American Thicket

by Eliot Cardinaux

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"It doesn't do to look too hard into this mystery, which is as far from being simple as it is from being safe. We don't know enough about ourselves. I think it's better to know that you don't know, that way you can grow with the mystery as the mystery grows in you. But these days, of course, everybody knows everything, that's why so many people are lost."
–James Baldwin
If Beale Street Could Talk

“My poems are meeting places."
–Thomas Tranströmer

"This sentiment is what I am all about. These poems are not meant to be heard alone. These poems tell stories, and stories are an art that comprises listeners. Listeners do not sit at home on their own. They sit around campfires, dinner tables, bottles of wine. They sit with others, and in listening to others' stories, the stories change. In telling these stories, I hope for the listeners to change them. How? In telling their own as they listen. Why? Because America needs to hear them."
–Eliot Cardinaux


Eliot Cardinaux – voice, piano
Mat Maneri – viola
Thomas Morgan – bass
Flin van Hemmen – drums, percussion, cymbals

Track List:

1. Thicket
2. Questions (to the Thought)
3. Omnipotent Dreamer
4. Angel
5. The Stranger’s Song
6. Interlude
7. Conspiring Psychic
8. Radio Dues

Recorded by Tom Tedesco at Tedesco Studios, Paramus, NJ, April 13th, 2014.
Mixed by Eivind Opsvik at Brooklyn Underground.
Mastered by Nate Wood.
Photography by Michelle Arcila.
Design by Espen Friberg.
Released on Loyal Label.


In the piece “The Stranger’s Song,” the line “…half-finished to heaven…” refers loosely to a poem by Thomas Tranströmer, entitled “The Half-Finished Heaven,” from The Great Enigma. The line “…where a stranger once stumbled upon himself in the music of the stranger…” was paraphrased from Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “There is no name for us, when the stranger stumbles upon himself in the stranger,” from The Stranger’s Bed.

In the piece “Conspiring Psychic,” the line “thieves of paradise” was taken from a book by Yusef Komunyakaa of the same name.

All poems by Eliot Cardinaux.
Music on tracks 2 and 3 composed by Eliot Cardinaux.
Music on tracks 1 and 4–8, improvised by Eliot Cardinaux, Mat Maneri, Thomas Morgan and Flin van Hemmen.
All Rights Reserved, 2015.

Special thanks to Jade Wollin, Robert, Heleen, Annie and Emilie Cardinaux, Michael Tillyer, Isaac Luxon, Ryan Blotnick, Daniel Levine, Monica Frisell, to Eivind and Michelle, and to the band.

This music is dedicated to my family, blood or no.


released July 8, 2016



all rights reserved


Eliot Cardinaux Boston, Massachusetts

Pianist, composer, poet, improviser Eliot Cardinaux has worked in the free-music and avant-garde world for over 10 years. His piano sound is characterized by a light-handed touch and tone, as is his poetry similarly subtle. His love and study of many musics as well as poetries, but specifically those which innovate, has helped him grow both lyrically and imagistically in his writing and his music. ... more

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Track Name: Thicket
These audacious blossoms
are a figment of forced observation,
the exhaust for which they feel affection
nothing greater than your childhood –
you never flew off through the windshield
and Black Friday was never as important as it seemed.
What difference does it make if birds come cunningly,
like trumpets through a wall of angry light,
if the mountains are indeed just shaking out an itch?
There never were any Indians in Columbus’ America.

Such an unenthusiastic landscape,
to its credit went your daily limp:
the harvest was arbitrary –
what did you expect to find?
This tiny country is a thing of the past,
that seed just the parachute of the first world
whose dance meant little more than distraction,
whose layers of years peering out of houses
were so quick to leave your sight,
no wonder that sickle never touched the ground,
the ground to whose shoulders
you still attribute your seasonal fatigue.

Now, when you’re feeling over-sweetly moved
by the quiet hum of passing traffic,
there’s always an uncertain anxiety,
and tassels growing listless in the breeze
to keep you feeling like you’re tied to a reality,
or at least longing to be held in check.
At least there’s movement
in uncertainty – it befits you
to feel a certain shock at your own audacity,
or maybe your humility
is beaming toward the surface.
Maybe you should have thought
twice, before creating
the conditions for advice.

