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JOHN KINSELLA - OCTOBER 2000 FEATURE  

The Cortland Review

FEATURE

Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival
An abundance of riches in the hinterlands of New Jersey.  TCR's own Ginger Murchison and Julie Larios report.

David Lehman and Maria Claire Leng
Companion Poems: Odes that Rhyme from A - Z.

Joseph Stanton
The Space-Time Continuum and The Slow Eye of Stan The Man: Baseball, apple pie, and Stan "The Man" Musial.

John Kinsella
The Globe Hotel: The next chapter in his exclusive autobiographical series.

Jonathan Kessler
Book Review: Michael Rothenberg's "Punk Rockwell," a book that transgresses boundaries.

John Kinsella

John Kinsella is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, most recently, Hunt and Poems 1980-1994. His work has appeared in Poetry and The Paris Review, among many others. As well, he is the editor of Salt. Currently, he teaches at Cambridge University in England.
John Kinsella - The Globe Hotel

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But the gloating relish of the regulars at the Globe prodded him on, led him to take up the bucket and scrub the toilets against the most intense and deep revulsion. And clearing blockages, he thrust his hand down into the bowl, and around up into the elbow, peeling away the paper and faeces, removing a syringe, watching the blood pour from his punctured thumb. And he didn't flinch while the guy with the stutter masturbated behind him, nor turn around when the warm drops of ejaculatory discharge landed on his exposed back. He scrubbed, and scrubbed. Three bottles of sherry a day, and total dedication to his task. Sometimes she visited him there, and thought how far the mighty had fallen. That the Red Cross gave him vegetables which he ate raw, that poets visited him and gave him Hopi Indian talismans, that street kids drove him from his room to the park and vomited over his bed, that he stared at a television that showed nothing but static, that he wouldn't sleep with her because he was sure the infection had got him, that he pissed in sherry bottles because it was a long walk to the toilet late at night, that he occasionally drank from these very same bottles and didn't flinch, just putting them aside and searching out the genuine product ...

In response to this fiction you and I make the following reply.

It's where I ended up. Where you and I—we—ended up. The guy behind the bar was quick and spent his holidays with various girlfriends at Kuta in Bali. He drove a Mazda RX7—white—and always had his ear to the ground. He served beer and semi-fortified spirits to alcoholics. The Globe Hotel was one of the last inner-city "drunks' pubs". Run by an ex-footballer who was down to his last 5000, it was tough and private. It didn't welcome outsiders. Its clientele was shrinking. Eventually it would become a backpackers' place, but in those days it was closed territory. The rooms were filled with long-termers and the odd overnighter who'd wandered in from the bus station or train station. The rooms were cheap. Guys would turn up from Darwin, come to hide out. They'd been there before. The ex-footballer thought he was running a straight ship, and he was—just some of the passengers weren't so up front. He yelled at me on the stairs early one morning, sitting there with a bottle of sherry in my hand, fucked. The banisters slid away in both directions, polished with movement. You look like a dirty old drunk, you bastard. A young bloke like you shouldn't look like that. And what about this fucking book you're writing, I've heard that one before. Fucking bastard. And then into the betting shop, which he ran with his daughter under licence. Not a bad bloke. As long as you were white. They make good footballers, I'll give them that. That's what he'd say.

Gary gives me his double room with the James Dean picture—boulevard of broken dreams. I tell him I'm here to write a novel about an historic Perth hotel. He buys it. It's half-true though I've nowhere else to go and most people have closed their doors to me. I can't be in the country, the paddocks and scrub and sheep and parrots and farmers and shearers are eating into my brain. I've been in the same room on Happy Valley farm for weeks on end, drinking sherry. Gary says he likes the look of me. And I kind of like the look of him. He looks smooth in a sea of filth—he's the anchor. I'm quick to find them. It costs me 130 a week. I borrow money from family and get onto the dole, and when sources dry up I owe him. I get a counter cheque—another thing I'm good at. I clean toilets. I get stuck by a needle unblocking one. The guy with a limp says things that could get him locked up. I listen. He drinks cask wine and wants money two days before his invalid cheque comes in. He talks about cunts a lot. He likes to masturbate. There's a guy with one leg who has come down from Darwin. We play cribbage. He and his mate and I. And smoke dope and take pills and drink beer. He's got a stack of police scanners in his room. He's got hep C and HIV. He likes me because I don't care what he's got and he tells good stories. He's married, his wife is Aboriginal. She gets me piss by going on the game when I'm in Darwin, in the park, he says. I get the picture and break off contact. His mate likes the Jimmy Dean picture. There's a story there.

