The Bullroarer: This World from Wilson's Promontory
Here's a toy and totem, a spinning top and talisman, all in one. It howls, ‘How does a gardener get painted a pirate of the high seas?’ It roars and rings of smoke, like upcoiling incense, or dust rising from a tail-chasing dog, or a wounded bull. ‘An obsession, any material, emotional, magical possession might impassion a struggle for self-possession that rings of truth and light and saturnalia.' More
What is a bullroarer, you may ask? My boy Bowen tells me many wild whoppers. It’s to bring his woman, he says. It’s to keep her away, he says. It’s sacred. It’s a toy. Does your woman have one? I ask. It’s not the same, he says. She has one, but it’s not the same. Can I have one? I ask him. You have one already, he says. It is this writing, this book, these woubits, he says, pointing his smiling black finger. This is not sacred, I say. It doesn’t bring me my woman. It doesn’t whizz when I whirl it around, though it does flap its brown-red wings and its black and grey featherweight leaves like a bird — What bird? Let’s say a white-browed babbler — above all when the wind blows north-north-west, and the bird breaks out with its piercing ‘wit-wit-wit’. And like me it seems full of dreams and schemes and nightmare screams of sacré blue wails and of the first, the blackest water.
So he tells me a marvellous tale of women's wails becoming curlews', and boys' voices, boys with the name Weerooimbrall (Bullroarer?), becoming the voice of wood chipped off as flying bark and whizzing, birling, sailing through space like a waterbark, billowing boys' stressed music with every stroke of its oars.
Yet it is wood and wallaby skin, so it did live once, like that blood and those blots on your garden landscape. Take it from me, my lady, Bowen knows what he is talking about, even if no one else will be ever quite sure. These woubits, these woolly bears or hairy caterpillars wandering back and forth across your page are crawling, calling for something, and may one day turn into tiger moths, or something similar. Whatever, beware of what imagination can bring, this world being spun from a very peculiar perspective, and out of one of its strangest, darkest corners. We too must be the stuff that dreams and nightmares are made on. Though we didn’t make them all alone, did we, best beloved? And whether all alone or together, it’s all one, isn’t it, one big dreaming nightmare.
Last night I dreamed a big white horse climbing, galloping up the snow-covered steps of a huge walled city. I felt the cool snow and the bite of its head and its powerful thighs, those whirlbones in motion. Its hooves seemed to grip the stairs it surmounted so effortlessly. By the haunches I’d say it would be a mare, the prime mover of the wild herd. But yet, despite the danger, the sleekest, smoothest night mare I can remember riding, if ever there was one so everlasting.