Journal of a Nomad Justice

by Eliot Cardinaux

All three photos in this post are by Monica Frisell. Unfortunately, the timeline offered to me to complete this project did not allow for me to include more of Monica’s photos. More to come in the future though, as we hope to collaborate on something, eventually. I personally admire her work a lot. Hope you do to. Enjoy.


         For Trayvon Martin

Political correctness, rather than a mechanism of control, is a means of assurance for people of the validity in truth of the ways in which they have been wronged. The means of control is much more insidious. It might be said that emotions are the most fertile ground for fascism to take root, regardless of whom one supports. Moreover, a willingness to fight back is rooted, not solely in a desire for identity, but rather, it exhausts qua exhaustion the means to enact it, freeing the status quo from its more “subordinate” clauses. This insubordination is de facto the very salience which breaches the totality of those realities in protest; its very presentation from without, as a secondary source of value, inherits that assurance.

But what has charged the atmosphere with such a very “delicate”/disturbing negative image of what we thought to be, as truth, and have we grieved sufficiently from the illusion torn from our eyes (if it has thus been torn), not only to view from our state of predicament, a future that is present, in the eyes of those of us whose/with lids (that) half-/[have] lifted, enough for the others to live, lyve from that place of unwelcoming having-been-deposited here, or having been pushed out? And in reality, what makes our voices weak?

To speak of clarity is not enough, nor is speaking without it [necessarily] welcome, nor is speaking with it any value in itself; rather that it may offer transcendence as a means, as Joris wrote. The question remains, not only “to what,” but “what not to,” though the future-present posited and our beings-therein, bring further into question the ideas of A Nomad Poetics, I hope in a way, as Fred Moten once phrased it, that further radicalizes their intent.

Has Mahmoud Darwish, for example, in his intelligence and questioning, offered a framework for those displaced in their own land, rather than, not-only simply an historical account of what happened in Palestine from 1948 until 1973 when it was published? Journal of an Ordinary Grief, by Darwish’s own permission “is only a small voice carving a shape in the rocks of Galilee,” but it is Galilee where its shape is carved.

I do not wish to investigate the work of Mahmoud Darwish in the same way that I do not wish to investigate the murder of Trayvon Martin. The truth is posited there, but not only is the carving there for our eyes and ears to touch, so is the so-called history, which, like the murder of Trayvon Martin, has thus been de(in)vestigated, (un)denuded, castigated by the uniform, and left.

Therein ties the very struggle we keep at home “as Americans,” with censorship abroad, and of this very ruling that has had its way with a myriad things: the number of shootings in schools since Newtown in the U.S., and the blatant show of intent at the so-called “grand” opening of an embassy in East Jerusalem, among them.

It is not the inversion of a noble savage, i.e. a savage noble, but a necessary savagery enacting upon the language, of which I have spoken.

tumblr_n8w15ve2DR1tgwbnko5_1280-2PART II — TO THE LATEST WARNING

         Dedicated to the People of Gaza


I know not to look ahead, but to think from tomorrow. Tomorrow is not tomorrow, and today is not today. I no longer follow my father’s eyes on the stationary horizon of the evening news, complaining now and then about eternity, or whatever questions they might ask. I am learning to suture a wound, trying to remember when to plant. I never learned, to germinate the seeds of fruit-bearing trees, nor to ask which season can argue with its mother. I learned to plant, only those flowers that my mother bought, already grown, and the small batches of seeds that we left in bowls of water overnight, and in the morning planted, for the sake of humility — only a few of which ever survived; the others, the deer ate.

I learned how to follow the road my mother drove, and wished there was silence — hearing her speak in simple terms, her gentle wisdom — teaching me, smiling, sometimes in vain at my wonder, to the garden store — but never to sow grain.

I am learning what it feels like when the land is taken. I am only planting this sunflower in your memory before the winter of no winter comes. Only by January did the ground freeze, even then, already no longer December.