I go for a late night walk. I've run out of sherry. Coles bottleshop opens at nine the next morning. They sell a cheap cooking sherry for 2.50 per bottle. I can afford three. I drink until I piss my bed. Sometimes Tracy comes and climbs into bed with me without knowing this. I tell her to get out. The room is in fact two rooms with the wall knocked through. There's a heavily stained double bed in one section and a couch in the other. There's a small television with bad reception. There's a room off to the side that's actually part of the corridor sectioned off. There's a fridge in there. The things I put in the fridge rot, despite the cold. The room fills with sherry bottles which I piss in to save the walk down to the toilet block.

There's a small stove with twin burners. You have a saucepan and the Red Cross gives you a box of vegetables each week. You have to see their counsellor. You read them poetry and they tick the box saying you're making an effort. You've sold your few remaining books. Tracy gives you a copy of her new book and signs it. She is wearing a red-checked flannel shirt which is soft. She smells clean and has a smooth shaven head. She has her ears pierced many times. You can feel the piercings through the yellow-grey of the smoke-filled room. You step out through the window and on to the iron roof that forms an unwalkable courtyard between the rooms. Guests move from one room or another with slow metallic crumps, denting the corrugations. Stealing and spying and fucking. You sell Tracy's book to the second-hand bookshop, but only after you've read it. You're in there, part of it. People drop in to smoke dope and drink. Tracy comes with a friend and they leave to see Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet. So you're out late at night walking, waiting for the morning. This might be another occasion. You run into a young guy with multiple piercings and green hair. His nostrils are bulging. Plastic piping to keep them from collapsing from too much snorting speed, he says. He's a skinhead. You're an anarchist. The political mixture is not good. He says he's got friends who need help. You're talking politics. I don't like where you're coming from, mate, you say. They still need help. So you go and walk up the hill towards the Royal India Restaurant. They're in there, he says. It's a boarded-up house. Worth a fortune. We're all squatting, hiding out. From what, other gang members, parents, the cops. You squeeze in through the boards, into the dark, and say well it's okay if it ends now. It doesn't matter. A faint glow—he leads you in. There are a bunch of kids around a candle—one dressed, the others naked. Okay, guys, what's up. Who's this guy? Found him outside the Globe, I reckon he can help us. What's the problem? I ask.

The rules of staying in my place are: no sex if you're under-age, no violence and no drugs. I'll move out until they can sort their problems out. Which you do—and sleep in the Supreme Court Gardens for three weeks, coming in each day to clean up their disasters. There are cops and social workers and wars with the technoes. There's a butterfly knife you dispose of and the room stinks of sex and glue. You manage to convince the youngest girl to speak to the social security social worker. She says she wants out, she wants back home. You arrange it. A few months later she'll be back on the street. The older girl has been raped by her father. She needs a place. You speak to the social workers for her. She'll make it. They write poems of thanks. One of the boys goes into help, the other almost kills someone and does a runner. The bastards in the hotel make suggestions about the availability of young "cunt". You lose it and wreck the place.

Dave is a former maths teacher. He is dying from alcohol. He drinks with Clarrie who lost his legs in Vietnam. Clarrie hangs out with the Nyoongah guys who look after him like a brother. Clarrie pisses and shits himself in his chair. You like drinking with them. You both know and don't know each other. The ambivalence of engagement is emotionally safe. You wheel Clarrie up to the church for free Sunday meals and tea. Dave has a boat and lives with his mother. He tells you about his boat and what a great teacher he was.

A techno smacks you in the face when you refuse to line him up with a street guy who is trying to offload a sheet of acid. Fuck that, mate, I'm out of it. You make reverse charge phone calls. Your brother comes with his girlfriend from Williams. You get him to tell you about Dryandra forest. When you left his place you walked twenty miles into town and watched the bats swoop in the early morning. He hasn't seen any bats lately.

There's a Vietnamese restaurant over the Horseshoe Bridge that specialises in vegan food. They feed you there on your word that you'll repay them. They do this for months. You'll repay them. Drowning in your own urine, you find your way back to the rehab centre. You leave your gear—the few books remaining, your clothes—at The Globe.

One local poet had visited you at The Globe and offered you his electric typewriter, encouraging you to write again. You wrote about Zoos. The poems were left with your gear and lost. He gave you books and Hopi talismans. You hocked the typewriter. He accepted this with great pain and left your life to write itself. We turned our back and moved on. Nostalgia is nowhere to be found. As noted by Lacan: "I saw myself seeing myself, young Parque says somewhere." I could not not connect with our body. And yet I was fascinated by the way it kept moving on. Rehabbing itself into another phase.

Frank, please Frank let me talk to you. Please Frank Sir, I like to sing "Blue Velvet"... Don't don't it's alright don't worry ... Mommy loves you, Frank, Sir ...

 

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