Poetry Friday: “when i go to bed i go to bed with the lights on” by Sasha Fletcher


The week, my workweek, has been all about numbers. Though we usually perform a budget review one-half the way through our fiscal year, business has been, well, busy and we’ve only now just paused, about two-thirds of the way in. If you’ve taught a child to cross the street, you could do a budget review, too.

First, for one moment, you stop (nobody move/sneakers on the ground) — and you make sure you are actually stopped (my expense reports all run with an “as of” date). Then you look one way (to the left, or back to the beginning of the fiscal year) and then you look the other way (right, or to the end). And then, as my grandmother would tell us, you run like hell. (She was like that.)

While reading through the reports, last week and this, I looked at individual line items — this expense, that transfer of funds. Oh yes, there is that. Oh my, what’s this doing here? I also corralled things into categories: office supplies (my great love), equipment, furniture (more people here this year and they need a place to sit), salaries (and they need to be paid), benefits (and cared for), travel, food, guests, books (of course), computer-y costs of all sorts, and on and on. The vision blurs; the mind reels — it gives the spirit pause.

Press further, look for patterns — by month, by account, by project, by amount, and even, by head count. I asked questions of the data. I put words in its mouth. I made spreadsheets of spreadsheets (another great love). And, you know, it takes a while to accomplish all this and eventually my head hosts a traffic jam of data.

It becomes difficult, while turning over each stone, or counting each leaf, to remember the countryside itself which surrounds and envelops. Each vista gives way to another farther on, layers of meaning reveal themselves. My work seems similar to the observations and thoughts Sasha Fletcher shares in his anxiously clear-eyed poem, when i go to bed i go to bed with the lights on.

… I think about field trips and cold cuts.
I think about dividends and other words
I don’t understand. I make five hundred
lunches in advance. I want to be prepared.

Are dreams there, too? He hopes so:

I want new shoes. I want them to be waterproof
and unforgettable. I want the kind of resume
that takes home all the prizes and a salary
commensurate with thunderstorms. …

The poet-narrator seems uneasy with his whole life and all its details and tasks and responsibilities — by the import of it all. The mountains of meaning threaten to crash in and overwhelm:

and this gnaws at me
day in and day out and when I close my eyes
I can feel my heart and it is trembling.

And who among us would pretend to be surprised? Life is overwhelming; it calls for trembling. But, then, stop and look and look again. Run like hell.


Sasha Fletcher is the author of When All Our Days Are Numbered Marching Bands Will Fill the Streets & We Will Not Hear Them Because We Will Be Upstairs in the Clouds (Novel(La)). I would give him a Pulitzer Prize for his titles alone. He is clearly a writer for the 21st century who enjoys riding words hard and putting them away wet. Reward him with your careful attention. Of his work, Sasha explains:

The idea of thinking in lines is a challenge. I don’t think that you can just hit the enter key in the middle of a sentence and have it mean something. Prose is really stringing one thing after another. Verse is stacking one thing atop another. These are just different ways of moving, and I am trying to learn how to move a little differently.

(“Layered horizon” from clspeace / Cat / cc by-nc-sa)


Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>