If you depart before we have a chance
to say goodbye, at least you know
that there’s nothing in teaching
that should ever resemble
someone’s pride being shattered.
If you want to know,
this has been a pleasant encounter
for me, and I hope one day
these over-sweet sentiments
are just coming to a close
when we meet again,
somewhere outside of here.
Track Name: Questions (to the Thought)
I’ve ruined all my life
but I’ve got nothing to show for it –
teach me how to ask a question, any question.
Build and rebuild the same bridges
and you will not be privy,
even to yourself.
Join again the harkening
of the screeching crow
and you will not be led to it –
what gangsters are you with,
what crows?
Track Name: Angel
A carpet once laid late at the feet of an angel. It was bashful and red. The angel had wings so she carried it into the late night sky. The angel fell asleep, and the carpet wrapped around her to keep her warm. Slowly it began to glow and became the sunrise. Clouds covered it, and the angel slept deeper and dreamed – and in her dream the sun grew close. While the angel slept it rained and brought the angel and carpet both back to earth. The angel woke laying on the floor on a tattered carpet. Bits of dust had gathered on it, and she looked up and saw the stars. The carpet asked, “can we just sit here for a while?” And the angel smiled a cherishable smile and said, “no, let’s fly.”
Track Name: The Stranger's Song
The hum of summer,
arched brow of the transparent bridge,
half-finished to heaven;
I learn again
what I know of knowledge,
leaning against the mystery.

I find it open,
this door to the desert
from the myths.
It’s not the water
smoking in the east;
the sun is not a thing like this,
an idea that drinks itself
from the borders.

Calm like a Moorish song,
I watch an old dance.
The flowers growing up,
the sky with clouds flowing
at a faster pace than me.

This bridge is my road –
two musics, of land and of sky,
mount a horse that left me
on my way from the forest.

The bridge is where a stranger
once stumbled upon himself
in the music of the stranger
and learned again
what he knew of knowledge
on which a mystery now leans.
Track Name: Conspiring Psychic
missing places never been
dissolving footstep mathematics
bringing leaf sheets
edges on a wild calendar
for sleeping through
into wide open suns
past wingbeats
that are all you can do
to keep the dragonfly propeller
out of your matted words

exhaust from this
fortune’s fumes
eradicate witnesses
to this here calliope cashing in
but don’t look down
it’s the first to instate
the feeling that secrets
with a life of their own
don’t own the heart
or the tendrils of this radioactive
forest speaking

smooth apologies
for riding into the night
without consent
as if I were camouflaged
and dancing in a circle of horns forever
stars in a burning pattern
around the song-range of snow
your radioactive eyes
the edge of a thing
like a wall strewn with lovelettering
glancing over your shoulder
for the thieves of paradise
Track Name: Radio Dues
Seven summers,
bad luck in the ripples,
hairline returns…

If you had read my faults
in the book of breathing,
felt me teaching through my fall,
the water’s surface
would have so eluded you,

I cannot follow footprints
that have all been washed away;
walk out, Narcissus
from the water’s edge –
these are your new eyes,
here your blues guitar,
dust has a way of scattering
upon the breeze.

And so our thoughts ascend the dizzying heights
that rise up out of deep primordial roots,
and rearing like great vultures, often we
pretend to stare, surrounded by a
lashing flood, our eyes agape, at cities
toppling at our apathetic feet.

In the silence you’ve made
nothing stirs but her bones
and the flame
in your heart
is a shadow;

and something perverse
and perversely cunning,
tugs at your heart,
and everything in you,
to claim that it is real.

The backdrop and the muffled shouts,
All scraping at sunlight,
In a muscle of determination…

He entered that city like spit.
Like so many asleep.
He was a punk called rose.
He used to pick the feathers off of chickens –
He would rub it in, O he would rub it in,
A scent into Oh-high-oh.
He was camouflaged by superstition
And drowned the rest of the time
By his own ammunition…

SIT DOWN. And reminisce.

O blackboard of roses
and cardboard of wasted years,
he was a punk called rose…