Joseph Mulligan #01 – Achievements of Boredom

This is first of three sections from The Geometry of Leisure, my latest collection of poetry. It was written in Pittsburgh between 2007-2009. A few poems that I had written in Lima between 2003-2006 were edited down and added to the collection. I am in debt to Renzo Roncagliolo who convinced me that certain words require tme & space to echo before the next word comes. I should also thank Roozbeh Bethaji, who animated the completion of the project, at the end, working side by side with me & chomping a the bit.


This here pile
of rocks I know,
is not
the sign of some
blue trail
or the remnants
of a prior action,
not the headstone
of a famous grave
or the decoration
of some garden.

This here pile
of rocks,
by the power
of wind that blows
over them,
does not resist
or contend
with suspicion
or depend
on sensation
to feel a thought
before deciding.

This pile
of rocks,
hardly noticeable
at all,
is only more
itself the longer
it stays
where it is,
without engaging
the urge
to roll
to fall
to sink
to the bottom
or to crack
open & reveal
a perfect fossil
from the pleistocene.


To stare at the wall
& not envision
a window, to gaze
at the open
sea from a boat
without anticipating
land, to take in a muted
symphony or political
discourse on the global
economy in a language
one doesn’t understand,
a certain surrender
is entirely necessary,
a deliverance
to dry actuality,
a very undramatic
of a once meaningful body.
It is to lose
one’s taste for a candy
which as a child
one had adored
& to continue consuming it
in front of a wall
where no windows appear
or on a boat
at open sea
not surrounded by land.


The coffee cup
on the shelf
is not to be
filled, is not for filling:
no more jump starting
the morning
or warming up
when on a rainy day
it starts to rain
a little harder.

The cup exists
to sit there
on the shelf,
to be that
anonymous vessel
stationed in space,
an imported receptacle
receiving nothing,
a container devoid
of contents that
must be or may be
of some use
to someone

From its apportioned
place on the shelf–
impractical, useless,
reproducible –the cup
stares through me,
is a childhood
accomplice in
some mischief that
went well-punished,
who sees the redness
of my cowering

& I am tempted
to smash it
but fear its gaze
may multiply,
fear it may see me
from all sides
& suddenly
I’m abashed
by the uselessness
of my arms,
the impracticality
of my words
& how easily
this whole situation
could elsewhere
be reproduced.


To awaken one morning
and not be met
by worn in shoes
dog-eared books
unsent letters
by grammatical patterns
mirrors to look into before leaving
buses that will surely be late,
to awaken without acquaintances
familiar shortcuts
my favorite pants
without on-time departures
memorized phone numbers
political affiliations
a distaste for processed food
without anything
that may distinguish me
from a single dandelion spore
being carried by a summer breeze…
This is far enough, Charon,
I think I’ll get out right here.


Like the man
whose sudden
blindness comes
as no surprise
I grope
in the darkness
& stare
at the worldly
things with the ten
wide eyes of my two
open hands.


This voluptuous boredom,
a landscape of nothing
but sand dunes. & if a grain
were removed
would they keep on
being sand dunes?
This exquisite boredom,
this eternal nevertheless
that haunts my concrete
with the possible
& gives clandestine relief
from looking
any further than these
sand dunes that scatter
into pure sandiness.


Villa de Lorenzo
with its illustrious
desolate warehouses!

Villa de Lorenzo
with its echoing
aluminum towers
that teem with crouching
corners, sopping
with paw-prints
the floors & mold
that growls
through feline pipes!

Warehouses inhabit me,
vast abandoned
industries, as if
I were a crumbling
borough, they seal in
a darkness
that brightens
the street so much
the eyes must
look away, must
look inside,
to seek reprieve
in Villa de Lorenzo
with its illustrious
desolate warehouses.

Yet should these walls
deceive me & I
one day arrive
to see this
innkeeper occupation
be just a technique
to convince oneself
that the world
is but a party
that the self
cannot attend,
then let me be
the first to pour
the gasoline,
& while the useless
partitions burn,
I shall warm
my ocular hands
on the concrete
pyres of Lawrenceville.


This room
without doors–
how can I explain?
–is the city
of Pittsburgh
on a Sunday
(well planned
a grueling rivalry)
when for some
ungodly reason
beyond anyone’s
control the game
does not get

This room
without doors–
how can I describe it?
–shares its architecture
with the feeling
one gets
the instant before
turning off
the television
when everything
has lost
its appeal.

I reached
this room
like the man
who rushed out
to the store
in search
of an ingredient
that can’t
be substituted
& who forgot
what he was cooking.

I am seated
in this room
like he who,
thinking how
unhappy he is
with his job,
gets on
the wrong bus
& does not
get off in order
to see
where it is going.

This room
without doors–
or with doors
too wide to open,
this room
without windows,
without you
to hear me
describe it,
without a reason
for me to
explain it–
is the present
of having forgotten
how I got here
& not needing
to know
how I got here,
or of having
how I got here
then staring
at the wall
so long
that I forget
that I remembered.


The present a place
for life to live
its failured past,
a way that the dead
survive or a space
to slice
the tendons of that
tendency towards
but what
does that even mean?

I do not know.
I do not care
to know. Here take
this knife, or don’t.

Never mind.


Let this be
the replacement
of a better line
from a manuscript
that can’t be
right now,

a line that surely
would have aroused
a leaf crisper
than an october
cough or a cloud
denser than
an august sigh,

let this be
the stand in
mediocre reality
that is my
insofar as
I work to
keep from being bored.


The sea-foam
wall tonight
will do
for my horizon,
merely twelve
paces from where
I sit, a rectangular
outlet stamped
into its lower
right-hand corner.

Tonight this wall
will suffice
to redirect
the trajectory,
this wall without
any paintings
of bicycles
being ridden
in France,
without photos
of children’s
inaugural experiences,
without anything
but a color
to heighten
the senses.

Sea-foam wall,
I agree
with you,
with your
ascetic principles
& with each
& every proposition
of yours
to do nothing
but stand
in your being.

At least
right now
I agree
with you
and nod
my head
to the tune
of the Lusitanian’s
sea chanty,
for, “thinking is
an illness
of the eyes”,
yes, “thinking is
an illness
of the eyes”.


In the elevator
in the elevator,
by magnetized
walls, the blinking
of one’s own
not to advert.
in the elevator
in the elevator,
out of nowhere
the lights go out
& there is nothing
but interiority
but the memory
of lighted numerals
one’s own
somewhat visible
in the stasis
of suspension
& clouded by the fear
that this is a rocket


In continuous circling
around it, like some
bird of prey
awaiting the moment
precise to swoop
& seize opportune flesh;

but circling, like a plane
not yet given permission
to descend, awaiting
clearance from below,
from a voice that
has no face.

In continuous circling
around it, around it
continuously circling
around it, the off
switch of the hesitation,
the mystery of this
repellence continuously
circling around.


Mum of the partment so,
mong alley gag echos
that crawl into the street;
proximation of the mint
wall lit by floods in the cloister
and pierced by barking pups.

(As if the cock were bridled
or dormant still in violet silence,
gram’s ole rocker’d keep from creaking
& on speaking– in the blare
of dumb sepia tones! –so softly
that fatal winkle twinkle & nod.)

Mum of the partment so,
& the murmur of that voice,
put off again until tomorrow;
opportune arrows from crossbows flow
from the natal mouth that aims
at each & ever foreign tongue.

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