Eliot Cardinaux


Tag: Paul Celan



When I first encountered the poetry of Paul Celan, I was going through a mental breakdown, a part of which coincided with a loss of language. I was unable to speak for several weeks. When I discovered Celan, his fragmentary reconstruction of his mother tongue, after the Nazis, who spoke the same language, killed her and his father, was a draw that lead me into some kind of a rabbit hole in the following years.

This book, Around the Faded Sun, is an homage to the importance that took on for me as a young poet just starting out, trying to revive in myself the will to speak through poetry, as well as having fallen silent in the face of atrocity.

My connection to Celan was immediate and personal in origin, and its historicity can only be applied effectively in relative terms today, from a political vantage point. That is why I am saying, there’s a mythos there that I wish to reach for here regarding Celan, and Osip Mandelstam, Celan’s poetic “brother” whom he never met, Mandelstam’s wife Nadezhda, too, and Ingeborg Bachmann, etc. René Char makes an appearance as a dedicatee, as do Bei Dao and Adonis, whose poetry speaks to the exiled condition of all poets, as well as a few friends & mentors without whom I never would have followed my artistic practice to where it has continued, in unarriving, until today. Coltrane also runs through these pages heavily.

I recently traveled to Köln, where I recorded the first two sections of this book with a band of musicians who go collectively by the name of Our Hearts as Thieves – Asger Thomsen , a bassist from DK, Jonas Engel, a saxophonist from DE, and Etienne Nillesen, a percussionist from NL – live at a venue called Loft.

(Video: Portions of a concert we performed back in 2017)

These new recordings are now mastered, and we are shopping for labels. The album, when it comes out, will be titled: What the Wildflower Witnessed. This work is difficult. My goal with the music was to see what happened when I brought this new poetry, much of which is based on Celan, into an improvising group whose format is to work with my poetry as a narrative anchor. I guess it tells the story, in poetic terms, of my interaction with the world through the lens of history, and having been thrown into music, the poetry is transformed, and allows me to see how the poems respond to outside forces & influence through the veil of noise and sound, recalling Osip Mandelstam’s prose work “The Noise of Time.” I think I succeeded in opening up a new window for myself into my process, and have started responding in my current poetry to that experience as it unfolded then, and how it unfolds now, in retrospect, as I listen back.

This whole practice stems in large part for me, from Pierre Joris’s work translating Celan, and his and many others’ scholarship surrounding both Celan & Mandelstam, such as Jerome Rothenberg, Clarence Brown, & Charles Bernstein.

In effect, these are my own “reading stations in the late word,” finding a clearing in which to speak, reading into and out of the later poetry of Paul Celan, always as if for the first time.

-Eliot Cardinaux

Purchase the paperback here: AROUND THE FADED SUN

DREADSUMMER — New Poems by Eliot Cardinaux

Temple of the Priest Kings


Artwork by Jeffrey Lipsky

“Temple of the Priest Kings”

Acrylic and Graphite on 3 x 3 ft Canvas





(For Sean Ali)


Shadows of

sunset under eyelids

hover over sleep.

I grieve my splinter out.


The wind made a lap 

in the heart. In the iris 

a reel flaps with bright 

white birdsong.






The thrice-flayed,

thrice-frayed leaf

in the mantle

of the stem



the ground-



that shrieking,





will it speak?









the salt-weed








by the threshold





of dried bees.






your stoneway, 

stamen, arch


your tongue a wound’s

and the body corroding



infecting the poppy

with ivory wrists


of that white-red,



leaf in the window,

has no face.


Ellipsis of a crown

grown paler, 



where my stem is buried.





They arrive,

but not train-grey

bespoke through




Charred metal,

candles’ — of 

a heat, their



ellipses us:


a scaffold

stabbing a lost vowel.





One day I too will write you,

no letter to say,

this one,

true thing:


to rotate 

beyond, behind

the eyefilm,



your word.






I remember you caught me

looking up at the blossoms.

They fell like skirts on my thighs,

and I still see the color

violet, burning through my chest.


I carry my history blind, like a shame.

I drag it like a weapon behind me.


I lay these things down for the first time

in a grave beside your image,

saying these things out loud.




Left, wine-red

at the trunk of summer,

an offering of names

grown into poppies


folds into 


quivering Southwest.


Those ditched in the blood

now leave the door open.

The fence’s frost

heaves over.


Never among the dead.




