Centri Sociali Romani (Roman Squats)

Centri Sociali Romani (Roman Squats)
Laurie Smolenski, Detroit
Honorable mention, Poetry

we occupied an abandoned meet packing plant, where ghosts of slaughtered cows haunted hallways that we would later paint in kaleidoscope murals of one thousand rainbow shades. we built stages and sound systems to make music where machinery had churned bones. we called it il villagio globale, and hosted all night parties where looming dreaded rastafaris danced in dim shadows and immense seas of people swam together to deafening dub reggae where animal blood had once ran. tired of dancing, we huddled around fireplaces with dogs at our feet and shared wine and bread toasted over coals and drizzled with olive oil from somebody’s lazio farm

we occupied an ancient train station, where trains still pass at midnight. we called it la strada and when rain fell through the holes in our ceilings, we climbed to the roof and wrote watermarked prose as trains emerged from both sides, like long black snakes with square scales for windows, whose silvergreen slits of light illuminated those metallic reptiles that crossed in an instant in rain and then, suddenly as they came, released us in an instant from their metallic rumble. we slept among puddles and when rome returned solar, we hosted poetry readings and language classes and planted flowers along the tracks

we occupied an unused warfort, and graffitied its snaking underground tunnels with our poetry and our lyrics and our confusion. we called it forte prenestino and educated each other in its bunkers, held wine tasting parties in its powder magazines, got lost and found ourselves in its endless labyrinths. we constructed instruments from old weapons and played them in trenches we had filled with seedlings. we held organic markets in our flowered fortress garden, selling fresh cheese and tomatoes and song to poor romans

we occupied a vacant monastery, building bunk beds over bibles. we called it angelo mai ocupato, our hidden roman dream-piazza along via dei zingari behind libreria boheme up broken stone steps and beneath a statue of the virgin that we surrounded with candles lit at night, where past her holy gaze, we presented two euro political cinema at dusk and served pie for our viewers, made from berries we collected barefoot from the boysenberry bushes in the garden of our monastery. later we fell asleep with violet soles

we occupied a barren building in the jewish ghetto and move in armed with easels. we called it rialto sant’ambrogio and painted each other on the broken brick walls of our courtyard, along its nubbly-fruited citrus trees where we hung our handmade clothes. we spun old fortyfives and danced funk in the ghetto wearing costumes of bubblebees and robots and drag. then, united in madness we headed street parades through the vatican to protest anti-immigration laws, carrying flags and drums we woke rome from its daydreams of denial

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