25 Points: Balloon Pop Outlaw Black

balloonpopBalloon Pop Outlaw Black
by Patricia Lockwood
Octopus Books, 2012
104 pages / $12.00 buy from Octopus Books or SPD









1. “Popeye.” The protrude of oldest skin, the swell of the part that sees.


3. “Regarding ink, why black? Black because something was extinguished there?”
(When We Move Away From Here, You’ll See A Clean Square of Paper Where His Picture Hung)

Lines. Black Lines, (Saying those words out loud to myself makes me think of Lockwood’s Octopus partner, Ben Mirov, and his Black Glass Solioquy), are so important to Balloon Pop Outlaw Black (to every text) and to the powerful, self-conscious nature of its “drawn” characters. They are how the cartoons come to appear into their paperflatbookflat, but moving “Popeye” worlds. They are what all of our poems are b(l)oated with and lifted with and broken up by.

4. I forgot my razor in Minnesota, so there are small black lines coming out of my armpits and legs right now. I hesitated the first time I bought a bra that was black. Do you remember when that meant [inside of a Ten Things I Hate About You cultural map] that you were aching to have sex with whatever boymachine? I sat behind a hot girl named Sara in a history class and saw black lines coming out of and through the material of her white Calvin Klein t-shirt. I believed that it was those lines that made boymachines popeye and pupeye across the cover of yearbooks like “blueprints of bulls” (Killed With An Apple Corer, She Asks What Does That Make Me).

5. Now I believe all of your underwear is made of glowing and changing moodring material.

6. It is black lines, night letters, dark lines, definite lines that create and strong arm identity here in this text, that attract all words and beings of this dynamic hair forest together into their lonely, swallowing on swallowing world.

“The dimension is a coat; it is flowered on the green ground. The cartoon wouldn’t wear it if
his mother didn’t force him” (The Cartoon’s Mother Builds A House in Hammerspace).

7. In BPOB, however, lines become, are pushed brilliantly to be, what also gulps identity up, what bruises it around. It’s beautiful burst. It’s hammerwriting.

Elisabeth Workman, mentions a quote by Lisa Robertson inside her Cuntos Manifesto  that feels imperative every time I re-read Lockwood’s poems and every day I make toast, “Identity is very ungenerous and completely non-erotic.” The characters here, the speakers here, want to allow themselves to fall apart while engulfed under the speechlove of another dark line or person or word as it invades and saturates and distorts them into bigger better. It think it is the best picture of a galaxy.

8. “And it’s hard to tell where the house ends and her insides
begin, there is so much inside around her”
(The Cartoon’s Mother Builds A House in Hammerspace).

9. “How can she always arrive at him?”
(The Cartoon’s Mother Builds A House in Hammerspace)

10. Lockwood’s characters: a whale, a boy, a mother, a father,  a she, “Popeye”, a he, crawl at us and at each other with cartoon mouths and cartoon chests. They aren’t comic books. Their muscles are not hyper-masculine or hyper-realistic. Their muscles look like little bumps on the page. Cartoons brush against almost being pathetic constantly, just like we/I do. It’s what is funny. And it is what makes so much room for interesting there and in BPOB.

11. Even a strong cartoon character like “Popeye” is capable of pathetic-ness when he throws a punch and misses then spins and twists around until he is a pretzel.

“In moments of grave danger, his bicep turns transparent”
(When We Move Away From Here, You’ll See A Clean Square Of Paper Where His Picture Hung).

12. Cartoons come from a flat world.

“***Flat is not the word. Say instead, there is a limited amount of him, like water, it seeks its own level” (When We Move Away From Here, You’ll See A Clean Square Of Paper Where His Picture Hung).

But what’s startling and important to a child mind or, arguably, to the adult mind in the context of these poems that tread into drawings/cartoons, is how unflat they are in their 2D world, how POPEYE they are, how they spring back when crushed into thin rounds, how they pull off disguises,

how they swallow impossible shit like anvils and then hold the shape of the thing with their bodies.

13. “At the school dance, “Popeye” feels a pang in his belly and an urge to push. “Why me?” he wonders. “Why now?” Alone, he disappears through the door marked and does what he must do” (When We Move Away From Here, You’ll See A Clean Square of Paper Where His Picture Hung).