This isn’t how it was when I was a child. It was nothing like an ice age then, and it isn’t now. It is nothing like a February day when I can finally wear a T-shirt, nor the last stretch of April, when a wasteland approaches by noon, out of the cracks in the asphalt of nostalgia. It isn’t our lunchtime; it is then and now, and the land is ours.


I was never a hunter-gatherer, but I am. I learned it in the whiskey that I drank at noon, even on the days that I shouldn’t have drunk whiskey. I learned it in the softness of the silence of the fan in my room, in the darkness of the walls, and in the cover of night. I learned it in the insects that drew me onto the balcony and the sound of the thistle in the light of their cry. I learned it in the abandoned fear of wildness that only hikers can afford to mention, and I learned it in the clouds.


When clouds cover the moon, it is a moment. When the clouds unveil it, it is a science without the need for explanation, a psychiatry without the need for forgiveness. When it rains by night, I can never remember the moonlight behind the clouds. When it rains by day, I can feel that the rain is bright — that rain soaking into my tears welling up without blossoms on the leaf-tips in the corner of my chest where my heart tries to escape — and when it rains for days, the sun is impossible.


I learned it in the stooped walk of my childhood, where — like the corner of a stair, or the surface of a railing — my daily encounters with others might later be found. I learned it in the rain then, too — and in the lightning without rain, that occasioned excitement — and I learned its magic.


Sun, I am not forbidding you the horse that elopes with morning on the shoulders of winter now sloping toward evening in the eyes of women bearing sheets! I am speaking of the afternoon in the frenzy of working people, to hide in the atmosphere acknowledged in a language I am trying to evoke as a bed for the sleepless.

You are not a home to anyone, nor is it forbidden for me to speak to you the way that I do, to address you in so many ways; I address you without addressing you, and likewise do not address you when I do. The dapples on the path need a horse to bear them away.


It isn’t in the Seine that you will find me; I have never slept under a sycamore, nor drank wine and Pastis as they did, by the clatter of metal and the thud of ceramic. I am only a visitor there, by way of you.

I am not thankful like the others; I didn’t care for the opportunity, when I left you hidden from the stares of young women, or for the appropriate ties, in their meaning, to my body. I didn’t wear you, like a garland of rosemary.


I am writing you now in the fashion that it takes, and that is awkward to me. I don’t wish to sound careless; I am only opening a blank page whose poem lies in the darkness of passing trains underneath the city.

tumblr_n8w15ve2DR1tgwbnko1_1280PART III — TECTONICS OF OPPRESSION

         For James Baldwin

Tomorrow is sliding into today. We are, no longer at a threshold, but belonging to the present. As I sit now, listening to the transcendental music of Charles Ives, I belong here in my own home, and I feel as if it were written for my cat. The ground does not shudder, nor am I any less relaxed, if not more, than I was yesterday. I have escaped an abusive living situation, with my partner, into an apartment only one flight above, from where we lived before, only for nearly three years. Yesterday, my now-former roommate’s last words, upon us leaving that apartment, were: “fire goes upward,” empty threats preceded and proceeded by theft, the destruction of property — and what the police might refer to as “assault and battery,” were they to have done a thing.

Tomorrow abides on a plane slanting downwards from our imagination, often toward our immediate suffering. That being said — what comes up to meet it, often thought of in topographical terms, as a secondary plate, or plane, to be plain — has its roots in struggle and conflict.

Mahmoud Darwish once wrote that Palestine is not the lost paradise because it can be won back. The earth has been viewed as such, by some cynics for as long as two decades, however, and I cannot mistake the tone of irony in Darwish’s title, Journal of an Ordinary Grief, for any degree of cynicism. Rather it is a direct look in the eye at his Israeli heritage, and for whatever sake, I cannot turn my back on its implications in my life here in the United States, as a white man.

However, whatever it is in my DNA that cannot stop me writing this — nor whatever consequent label, likewise, is placed upon the many Native American peoples whose terrain the colonialists inhabited and co-opted as their own, by use of deceit and force — is impossible.