Here, you improvise the earth

and the broken tracks smile.


From a borrowed 





The threadbare eye

into my unknowing 

closes, and factories

sleep in the grass.


This dream is my mosquito,

the dark our blood,

and the lenses of our eyes

float like trees on a river of air.


Black spotlights,

the whips of wakefulness

flutter like a broken drum

and talk of monotones.




To the walking reflection 

made one by Pygmalion’s prayer

belongs the cunning, empty shard



in a temple of hands that swing like music 

from the bars of the brain,

the story of a three-pieced single god.


Toward a sky of clear veins —

vanished prison, 

your laughter breached a cloud,

rains upward 

into black lands.


To words 

in the voice of wounds

you speak now, remove my lips

from a dream

which towers over danger.


And my multifold angers —

the roots of an oak

drenched in peace,

will snarl and light up a prayer.




Above the ruins,

echo of a pale orange flame,

a young girl billows

rosewindowing the edge,

a skeleton that men can climb

to build a steeple out of chaos.


When dawn is another sky

you can see it from broad white day.

I have learned it from the laughter of schoolgirls:

how to kill, and veered 

like a kestrel above a warship

into blue from another blue

to camouflage a sky.




As a landscape 

rolls off my back

I glimpse an open road.


The hollow and the dirt

make blue music on my brow

and the green uprooted days, discarded,

water a tree in my lungs.


No man escapes

the tracks he’s on until tomorrow

in a blur of high grasses

sinks into thunder

and the shock of his life wears off.




When I lost you I wrote of sleep.

The dark lit a magnitude of rain.

Your breathing broke across the bow.


A dream is a broken sentence,

a poem directing me strangely

toward an abyss.


I walk with my nostrils down 

the crowded road and through the hum

I remember that basement desert

of damp nothing.


You are found on the road of the grave of God,

your last line lifting a heavy spade.




Receding from the questions of my figure

I become the other, and then I become the same.


But I always wait with corrosive stars by my side.


I melt with the snow of humidity

and my heart does not beat;


I follow.


I write in a language of dead ruins

with nowhere to go

and the ribs of my myth carry lungs that are spoken for.


I build out of dust a character

who plays your part.




I lay my oasis down

like a carpet of stars

and I am alone.


A fragment: it catches 

on the breeze


the distance between

a desert and the road. 




With blackness I light up the sun.

A dampening cell in a shower of oil begging 

one end of a battery.


I cup in my hands the wound

of that unimaginability


and aching with actions

a distant grey heart

filtered through the factory.




A snake was charmed

on the eve of possession,

a spider whose every thread 


is a bridge whose attentions are trophies,

watery torso 


of a lover’s last poem

whose head witnessed everything at once.


Their escape is the smoke 

from a flame that erases


everything but absence 

for your rage to fill:


black water

under the light of migraines,

a bullet 

brought weak death two scales.




I stand in the fire between us,

void of a sun that waters

roadways on your cheeks

to flood a desert. 


The harvest gave birth to a sky

as black as cradles

and white as your name,

so I remove the mirror.


And the Earth stands before us,

weeping like a rose

that has grown there, 

burning like a prophecy.


Until the logic of that dream,

sucked up through black tunnels

fuels what we know to be,

we are nameless: the voice and its echo.




It is constantly changing.

One week folds into another

and our calendars cannot keep up.


It is two violins from the east

come to grips with the west,

the CD skipping 

in an ambient 

click of the heart.


But the desert is not a road,

an oasis from which all roads diverge

like the notes of a scale

as we wake from heaven.




An oriole of the ear, 

his viola a lever 

of unchosen names

frightened rain into a coffin.


Dipped into a wound

to paint with color

the sun and the sky

had behaved so badly.


A spider

I am feeding —

flies on a web,

to the book of dreaming.



(For Adonis)


As her rest unfolds

her decision to sleep

lifts up the mountains

scoring the jagged air.


As she can breathe

she places her limbs

in a row like seedlings

and it begins to rain.


As it is questioned

the air becomes poems

reaching out beyond

this time of ashes.


In a storm each will 

sever itself on a thorn

from the poet erasing

himself and herself


as the rose grows deep

in the azure, keeping

one thought for itself,

that the present is history.




© 2019


DISSENTSPRING — New Poems by Eliot Cardinaux


Artwork by Jeffrey Lipsky

“Demon of Thieves”

Mixed media on 3 x 3 ft. canvas



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