issue of FSH encourage us to reflect on families, what they leave us, what they withhold, what they model, and how they control us. In “What It Takes,” Ted McMahon remembers a gift from his Navy family: proper manners,  etiquette, “what it took to fit in.” The title of the poem suggests the importance for this family of conforming to such societal norms. “What[ever] it takes” implies, perhaps, that no price is too high, no effort too great, to achieve…. what? The poem overflows with details of elegance and decorum, formal dancing, fancy dining. The tone is ambiguous, both admiring and vaguely angry. Two little boys quietly observe, behave, conform, “digest.” Is this really, as they conclude, what life is all about? Is this sparkling yet banal legacy the totality of what the family bestows? We ponder this question, and our own legacies, received and given.

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