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Haiku in the Workplace: Getting Fired

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
	[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 —
	[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.

New Poems

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
     — 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
looks like me
     — Pat Davis
no sweetness here
clearing my desk
to clear my name
     — Celestine Nudanu
in the distance
the wail of a siren
     — Olivier Schopfer
even though
     — 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
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
I load again
my staple gun
     — Cezar Ciobika
fired . . .
the King is dead
long live the King
     — Elisa Allo
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
     — 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
     — 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!

kacian_jimFrom 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.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Dear Jim,Thank you for this thought provoking column.The loss of a job is one of the most devastating,demoralising and humiliating feelings anyone can ever go through.However, in most of these haiku there is an element of relief and a hint of humour eg.

    getting fired
    the boss unfriends me
    on Facebook
    — Rachel Sutcliffe
    says it all.
    With best wishes,angelee

  2. Workplace haiku

    pushing through the crowd
    obese man shouts, “It’s my turn.”
    door opens and shuts

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