examinations: 1.11

Reading Roger Reeves in Barcelona

By Danielle Susi

I, Roger Reeves, hereby pledge that I will not come back
to this city, if this city will not come back to me.


As always, it comes in pieces. First Stade de France, from where President Hollande was quickly evacuated. The Bataclan, then a restaurant, and a bar, and a café. A sixth undisclosed location.

From November 11 to 16, I was in the beautiful city of Barcelona, not void of its own particular kind of conflict as people call for independence for Catalonia and succession from Spain.

On the evening of November 13, I was returning to my hotel after dinner when the lobby televisions flashed shadowy images of police running through the streets of Paris. President Obama’s speech. President Hollande’s speech. In my room, I fell asleep watching the news in French because it was easier for me to understand than Catalan.

The morning after the attacks on Paris, I wake early and look out the window of my hotel room. I think of Roger Reeves, who, in his poem “Pledge,” writes:

I leave the numbers by which I know this city,
its epistemologies and apartheids, its mornings,
its slips of paper, its slivers and its seeds,

its dry floors and short showers, its roosters
that cannot distinguish between the blue of morning

and the blue of night […] this will surely leave a stain.

The following day, in the space of my brain not occupied by tragedy, the introductory chords of R.E.M’s “Strange Currencies” plays again and again as a sort of meditation. I eat Crema Catalana and green tea for lunch as we run lines for a play we’re performing that night about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the emotional aftermath of war.

I was in Barcelona attending the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, where we discussed refugee issues, among other important topics. Upon returning to the United States, I am deeply troubled and distracted by ignorant conversation around the admittance of refugees into our country. Especially when France has opened its borders despite the horrific attacks against its capitol.

It’s 10pm Chicago time and 5am Barcelona time when I pull my little suitcase up three floors to my apartment. Wash my face and fall into my bed. Grateful to have a bed to sleep in. Close my eyes and hope to dream. Grateful that I should wake in the morning. 

Danielle Susi is the author of the chapbook The Month in Which We Are Born (dancing girl press, 2015). Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Knee-Jerk Magazine, Hobart, and The Rumpus, among many other publications. She is a columnist for pioneertown and Entropy; a contributor to American Microreviews & Interviews, The Conversant, and The Angle; and the co-editor of HOUND. She received her MFA in writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Newcity has named her among the Top 5 Emerging Chicago Poets. Find her online at daniellesusi.com.