Studies suggest that the three greatest stressors we are likely to experience in our usual lives are loss of a loved one, moving, and job change. They are all the more keenly felt when abrupt and not of our own choosing. In these instances we undergo the processes of grief, which unfold over a duration and in an order that is particular to us individually. It seems fitting, then, that this week’s submissions ranged across the spectrum of responses to grief, in a variety of personal styles.
The loss of love, through death, divorce, or other calamity, is the stock-in-trade of post-Renaissance literature, most especially the novel. Removal from one’s home environment figures high in the mix as well. But loss of a job? There have been relatively few explorations of this theme in artistic terms (though How Green Was My Valley and On the Waterfront are notable exceptions). So we are largely on our own when we consider it.
According to Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, the journey through grief includes at least these stages, in some order: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I use this as a plausible schema for considering the following poems on the basis of their psychological verity, and leaving aside their technical merits as haiku.
Denial, though most obviously evident in the immediacy of the moment when we become aware of our circumstance
ignominious — a long word for a short walk with security [David Dayson]
can linger, and even re-erupt at a later stage.
my wife hugs me the shock recedes it returns [Evan Flaschen]
When it appears the situation is unalterable, and not just some mistake, anger generally sets in:
fired — a person of my calibre [David Dayson]
It’s interesting how often we defuse our direct emotion with humor, which must work for us as a kind of pressure regulator, and allow us to cope without resorting to extremes (and of course we read of the exploits of those without a proper regulator on a daily basis in the newspapers).
When our anger has cooled to some degree, we often try to cut a deal, usually with ourselves, about how to view the situation
being fired — hardened by the kiln of adversity [David Dayson]
and what we might do about it:
every exit can be a better entrance — somewhere else [David Dayson]
But after some time we generally recognize our powerlessness, which gives way to a general gloom:
leaving no trace except his browser — history [David Dayson]
Seemingly it is only after we’ve reached a level of despondency that we can reassess the new circumstance:
I cast my bait the fish compete it’s Thursday [Evan Flaschen]
Is this a better situation? It is if we deem it so. That seems to be the central truth to managing our relations with the outside world.
These poems are, on the whole, not successful as haiku, which have technical and literary elements to consider. We can decide for ourselves how much this matters, but as this is a haiku column, I do feel the need to offer that perspective. But even if these fall short of the highest literary achievement in formal ways, they remain heartfelt expressions of deep personal pain and recovery, and as such are worthy of our consideration. The loss of love, or the fact of being uprooted from one’s home, may offer the Muse more fertile opportunity for artistic response. But the loss of our life’s work, at which we spend more of our waking lives than any other activity, can be just as affecting, and without a compensatory literature where we might find kinship and solace. I wish your days of employ to be long, happy, and ended on your terms.
getting fired — hairdresser appointment a new hairstyle — Doris Pascolo * paper cut nobody’s fault just one of those things — Mark Gilbert * again; the beating . . . if working long enough around the bush — Ernesto P. Santiago * getting fired the boss unfriends me on Facebook — Rachel Sutcliffe * coming to a dog fight It’s not very nice to bite . . . the hand that feeds you — Katherine Stella * fired — at last i wake on time — Roberta Beary * end of contract enjoying freedom again — dancing naked — Kristjaan Panneman * getting fired just in time for the weekend — Michael Henry Lee * fired without notice . . . so many years in a box — Maria Laura Valente * laid off all the hours she gets back — Amy Losak * just as the day weaves him a rainbow black butterfly — Willie Bongcaron * fired — how autumn arrives through my pocket — Arvinder Kaur * let go the long weekend becomes even longer — Andy McLellan * morning thoughts — eggshells begin to crack on the boiling pot — Anthony Rabang * almost fired meeting with the VP I hear she has my back — Carmen Sterba * Just a sms to let me go I already hate my cellphone Solo un sms per farmi licenziare Già odio il cellulare — Angela Giordano * first snow — my broom i must bid adieu — Enrique Garrovillo * board room display of score card on pink slip — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi * fallen apple under the tree the incessant buzzing of bees — Gail Oare * No more job Tightening the work shoes in order to stay fit — Stefano Riondato * unemployment line everyone looks like me — Pat Davis * no sweetness here clearing my desk to clear my name — Celestine Nudanu * fired in the distance the wail of a siren — Olivier Schopfer * even though unbidden freedom — Peggy Bilbro * by the chief’s door — the secretary avoids eye contact with me — Marta Chocilowska * straitjacketed — for ever so long,the relief of getting fired — Angelee Deodhar * verbal tirade for passing bundles beneath the table — Radhamani Sarma * getting fired shock . . . a closed door full in the face licenziamento shock . . . una porta chiusa in piena faccia — Lucia Cardillo * Too many cold calls The boss up in flames — Stephan Massi * last call — the graveyard shift toasts their pink slips — Mark E. Brager * behind closed doors the downsizing that drops me back on the street — Devin Harrison * cleaning my desk the outlines of a novel I had dreamt of — Madhuri Pillai * burnt supper the letter that he opened last . . . — Adrian Bouter * fired . . . only speck of dust on the desk — Eufemia Griffo * sorry to let you go says the boss — till the end a hypocrite — Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo * getting fired — I descend down the stairs of her castle — Tomislav Maretic * smile and lie planning to quit anyway grab my ivy — go — Trilla Pando * social services — sacked for sexist jokes on the toilet wall — Martha Magenta * dismissed I load again my staple gun — Cezar Ciobika * fired . . . the King is dead long live the King — Elisa Allo * bartender at the last chance saloon verbal warning — Mike Gallagher * terminated late the last hire is a bird without feathers — Ron Scully * getting fired the Greek Island bookmarks on her PC — Marietta McGregor * fired . . . the alarm clock awakes libido — Lucia Fontana * letter of dismissal the essence of breathing in and breathing out — Adjei Agyei-Baah * sweaty palms I choose not to shake his hand goodbye — Jessica Malone Latham * getting fired by the future president — Danny Blackwell *
Next Week’s Theme: Elevator Awkwardness
Send your poem using “workplace haiku” as the subject by Sunday midnight to our Contact Form. Good luck!
From October 2014 through April 2016 Haiku Foundation president Jim Kacian offered a column on haiku for the London Financial Times centered on the theme of work. Each week we share these columns with the haiku community at large, along with an invitation to join in the fun. Submit a poem by Sunday midnight on the theme of the week, from the classical Japanese tradition, or contemporary practice, or perhaps one of your own, which you might even write for the occasion. The best of these will be appended to the column. First published 22 June 2015.