At The Palazzo

Daniel Bennett

We bought fresh orange juice on the street and moved away from the main square, deeper into the barrio. The building lay behind a high iron fence, the gate dismantled to leave the way clear. A hard sun. Ash-coloured walls sliced with red aerosol daubs, that hurried, runic script which is the same in any language. We sat at the edge of the audience, drinking the warm, pulpy orange juice, resting, waiting. Children ran in circuits around the building, the pale brick, the boarded up windows, a sign reading 'banos' pointing inside the decrepit hallway. A dance class was taking place on the ground in front of the entrance, a group of five or six couples learning the moves to strains of a tango record. A man cooked up links of sausage and cuts of meat on an oil drum grill. We hardly spoke as we moved around in the grounds. The sun blank on us, as we took in the damaged cars and splintered wooden outhouses with the diligence of gallery goers. Everyone greeted us, everyone wanted us to be involved. For some reason, I was reminded of old end of world fantasies from growing up under the bomb. Weird TV, apocalyptic films, zombie plagues, all those fears of democracy. Or a dream I once had, of a camp set up in an abandoned warehouse containing everyone I had ever met. Food cooked over an open fire blazing in a drum. Khaki sheets strung over bars, the only offer of privacy. The straggly reality of our utopias. Later, the streets leading to this building would become sealed in my imagination and memory, unwinding as though long-trodden paths whenever I closed my eyes. In the same way, while trying to sleep in an unfamiliar place, I often retrace routes through the town where I grew up, trying to find the church.

Daniel Bennett: I was born in Shropshire and live and work in London. My poems have been published in numerous places, including Black Box Manifold and Structo, and my first collection West South North, North South East is due out this summer. I'm also the author of the novel, All The Dogs. You can find more of my work online at: https://absenceclub.com.

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