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  #1  
Unread 01-10-2020, 03:37 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Tying the Knot

Fast and Loose

...A centuries-old con game in which marks bet
...on whether a knot is fast (i.e., will hold) or loose.
...The knots are tied so that they can be released
...or not by the con artist, so the mark always loses.

Grown children of divorce won’t start
a marriage that won’t last.
They won’t tear families apart,
like parents in the past.

Cherishing no illusions that
a new mate might be better,
they watch their vows of love go flat,
but hold fast to the letter.

If she’s annoyed when he shirks chores
or carps at what she spends,
on business trips she’ll even scores
by sleeping with new friends;

while he, once sex becomes routine,
may crave a varied diet:
if he can fool around unseen,
he’s more than keen to try it.

Both mates are startled and confused
when playtime ends in tears.
The French share knowing looks, amused.
They’ve played this game for years.


Revisions:
S1L2 "a marriage" was "commitments"
S3L1 was "If she’s annoyed he won’t do chores,"

Last edited by Susan McLean; 01-11-2020 at 08:06 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 01-10-2020, 09:22 PM
Mark Stone Mark Stone is offline
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Susan, Hi.

(1) I'm not sure what is meant by "commitments that won't last." I can think of two types of commitments: a marital commitment and a non-marital commitment (i.e., living together/shacking up). However, with regard to both of these types of commitments, some will last and some will not. Also, when one starts a commitment, one never knows if it will last or will not. So I am confused by this phrase.

(2) When I read "carps," I at first thought that "she" is doing the carping. Then, after I read "at what she spends," it became clear that "he" is doing the carping. To prevent this momentary confusion, I wonder if it would be worthwhile to change L10 to read:

or he carps at what she spends,

(3) The rest of the poem is crystal clear and well written.

(4) I like the keen/seen and diet/try it rhymes. Best,

Mark
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  #3  
Unread 01-10-2020, 10:19 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Mark, thanks for the feedback. I meant the first stanza to convey the intentions of the spouses at the start of the marriage, the second to show their response to disappointments, the third and fourth to show their "alternative to divorce." The poem was inspired by reading an article that said that divorce is declining but infidelity is rising among young married people (especially wives, since infidelity has traditionally been higher among husbands). Some of the young people interviewed said that they thought of the infidelity as a way of saving the marriage by providing a pressure valve for resentments and discontents. I had my doubts about how well that would work in the long run. I would welcome suggestions for how to make it clearer that the first stanza is about their intentions going into the marriage. I have taken your suggestion about clarifying who is carping.

Susan
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  #4  
Unread 01-10-2020, 10:41 PM
Mark Stone Mark Stone is offline
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Susan, Here's one idea:

These days couples won't commit,
if they think it won't last.
They're loathe to make a family split,
like parents in the past.

Mark
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  #5  
Unread 01-11-2020, 12:31 AM
R. S. Gwynn's Avatar
R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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Infidelity is about sex; divorce is usually about something else. Is the poem saying that divorce and infidelity exist in inverse proportions to each other? For much of the 20th century it was easier to get a divorce in France than in the U.S.
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  #6  
Unread 01-11-2020, 03:53 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi Susan,

I'm not sure how well the metaphor of the "fast and loose" con-game works here. In the game, the outcome is that ultimately the cheater always wins (albeit allowing the mark occasional individual wins to keep them interested). But in these marriages, the ultimate outcome for the cheater (the confusion at it all ending in tears) doesn't seem like a win for the cheater. (And in the game, the con-artist wouldn't be surprised/confused if the mark was upset to discover they'd been cheated, though likely they'd try to avoid discovery). Also, in the con-game, the goal is to impoverish the mark, to take something from them. This doesn't seem like it's the intended goal of the unfaithful partner given their confusion. And who loses at this game of infidelity? It sounds like both players do.

Incidentally, I take it that "he" and "she" in this poem aren't necessarily married to one another, but are exemplars: the male child of divorce and his partner, and the female child of divorce and her partner (who may not be a child of divorce). Though it could be read (especially with "both mates" in final stanza) that the both partners are children of divorce married to each other and being unfaithful, which makes the metaphor of the game even harder to apply, I think.

