Incredible Ways, Italy
I got kicked out of one of the most notorious squats in the Western European squatters movement, or at least it was in 2002, the year this story begins—Forte Prenestino in Rome. It’s not easy to get into. You have to be recommended by someone living there to stay, and, if it’s not open for visitors, as it wasn’t the night I showed up, you can’t possibly get in. It’s heavily fortified, with a moat guarding its castle-like entrance. It is, after all, an old fort Mussolini had built, one of a handful around Rome, with a castle-high, thick concrete wall surrounding it, which guards a large, grassy open space that all the bunker-like buildings attached to the wall open towards. It has high ramparts surrounding it too, where the squatter community grew ganja, and for some reason having to do with politics, the communists that controlled the district allowed that, but it was an uneasy unlawful adventure nonetheless, and constantly hanging over its head back then was the threat of the other powers that be of Rome coming in and raiding the place and taking everyone to jail. Like in Northern California in the ‘good old days’ (I’m talking about the outlaw society hanging on such an interesting and creative cultural edge, not the presence of the law), helicopters often flew overhead, strafing the place. How many years it went on I don’t know, but with that threat always around their neck and all the squabbling among the members of the squat over the buying, selling, and smoking of the marijuana,the squat had almost ceased to function. Closed was its famous clown school, its restaurant, its advant-garde this and that, although it still did occasional raves. They’d started a tradition of once a year inviting a lot of press and throwing a big pot smoking party, and the one they’d thrown that past year before I showed up had really ruffled some authority feathers, had gotten the goat of the cops, I heard once I got in, and so they were really on edge.
Enter me. For reasons having to do with the purifying and grounding effect it would have on my consciousness and not out of some moral sense, and because I didn’t want to mess up my muse by clouding it with substance and desire, the whole time I was vagabonding in Europe, about a year and a half, I didn’t smoke grass or tobacco, do any kind of drug, drink alcohol, eat meat or eggs, or have any kind of sex, even that kind you do with yourself. That I looked the very opposite kind of character, more the kind of character I was in South and Central America (uh, moving right along), although I didn’t drink alcohol or eat meat in the Americas, sure made me suspicious around that squat and many others in the circle A crowd, that symbol of anarchy used then by squatters. “Just take a hit, one hit.” “No thank you. I’m not smoking pot right now.” Red flags all over the place: police spy! Interpol worm. Narc. That most such people get high seems to have escaped their notice. Don’t tell me they don’t inhale Mr. President.
Winter was coming, and I wanted a place to sit safe and write, both poetry and prose, although my muse had yet to give me whole poems. At that time it was just scattered lines that when you put them together could form a poem, if it were intended to by the muse, such as “A Suicide Bomber’s Broken Arrow Is Broken”, which I put together in a private squat on Strasbourg in Paris, right before I left for Rome, what was submitted to and rejected by The Atlantic Monthly I might add. It has since been made into more of a whole poem, as I went to work on it here in India after I was getting whole poems. You can find it on my spiritual blog “Harm’s End”, which I do with Douglas, my collaborator in life. From the time I’d started getting muse, I was filled with this sense of urgency to put it together and publish it, and when you put that together with the constant feeling I had that I had to sit and write, not for the sake of writing but to publish, what I was doing basically the whole time I was adventure traveling, trying to find a place I could write and not have to worry about what I ate or where I slept, you get a rather hurried, worried traveler.
It never seemed to dawn on me that, when I did get somewhere I was taken care of or had some gig where I could earn my keep, cooking or teaching English usually, or helping people learn to interpret their dreams and such, sometimes teaching meditation and yoga, what I did in Cuzco, on TV with Douglas at that (he’s my other half basically), I rarely wrote.
It’s part of the immaturity of a one day writer and poet to feel that they need to show it to the public before they are really ready to. I mean it’s normal, but it’s still not kosher if you know what I mean. God help you if people read you and call you a writer or poet before you’re really one. I could use a sexual reference people today may consider offensive, as if I’m hitting them with unwanted sexual images, and call to mind premature ejaculation, and, oops, I’m afraid I did. We might call almost all of net writing a premature spill, especially with its attention deficit disorder missing the point only wanting to get to the point, that point being, striped of all other clothes, to post and be read as quickly as possible by as many people as possible, that, I might add, gets forgotten quickly to boot. “It’s a lot of tongue wagging. Creative potential, but it doesn’t spin properly and make for itself a substantiality, an intellectuality” (my muse). The years of practice writing used to take before you got read seem to have vanished along with great writing, in my humble opinion. With any kind of writing worth its salt, but most especially with the inner listening skills required to hear the muse of poetry, and the skill to quickly change levels of consciousness so as to record it, you need many years to cultivate it, watch it grow.
Do we have anything for the hit parade?
Hello I’m his muse.
Walk softly stick;
carry a big heart—
adventure travel in the rain.
That’ll liven it up.
