The Cortland Review


Peter Robinson
Occasion to revise or think again:  Marcus Perryman interviews poet Peter Robinson.

John Kinsella
The Globe of Death - The next chapter in John Kinsella's autobiography series at TCR.

John Kinsella


The Globe of Death

That the headless lady who has apparently
returned to sideshow alley was once and probably still is
the sister of Gary Brophy
who at the age of twelve
rose his motorbike inside the Globe of Death and sat with me
on the end of Deep Water Point jetty
observing the tribulations of punctured blowfish,
whose mother was Zelda the snake-woman,
whose uncle was a tout at the boxing tent.

Riding the Globe of Death, Gary Brophy was immortal. And he knew his immortality, though adrenaline ruled his body and it suspended the ego. The air he breathed was octane and spiritual. He believed in his older brother who modified and serviced his 175 Suzuki. Strapping his black helmet on, he said this bike's got grunt, it won't let me down. His sister got sawn in half by her father every show day. His mother charmed snakes. In the caravan they dragged behind the Ford pick-up, a large pair of false tits lolled about. A sister's got a cunt he told you, showing the tits. All show-people have a place to rest up. Theirs was a State Housing place in Brentwood. He went to your school for six months. You crossed over, walked through the mouth of the laughing clown, entered the tent of the boxing tout, parried sexual innuendo and saw a body pasted back together every night, ripped apart by the circular saw and vodka. And the exponential growth of uncles and aunts.

In the puppet theatre at home, the glove puppets acted out the carnival they were part of. The theatre was metatext and you wandered into the back of the box as if it was the screen at the cinema. There was nothing virtual about it. Virtual is the end of the imagination. You don't need it. Ken Wark is sitting in a Chinese vegan restaurant opposite you. He's eating vegan with you. He could be humouring you or context might be everything. He says how do you define your generation? And you say: by television. Lost In Space, Star Trek, Countdown — Iggy Pop stuffing the mike down his pants and being Chairman of the Board. Inhaling the solder flux as you wire a radio set. Burning magnesium ribbon. Watching the x-ray set out at the Nungaloo labs go crazy during an electrical storm. John E thrusting yellowcake at your genitals, the guy having his bones eaten out by hydrofluoric acid at the plant because he wouldn't take his underpants off when they washed him down. Shame kills. Like the big tits in the Brophy trailer, kicking around their houses, the sister in her gold bikini being cut to the bloody core by her father.

In the foothills of the Himalayas, on the road up to Kathmandu, a bus accident takes place some time in April 1985. You're a fly on the wall, so to speak. People leap from the top of the bus and plunge hundreds, thousands of feet. The route is lined with wrecks, even the smoking corpse of a bus from the day before. The brakes have failed and everyone is yelling, screaming. Your body itches and you scratch and it's all so slow and such an effort to scream. Slam the fucken thing into the side of the mountain — you watch the speech balloon arise from your own mouth. The side of the bus sheers away and someone's taking photographs as you pull a bit of an overlander from the chassis. You say Fuck you, and smash the camera. It's the cinema again and a chopper can't get into the narrow pass. A jeep comes. And you're in Kathmandu playing Brown Sugar. A friend is in hospital and you're at your first film. Fantasia. You recall bright colours and Beethoven? You're in it. Under the covers with a book and listening listening to Kristeva telling you in translation: "The pixie's loving brother is on the verge of becoming an incestuous father; all that holds him back is the fear of others and the circumstances, always somewhat persecutive." So why does he saw her in half? The people love it. The blood. Come along to the tent next week and I'll show you. Dad will say it's okay, I know. I do — the Perth Royal Show — and see the blood spray and the sister in half and the moustachioed caped father standing like the villain out of a 20s melodrama. The people love it. He'll do it again in an hour. They stick her back together and he might slap her on the ass. Every window is wired in, the only escape is through the front of the bus which isn't there anymore. Gary rides the Globe of Death — round and round the metallic mesh sphere, in and out of his own orbit. He's had sex. He's eleven and so am I. I tell him another kid at school got his sister to show me her bush. He says that's okay. It's four years later in Geraldton and he's in town. You see the ad for the Globe of Death. You take a friend who loses interest and spends his time jimmying 20 cent gambling machines. He makes about thirty bucks in the time it takes you to watch Gary do a dozen loops... another dozen. His sister has gone into early retirement and his old man has cut his face shaving. An insurance company flies you back from Kathmandu.

In making the puppets we mixed a whole packet of plasticine together. Into a hard vomit-coloured lump. We moulded the features — prominent eyebrows, large nose, consuming mouth. The loss of colour was liberating. Using newspaper strips coated in flour and water we wrapped the lump over and over — leaving it open-ended, fashioning a neck. When it dried we cut it open with a Stanley Trimmer and removed the cold lump of plasticine. Bringing the halves into alignment we pasted the cut. Healed the head. We painted the features with thick enamel paint. The head glowed. We dressed it in a smock and gave it gender.

You could say that you again looked back over your life. But it doesn't work like that. It's as if you were watching yourself on television. Past tense. The guy from the Here in The West television programme on the ABC, the guy who took you for a sticky bun and a can of cool drink after you'd said shit, dropping a sheet of postage stamps in front of the cameras, is in prison. For the worst kinds of crime, people who know will tell you. You sit in familiar surroundings, smelling red brick and sea air. Or inside — the lounge room — sitting with the other kids on a bedspread on the floor watching television. Countdown. Iggy Pop. Chairman of the Board. Microphone down his gold lurex pants. Gold or silver. Maybe it was all in black and white then. You can't remember. The kid who lived behind the school oval had the first colour television in the suburb. His father was in electrics. It was a huge beast of German extraction. That was a joke you heard the kid's father telling someone during a visit. Kristeva again, Death on the Instalment Plan, she notes: "My father distrusted his imagination." I think my friend had a sister but I never spoke to her. I fancy I can remember her but I fear it's just that: a construction of memory. Every time I sit down to write this it comes out different. I have dozens of drafts covering the territory of the same event, moment in time. I drag them together. This is the compromise — I'm only partially there. It was done with mirrors.


� 2002 The Cortland Review