Joseph Mulligan

Joseph MulliganJoseph Mulligan’s concentrations include poetry, translations, workings and essays. His poetry has been influenced by his translation & study of “Trilce” by César Vallejo and the sonnets of Sor Juana de la Cruz. His work has appeared in LongShot 22 (Hoboken), Magazino 2 (Pittsburgh). His chapbook Drumblood was published in 2001 by Speed & Brisco (Pittsburgh). He self-published a second chapbook Eleven Minutes in 2002. His work also appears on






The fraternal clock hands spin the wool
of my digital days with their emotionless epicenter
fixed in place,
stuffing the mailboxes of the years
with letters without return addresses.
Oh narcolepsy of my unshackled days,
oh shadow of broken glass,
must we live as twins without eyes
in a cold war of nametags?
On the watch of the dead electrician,
my grandfather feinting left jabs
in front the black and white set,
the metallic rabbit ears carefully put
in their place.

And now, now how the static takes over,
how the air is burning away an hour of august of 1985.
And now, the ashes in the urn of yearning,
the flowers in the funeral of living,
the rowboat converges on the mouth of the bay,
persistent against the incoming current,
making its way out to open sea.
And the 2 of us begin to speak
at intervals, dumbfounded in the snowstorm,
a plow rolls down to the river.
Oh sweet absence of turning around and through,
oh snow scraped from the road and heaped onto itself
into itself and through to the other side
of the frozen river.

You pair of hands, plunged into the water,
upon transporting minnow to fishbowls,
now, so odd to find you a doctor in scrubs
and me a patient with a terminal sickness –
the eternal search for the missing child,
a candle that keeps vigil for the prisoner of war.
Sweet absence of turning around and through,
the dilapidated mountain house rotting away in the woods,
in the shadow’s subterranean second form,
lined up with the other half of this cleaved and bleeding world.
Back to you – a blank face in an empty room,
who would be sufficient without a face in a world without sediment,
on an evening like this, you’re allotted your space on the shelf,
alphabetized and engendered,

fascistly profiled from the other side of the stained glass.
Everyday I rearrange my room, pull floor boards up everyday
whipping the chain-gang of desire,
& still the suspended bridge of anxiety hangs on
by a thread the fibrous web of the tarantula dream.
Back to you – the voice in the room next door,
that would be muffled by the insulation of this old building.
& though you appear so foreign,
your dialect seems so familiar,
so tempting to translate your knot of dreams,
to spitefully knit you into afghans,
oh knot, to hang from my walls
a tapestry of your woven arteries, your entrails
embroidered onto the flesh of the world

onto this page that tries to escape,
so I keep it in place, pointing at the hours
when I am small & stay still stepping out the house,
where I am calm & stay put to compose where this is blue,
where this is water and is always prolonging and persisting.
I piss off the pier at the moon among the columns
of the pantheon’s temple of twigs.
Put your hands above your head. Turn around.
I want your guns. I want your guts. Let’s make love.
Let’s fuck love. Let’s have an orgy with our vices and never cum.
No more planks, no more ropes, when death is here,
and nothing is heard. Saudades in the creak of the hinge,
when I stop & you stop & then you start again,
in the confluence of now & now, in the shadow’s shadow,

when nothing is heard in the world of automobiles
and locomotives & motives & motifs of massive
glowing pink flamingos flashing against the streets of ink.
The big fruit globe is glopping up the yellow light
of the potato diced on the heart shaped cutting board,
where the chicken was quartered, where the bone was cracked apart,
only to find the black marrow of the moon,
& like this the vertebrae of the universe is straitened,
elbows beneath the shoulders, ankles beneath the knees,
& no longer am I pessimistic of omphaloskepsis ,
no longer afraid of animals in the clearing,
in the fog in the clearing, when the flames flicker through,
& the smell of smoke, Batavia, NY, 1985, a rubber band that broke,
& the pages that now fall onto the floor.



You are too & you know it
because I know it, because I make you
with my eyes, with my trusty skyscrapers
hanging from my tool belt.

Absurd you are with your body armor,
with bones lashed by iron innards,
lounging in shadow eating grapes of blood
beneath your canvas canopy –

Forajido, for a moment I’m blinded
by your voice that sounds so much
like mine, am deafened by what
I don’t see – how it resembles me.

Elevator that stops at 2 floors at once,
double-barrel shotgun with a single breechblock
& now a page motivated to stand on end
before you, completely transparent around your neck –

the weight & reflection of the obsidian necklace,
of the triangular medallion burning the breast –
the womb of memory thickens
the walls of this vagrant placental thought.