The blood quantum is not without necessity; most necessary from without, and no less to the peoples on which it has intruded, oftentimes to a degree of division within their own communities.

Likewise, is the ethno-state of Israel, at the behest of itself, carrying out such a genocide, on and to the urgency of the people of Gaza, with the help of the United States government, no less, who vetoed a UN resolution, only this week, designed to stop it.

As I listen to the rise and fall and the swell of this music, I am not reassured of the salience of my own words as an effective intrusion, and am reminded of James Baldwin’s own definition of the job of the artist, “to disturb the peace.” The cars pass by, children play in the park, and the shadow of a bird flits across the rooftop, as I go to smoke another cigarette.


         For Razan al-Najjar


I no longer weep for the sake of the willow, nor do I bless the taste of salt on the shoreline at low tide, when the clocks move faster by the calendar of seagulls mocking tourists, tearing meat from plastic toward intimidation in the sky.

I cannot drone on. I am both a woman and a man, a mother and child, father and grandmother, daughter and granddaughter.

I am all of these things, trying to grip the neck of a guitar, while the lowest string clings to their meaning: understanding, welling up with an oasis in an organ’s single note.

I am sustained.


I am not seeking your attention! Nor am I listening to the political message of the winner of a beauty pageant. This is not real, and yet it is real, but the real is not unreal, and likewise, neither is the unreal itself. I am not seeking the quotient of absurdity. Without dividing anything, I am asking these questions I’m allowed to ask — while others are not — regardless of their validity. I am asking the quotient for its aims.

The band was playing a rhythm not known to me when I had this thought, and I will not apologize for understanding, but the understanding is misleading, as is this chase for meaning!

What I will not ask, is whether or not the band should play.

For digesting these things, I would suggest a glass of wine, or a craft beer.

This indigestible quota, however, you will understand, is not mine to judge, but the melody inherent in the wood of a clarinet controlled by a meticulous revision of insistent morality is not insistent in and of itself. It is the player and his or her people that make it so!

So, I am not playing the clarinet.


It is only in the foliage which denies the replication of the names, that I am not denying you, trees! I am only asserting, beyond any notion of validity, that you exist! It is not for me to mention, that the wind has spoken through you — nor without cause that I mention your roots, your trunk, your branches.

It is only in the clause denied to me that you exist, and so I deny the clause.


This insubordination would not exist, were it not for you. Yet, I am still talking. Though the empty page carries my voice — away from its sound, which never hits — to you, before the ink has ever even soaked in — I am not an empty page!

So I am asking — I am not talking; my vocal chords are resting — how can it be, that the conversation in the kitchen, already, has overwhelmed my approach?

“Would you speak of it lightly? Would you wind barbed wire around it, in order to approach a more appropriate phrasing?”



         For Hadiya Pendleton

How many Xs have to go to jail before we stop assuming color? How many innocent, or not so innocent kids have to be killed in school, before anyone goes to jail? How many times are we going to look up the names, just to see that the picture is not what you expected?

Neither you nor I are going to kill. Not until — UNTIL — UN-TILL — we unlearn, un-till the soil, and they realize the land is ours. Reparations, come. If it isn’t too offensive.

I don’t have time, but I’ll make it. I’m using this voice to my own advantage, not only to yours. We’ll make it. We’ll be alright, but the fact that remains is: orange, you, the insensitive color.



         To the People of Israel


I am not against you! Though the government taxes me, and I give them money, I don’t take thought away from where it goes. Our dialogues do not compete, and I am not a monolith, nor part of that consideration which takes for granted the marble of privatized buildings, or of the money it costs to enter them. I am not aware, for the sake of others. I have two separate speakers, whose stereo image isn’t the cause of anything — not of milk crates, or of borrowed dressers — and I have an ottoman, which once had no cushion, whose partner now, has moved with me through an exodus upstairs. The last piece of furniture I owned was destroyed by a former roommate.