14. This contortion of body and gender is deeply cartoon-ish: it’s cute and giggly. But, also, an alienation and a sadness inflates out the back of it and into any world (Hi, poetry. Hi, shading. Hi, poetry causing balloon animals.) where an animated and scared boy would suddenly need to drop baby on a dirty bathroom floor.

15. The metamorphing and confusions are just as spectacular and LOL as they are the catalysts that induce heaves of separation between the drawing beings. The ‘popeye’ moves away from his parents/his girlfriend, the he drifts from the she, the whale and the Jonah boy stuck inside her disagree in their movements and complicate each other. And it is the surreality of such a text, such a propulsion to poem in the way Lockwood does that allows humor and joy to jump out of this ever-darkening water like togethered fish.

16. “[Popeye’s] occasional girlfriend, doodled in the margins, cannot have intercourse with him; she suffers badly from vestibulitis.

A disorder of her entrance.

She faints every time he tries. “Popeye” reads the dictionary out loud to revive her. He reads, “Syncope is: a blackout, a loss of consciousness. Syncope is: the loss of one or more sounds from the interior of a word” (When We Move Away From Here, You’ll See a Clean Square of Paper Where His Picture Hung).

17. “The house where he grew up was full of the marks of her illness–connection was everywhere” (The Cartoon’s Mother Builds A House In Hammerspace).

18. Connection everywhere, words everywhere, black lines. Lockwood actively wonders throughout the text, What do lines do? Does language make flat us billow? Why so pleasantly wretched? Do we try save?

19. “The tape measure merges into her hand; inches leap out when she attempts to point a finger. Why couldn’t this happen in the other world? she agonizes. This hand would be easier for him to hold” (The Cartoon’s Mother Builds A House In Hammerspace).

20. I saw lines everywhere while I was reading this. Grave Plot. Georgia Highway. I drew dolphin fins coming out of the Gulf of Mexico like I was promised. I ate noodles with vegetables and their redness became a sauce. There were red linestreaks on my chin because I am 26 and still eat fucking chickendumb.

21. “The book says,” the whale bursts out, “that I am the heaviest organ in the world’s
body: not the heart, not the brain, but the skin of it.” The boy shudders violently at the
thought, and the shudder runs under the skin of the whale” (The Quickening).

22. While I ate and wrote on my own chin, I listened to Ted Berrigan recite all of his sonnets in San Francisco. I heard XLVII and then grabbed the book on the coffee table to look at it on the page. I thought, This is a great description of Patricia Lockwood’s work.

“No lady dream around in any bad exposure
“no pipe dream, sir. She would be the dragon
Head, dapple green of mien” (XLVII).

23. Today is opening day for python hunting in Florida. It is a contest. Whoever kills the longest line wins.

24. “The line would like to cut her up and hang her from the ceiling. If he did, you
would see a clean white portal in each piece, like a hambone. She is tempted to
let him do this–like all good cartoons, she believes in an Afterimage, where
her colors will become their cool opposites. Where her hell-colored ham will
become the blue sky” (The Cartoon’s Mother Builds A House In Hammerspace).

My friend read this book as well and read this review. He says the black lines I’ve chosen also remind him of how much this book thinks of itself as a book, of creation and the constant threat of erasure/marginalization, the double meanings of the word mark that hover dangerous everywhere.

Then he did something funny. I said, I’m putting that in. He said, No. Don’t. I said, I won’t. I’ll erase it. He said, No. Put it back.

I am always humiliated. You?

25. “and the fruit of a succulent is straight lines,
and her pet wasp lands on her longest finger
        and sees the end coming and stings her with it.”

(Fig. 1)

A cat in the place where I am right now was noticed noticing something high up on the wall near the ceiling. A wasp of proportions pitpull or dump truck. It was punched several times in the thorax robe by a rolled up bunch of paper. It got shut up in a window, but didn’t start being dead until sometime this morning. It’s line still out, threatening my air. I looked at it and thought of everyone I am nowhere near.

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One Comment

  1. bemightee

      i love the title of this book.