Yes, We’re Open

Advice and insight from a professional poet.

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My girlfriend and I have had a serious relationship for about five years. The both of us lack significant dating experience, so recently we decided to make it an “open” relationship. We’ve both been dating other people, but I’m starting to feel weird about it. I think my girlfriend likes this arrangement, but I want to go back to the way things used to be. Can poetry help?
— Mr. S

 

Yes, poetry can help!  Poetry can help you convince your girlfriend to return to the more traditional relationship, but poetry can also help you accept this arrangement — it depends on what you’re looking for. I found some poems by the 15th-century Indian poet Kabir in The Kabir Book: Forty-Four of the Ecstatic Poems of Kabir translated by Robert Bly that could argue for both sides. I’ll begin with a poem that you can use to argue for reverting to the more traditional relationship:

I talk to my inner lover, and I say, why such rush?
We sense that there is some sort of spirit that loves birds and animals and the ants—
perhaps the same one who gave a radiance to you in your mother’s womb.
Is it logical you would be walking around entirely orphaned now?
The truth is you turned away yourself,
and decided to go into the dark alone.
Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten what you once knew,
and that’s why everything you do has some weird failure in it.

Now, here’s a poem that might convince you that your current situation is pretty sweet:

Knowing nothing shuts the iron gates; the new love opens them.

The sound of the gates opening wakes the beautiful woman asleep.

Kabir says: Fantastic! Don’t let a chance like this go by!

I don’t know too terribly much about the situation, so I think you and your girlfriend need to have a heart-to-heart. It would be delightful if you included these poems in your conversation, of course, but the most important thing is to communicate with one another. Kabir says:  “Now let the events about to come, come!” • 1 November 2010

Kristen Hoggatt lives, works, and writes in Boston, where she received her MFA from Emerson College. She volunteers at 826 Boston.
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