Do not compare! Only yesterday did the view of the wall open onto the trees and to the breeze that allowed them to whisper in my sleep, of heaven turning metal to cool water. I was asked how long I spent there, and was told it was half the amount of my sleep. I am not collecting alms on that impossible side of the road, where the money is spent, but not accumulated.


Meaning is no currency, nor is it moot that this is so. If transcendence is a means, then to what am I now enveloped in a vision of my cat entangled in a ball of twine? She was not so sick to her stomach only this morning, just so now that it is afternoon, I can offer her a piece of chicken.


Twice a day, the broken clock on my wall carries a tune by a Russian composer that I do not like; it wears purple, and orange.


The banjo steps out of the black and asks me questions. But you! If you are not here yourself, then what are you asking? You already know that my prose is not itself at this time of the afternoon, nor is my poetry engaged in clipping a cat’s nails once a week to ensure that she doesn’t get trapped in the blinds.

It is not as simple as the beat of a street, which is inaudible from up here, among the treetops, on the third floor.


I am not an oasis bidding the desert goodbye, nor do I act as an intersection between injustices. An oasis, besides, is not always safe. I am stepping out of a tent onto a desert that belongs to the way in which the night is cold, and the days are hot. I would leave you an example, but the water is clear, and the birds and the trees offer their own as to how to counteract, with precision, the turmoil of the bees.


         For Black Wall Street

Nostalgia never lies

to the mind which makes it

its bed; a knock on the door

can disturb the greatest peace,


new sheets that can run

through the wash before you can

use them. A mirror’s own face is

reflective, to the ones who feel

bad, as comfort is a weapon

to the violent, arriving strength

of the people! The controlled

don’t know the means — broken

to them gently — or awoke, in death’s arms,

a lullaby; gratefuls, known to their own eyes.




I am not a well known entity, but I will try. It isn’t something wrestled to the floor, this dark matter we all speak of; I am not as positive as you might think! This cynicism is better kept under the folds of a blanket, but you might do well to ask me, where has all the pessimism gone? If not, how can we truly understand the nature of loss? It is not an on and off switch that turns depression into happiness; it is the nature of our minds to feel akin to those feelings which come naturally to us, as human beings. I would rather an idea espoused by hope, and by despair, and the duality inherent in those two things has little to do with opposites. Darwish had a horizon and a prison cell. But why else would I sit here in my chair, as I listen to music, without petting a dog who has come up to say hi? And why else wouldn’t I pet her?


When the music starts, we have little to lose except our sense of peace, and little to gain, beside it. No, I am not saying that there is nothing less tragic, than tragedy itself. I am simply allowing that hope, in and of itself, contains a struggle out of which conflict flows, like a flock of ravens out of a tree, and into a disconsolate sky.

When I speak of their pessimistic urgings, I also speak of images themselves, which I have found, not only to find their mark, but to find their satisfaction from without — in being assumed — only to hinder that expectation, when it is found throughout them! I am not a signpost, nor a milestone. I am only a traveler who stops — not just to ask for directions — but to ask of silence what a response might be. And you are not intruding.


No, I am not assuming, for reassurance, the validity of irony. I am only stepping gradually into nothing, awaiting, simultaneously, nothing. My own thick skin has less to do with yours, than with what you are saying. And simultaneously, nothing is what you are saying; I do not expect that particular nothing to elope on the shores of madness, or anything else, but what I am saying, I must. And that is not the same as your saying nothing, which you are not. But, I am saying, that nothing is still being said, in more ways than one! And could that ever be the cause of anything?

That is the question you might ask, but again, I am not saying anything, I am saying exactly nothing. It is not for you to decide what it is I can say, only to feel in your might what I might have said, in order to let go of what still remains unspoken, what goes unsaid. That is, regardless of what I am saying, it is not for me to determine what it is that you are saying, which is not to say that I who am saying what I am saying, right now — to the cause and effect of what it is, when you who are saying what you are saying, are saying — am wrong, either to you, who it is, are saying what you are saying, when you are saying it, nor to myself, regardless with whom, to whom, or when, I am saying it; nothing more.