In S1, "commitments" following "divorce" had steered me to think that commitment in question was marriage, and L3&4 reinforce that. So I'd read that children of divorce won't commit to marriages that won't last. On the other hand, S2 seems to say that they've made a commitment to "love and cherish" (or however their vows read), and this commitment clearly didn't last, which seems to contradict S1's claim. To make the claim in S1 more specific, you could just replace "commitments" with "a marriage".

Grown children of divorce won’t start
a marriage that won’t last.

best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 01-11-2020 at 07:11 AM.
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  #7  
Unread 01-11-2020, 08:33 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Thanks for the additional responses and suggestions.

Mark, I have changed S1 to try to make it clearer that marriage is the commitment I am talking about.

Sam, unless it is an open marriage, infidelity is about sex, lying, and deception. The poem is saying that, as a means of avoiding divorce, infidelity is not a very successful method. Those who resort to it tend to tell themselves that they will not get caught. They often are.

Matt, I was playing on two meanings of "cheating" but although I originally called fast and loose a "cheating game" in the epigraph, I thought that gave too much away, so I changed it to "con game." Each cheater thinks he or she is getting away with something, so each is surprised to eventually get caught. So, yes, I was implying that both cheaters lose. The "he" and "she" don't have to be married to one another, but given the statistics of divorce in the U.S., many marriages will have the spouses both be children of divorce. Each of the cheaters assumes that the other partner is being faithful, so they still may feel betrayed to find they have been cheated on. I took your suggestion for a change in S1.

Susan
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  #8  
Unread 01-11-2020, 03:06 PM
Jake Barnes Jake Barnes is offline
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Susan,

This is a fun read: a fine example of the ballad stanza put to work in support of the poem's emerging sardonic tone that culminates in the close. The form’s shortened second and fourth lines work admirably to let the air out. And the stanzas themselves unfold in precise support of the argument. The rhyme of “try it” and “diet” brings a smile every time.

I do think that if taken too seriously, the subject matter quickly wears out. More importantly, I feel that the game of ‘Fast or Loose’ lies too far beyond the body of the poem. It’s only at the final line that the reader is presented with that undeveloped connection, and, even there, it seems that “this game” has too much work to do, pointing both to the immediate picture and to the now distant (and forgotten?) epigraph in one fell swoop. It’s an awkward scene: one is told that “The French” are suddenly, inexplicably right there, somehow complicit, exchanging smiles, like gods eavesdropping on the poor sobbing parties. Maybe it would be more reasonable to say what the French “would do.” Or leave the French out all together and bring in the game of ‘Fast and Loose’ instead.

I have to point out that ‘tying the knot’ has some hard-core implications in the field of canine breeding, to put it politely.

Best,

JB
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  #9  
Unread 01-11-2020, 03:34 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Hi Susan,

This is an expertly done ballad. The only thing that seems to come out of nowhere is the French allusion at the end. I’m not sure what to make of it, except I take the poem at its word that the French are more practiced at infidelity than we are. But is it integral to the rest of the poem? Otherwise, I enjoyed the poem.

Martin
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  #10  
Unread 01-11-2020, 04:04 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jake Barnes View Post
I have to point out that ‘tying the knot’ has some hard-core implications in the field of canine breeding, to put it politely.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulbus_glandis

Quote:
The bulbus glandis (also called a bulb) is an erectile tissue structure on the penis of canid mammals.[1][2][3][4][5][6] During mating, immediately before ejaculation the tissues swell up to lock (tie) the male's penis inside the female. The locking is completed by circular muscles just inside the female's vagina; this is called "the knot" tightening thus preventing the male from withdrawing. The circular muscles also contract intermittently, which has the effect of stimulating ejaculation of sperm, followed by prostatic fluid, as well as maintaining the swelling of the penis and therefore the tie, for some time. For domestic dogs the tie may last up to half an hour or more, though usually less.[7]

The bulbus glandis also occurs in the penises of some pinnipeds, including South American fur seals.[8]
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