I turned around to look back at the big door, gate really, having just crossed the bridge. I was in travel mode and carrying my backpack. I’d been asked to leave. Memories of the three weeks swam by, my long, lonely, lovely walks in the neighborhood, sittings in the children’s park just next to the fort, the smiles of the mothers, the shouts of the children, the cool evenings that melted into night as I stood on a rampart overlooking the kingdoms of the little life, seeing inside myself the same but also a strong feeling to go beyond, the bus rides to this ancient ruin and that, which I did without paying (the fine for doing that was 51 euro, odd that number), and I never met the Man, except for the time I was on the way to the Coliseum, accompanied by a Catholic priest I’d met that wanted to give me a tour of it, and at about midway, at a stop, I had this undeniable urge to get off, and I did so, saying a sudden, awkward goodbye to the priest, and right as I got off the ‘bus police’ were getting on to check for tickets, believe it or not, that darn mosquito that taught me so much about how aware they are, how much they want to live, by attacking me in my bed and then flying nonchalantly away half the length of the long, narrow room, which began to fly franticly again as soon as it noticed I’d followed it, so to avoid being clapped in my hands and killed, the three young Middle Eastern men who lived in an identically long room next to mine, who took such care of the youngest one, who just wasn’t right, the other two always very close to him when they left their room, never letting him walk out of their care, they telling me he’d been tortured much worse than they, where I don’t remember, but I do remember, vividly, over that torture and his inability to return to us from it, because it was as though he really wasn’t with us, wasn’t even with his two fellows in displacement, one of whom was his big brother, and I wanted to tell the boy to just forget about it and come back, not yet aware that there are things you don’t come back from so easily, because you’ve seen how hell can open up on earth and swallow whole lives, yours swallowed as though it were happening to the whole wide world itself, sort of like how a black hole is said to swallow things, stretching them out to infinity, and no matter how fair the world may appear, how full of laugher and love, you know that’s not the case, and that the beauty’s only a thin veil waiting to be rent at any moment. You’ve seen the truth behind it, the real, and you can’t for the life of you stop looking at it.
Or so the world seems to those whom it’s bitten so very badly. They can’t just forget, but they can heal, something no doctor or drug can really help them with, although those things can teach them to go deeper, if they’re worth their salt. Only their very own soul can heal them, because they have been bitten so deeply they have seen behind the veil, but in their pain they’re not seeing true; they’re seeing the enigma, the specter, which claims to be reality but is itself just another veil, though a fundamental one. The world is like an onion really, and when all layers are peeled you see the soul, and beyond that God, seemingly formless things like the center of an onion, but, when you see them, they are more substantial than form, or really, where form comes from, but you have to see so very deeply to see the truth of the world, and few can make that long journey. I was a person that had seen the truth of which I speak, but only on the inside and deepest of meand in my inside above, and now I was on an adventure to see it out here in the world. So far, though I’d seen a lot of beauty, I had only gotten deep enough to see behind the specter. Looking back at that entrance to the fort and my time there, I felt something, but only now can I put my finger on it.
No, I hadn’t really been treated unfairly by being told to leave. I got into the fort by promising the member who let me in that I’d only stay three days and nights. I’d stayed three weeks and counting. After doing something stupid that reeked of self-importance, that member spoke up, and there was a group discussion. In my travels there were so many of those over me, and not only because of doing something stupid. It happened that we had a visitor, a young man that wanted to see the ‘plants’, and I gave him a small tour on the ramparts, accompanied by another member, a very young man who didn’t challenge me. It was actually he that had started the tour, and I just sort of naturally took over as we walked, my self-importance stepping in and ruining things for me, as it often did. I’m really sorry, for a lot of things, but one of the big ones is how big and important I’ve always thought I was. It’s not that I don’t think that now; I just know it’s not true in the way I’ve always thought it: I am great how are you? although my dogs believe I am. Aren’t dogs wonderful? My muse has said, “Organisms taste themselves bigger than they appear,” and that about sums it up other than to stress I’m not alone in this misperception. Can we dwell the world here?
I guess I scared that pot growing, squatting community some, looking like I’d just stepped out of some commune of the 60’s, a leader of one at that, and not smoking grass myself but showing such a keen interest in their pot crop, or so my action must’ve seemed to them. It really was just self-importance rearing its head. At any rate, I was out, how that group discussion turned out, with one dissenting voice, from a rather hip and intelligent man that spoke good English who lived in a sort of camp (was it a mini-trailer?) in the center of the fort’s field. I asked him to intercede on my behalf. I wanted to winter there and write poetry, and would they just please allow me to do that? I really made a bid to stay. I told them, through my friend, that I’d do any kind of work they wanted, and I could help reopen their restaurant, and I had some thoughts on that, which no doubt helped their decision: who does he think he is? Out, out, out.
This is a monster ole hell.
you’ve picked out the asuras on their walls.
It’s place and I’m sorry.
And you know what they did?
They built bombs.
It was in the snow under their coat.
Didn’t use it.
That’s Forte Prenestino.
You can buy me some coffee.
These are public works.
A brand new diet,
hearing inner vision.
You wouldn’t call it what you get in a fact-based check-phone.
It’s lucid and free.
to reality’s deeper sheathes,
and you give it your outer truth,
and you won’t get reality exactly as happened.
is so beautiful.
It’s got everybody in the same hand.
The Who wants to
tell the kids are alright.
I’m so sorry,
you’ll have to fight with ‘im
where it’s at:
that’s bad ain’t it?
Reading this sentence it was to gather the world.
It’s bigger than words.
It’s your enjoyment at this page,
and every set of feet was pilgrimly determined.
You know I’m talkin’ about love.
There’s your headwaters,
your comfortable sight,
If you have nothing to do with it I can buy it,
all lock, stock, and barrel.
And this is Earth kind
reminding you of our holes in the sky
where love is not our bottom line.
and whatever protest movements.
Where we fail one another,
is that in our letter box?
Create Forte Prenestino
the fact that you put it there.
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