Fallimpend — New Poetry by Eliot Cardinaux

by Eliot Cardinaux


Artwork by Jeffrey Lipsky


Pastel and Inks on 16 x 20 inch Paper




Thanks to Pierre Joris for his encouragement, especially 

in elucidating and making Celan’s influence more explicit.


Thanks to Jeffrey Lipsky for allowing me to use his piece, 

and for his generosity, always, in sharing his work with others.


Thanks to Sean Ali, whose own paintings have cleared the gap 

between me and my work so effectively that you — and I, and 

we — can better inhabit it.


Thanks to Mary Fairbanks for her active participation

in the continuing struggle that forced these words

into perceptible form.


And to Jade Wollin, for an unwavering foundation of love,

which finally allowed these poems to exist.




My last poetic endeavor, The Scaffold in the Raina collaboration with Sean Ali, used his paintings as a structure around which to hang my words. Watching them, reading, decay around his images — words that became the scaffold under which the work itself is felt to rise up — brought to mind a gothic steeple, which Osip Mandelstam described in his manifesto “The Morning of Acmeism,” as stabbing the sky in outrage, because it is empty.

As Notre Dame burned this year in a Western uproar, a parallel silence was made clear in the face of otherness and — by apparent comparison — its seemingly quaint variety of suffering: the image of a Palestinian woman, grieving, embracing and guarding an olive tree, whom settlers intended to uproot; the inconvenient use of the term concentration camp to describe Trump’s immigrant-internment facilities along the U.S.-Mexican border; Walmart’s removal of violent-video-game displays, while automatic weapons remained on sale a few aisles away; and the astonishing number of species, not untold, but overwhelmingly unnoticed, gone extinct due to human consumption, waste, and neglect in the past half-century.

The speechless interruption of the existence of these — allowed-to-go-unspoken-for indifferently-by-human — beings — in contrast to the outcry afforded the Western cultural symbol of Christianity that is Notre Dame — was called to mind to me by Jerome Rothenberg’s poetic account of his visit to Treblinka, which he documented in his 1987 masterpiece Khurbn — an empty field with a few picnickers, in which the stones were rowed — in its own stark contrast to his experience of the tourists flooding Auschwitz during his visit there. It spoke of all that goes unspoken, unnoticed, and forgotten in dailyness..

To Paul Celan, poetry existed solely in relation to the time when it was written, rather than in general relation to a feeling of Time. This todayness — its Meridian, its dated-ness — Celan spoke of alongside another aspect of poetry: its essential darkness.

Mandelstam — whom Celan thought of as a brother, even though they never met — called for a greater love of the existence of a thing over the thing itself. It was the survival of the word toward which he sacrificed his own life; the continued existence of his poetry.

My poems do not attempt to recreate the poetic sentiments of these two great masters; rather, they pay homage to those interconnected poetics, by virtue of their todayness, situated as events. 

These are my events, for better or worse. If a poem withstands the voice, I have succeeded. If one can pick up the flayed branch and examine it, after the way has been cleared by machete, then the poem has an afterlife. If there is a poise with which these words unfold, it is toward the unknowable: breakable, brittle, bare.

Eliot Cardinaux
May 31, 2019



  1. Borderlands
  2. After Celan XI
  3. After Celan XII
  4. After Celan XIII
  5. After Celan XIV
  6. After Celan XV
  7. For Osip Mandelstam III
  8. Inflicted
  9. The Ants
  10. Two Worlds
  11. Note
  12. The Sky Rings with Deafness
  13. Reckoning
  14. A Wishing-Well





For Ingeborg Bachmann


Life swirls in concealment.

Memory, cradled in absence

cannot hide

a sepulchral catharsis

triggered in the neutral sky.


A camp behind the eyelids,

the flame has turned 

from the wick,

and the water in our eardrums pressed the dead

who outnumber the living.


But the answer is numb, now,

rises like a funnel of air,

a night whistle

tattooed there, black as the sun,

where no lash resides.


And ash rims the soil 

of the country of your soul;

exile tore down the heaven

toward which it opened:

a poet’s borderland.






My memory is two rooms away,

her crocus, greycouched.

Bitter stems are drinking

salt water from Palestine’s eyes.


There are those whom I mourn

and that which I remember,

but this is what I stole:


that honey that the bees

made of your body, 

sitting here, just now.






coin of the unexplored,

you fell upon a mute,

immobile mouth.


The glass erupted,


of a dime 

of darkness.






that blindness, that

lavender metal,



crouched like a wound

and its hollowed-out 






Look, the way it

holds still.





How can this leaf

belong to you, mother,

when all the morning sigils 


that birthindebtedness;

when the airthorn

tore your voice.








carve into 



the root-














As my shadow reminds me,


I surrender like a flag

until the fall 


stripped of its colors

from the state


decides to drop its leaf.


I have heard they change 

the subject


when it’s said:


I know a poet-thief.


When a dog steps on his shadow

it’s said


he shivers.




Summer has risen

above my neck,

your eyes, so young,

in cataracts.


Your footprints

pepper the asphalt

like a sunflower.


May the clip-clop 

in the lobby of their heels 

like horses move enough to strip

the smooth interior 


of my nostalgic heart,

so skilled a fool am I.




They are just like us.

Our sky is their sky;

we are just as small.


They also burn 

when you magnify

the light against them.


(The pressure of the light.)





from whence do you climb,

in thickets


like honeysuckle.


Moving across a field

with horizons and walls

to keep you small:


this metal ring

that pinches

the breast of summer.




For Gary Fieldman 


I dig your digging under, 

digging out uplifting,

pulling the black plough.


That thing about the trees,

it can be anywhere.


I saw a tree that

swallowed it, and questioned

how to construct

a thing that is.




For Ilya Kaminsky


The sky rings with metal,

another tomorrow’s sky.

Where are the people?

What are the events?


What matters most now

is the sun in the sky.

They’re hiding it,


like the moon,

like trees.


I remember that day, now.

The light was so bright;



All this experience,

and life, no drama,

flits across a second

sky, made out of two flags.


No birds.


The bristling pine stands a flagpole

for other wanderers to go by.


Another tomorrow’s sky.




With you

I’m deaf to everything.

Even the piano

deafens in my ear.


An illness is not

a raided nest,

and snakes do not fly

without the veins in my arms


you were afraid of:

a ridge of black mountains,

flaring in the heat.


Unrest is the sober, painful

“and” that a sentence 

finally begins with.


Always the one song you need,

but you’d rather 

it wasn’t there.





your chimera



your clock

no longer has hands

to move around.


Each poem breaks

the same cage

brewing underground


the same

perfect artifact

reaching its


like-perfect stasis.

Censors unseen

wanting to say:


I hope you miss me;

wanting to write:

this self-fulfilling



I’ve written



miss you;

I hope you’re wading 

into shore.



All Poetry by Eliot Cardinaux

All Rights Reserved

© 2019