Ermines and Marriages

by Henri Cole

Consider the ermine—
territorial, noxious, thieving—
its dense fur whitening
when light is reduced.
Mesmerizing its victims

with a snake dance,
killing with a bite to
the back of the neck.
Born blind, deaf, and toothless,
the male is called a “dog,”

a roamer, a strayer,
a transcient. But huddled
in my arms for warmth,
with my fingernails
stroking his underbelly,

he forgets his untamable
nature. His rounded
hips shiver like mine.
In folklore, he holds the soul
of a dead infant; and in life

he prefers to give himself
up when hunted, rather
than soil himself. Thus is
civilization, I think, roughly
stroking his small ears.

But then suddenly
I’m chasing him around
the dining room screaming,
No, I told you, no! like two stupidly
loving, stupidly hating

creatures in a violent
marriage, or some weird
division of myself,
split off and abandoned
in order to live.

(Need I say more? Well, of course not. But that would never stop me so I’ll add one note: makes me think of the oft-quoted Auden wisdom, “We wage the war we are.”)


2 thoughts on “Ermines and Marriages

  1. Anne-Marie

    Well summed up. Our human condition. However, it is not the end of the story. I think Richard Rohr talks about holding the tension, the paradox that we are. It is very painful. I guess that is our cross. Remember the cycle, death and resurrection.


    1. 21stcenturyxstian Post author

      Yes, the “tension.’ I’m currently getting Karl Jung’s emphasis of this “tension” from a local Jung reading group. And, yes, to “life” without “death” and as T S Eliot noted, “The time of death is every moment.” Thanks.



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