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Haiku in the Workplace: In the Stationery Cupboard

Remember paper? Once upon a time entire storerooms (now called “offices”) were dedicated to processed rag and wood residue, and the various implements used to make impressions upon it. Even today there are remnants of such things, if your place of employ still has a printer or copier or fax machine about.

Remember faxes?

This week’s topic is a trip down memory lane for most of us, and that’s how most of you viewed it, often with a good deal of amusement. Some of you had fond memories of such places:

a fleeting tryst —
moves the world beneath 
a stationery cupboard
	[David Dayson]

though more likely:

scent of honey
in a stationery cupboard —
where nothing happened
 	[David Dayson]

Doth he protest too much? At least he retains a sense of scale, unlike this mock epic, with apologies to Blake:

stationery cupboard —
what immortal hand or eye
framed your symmetry 
	[David Dayson]

Somehow the movement from “tyger” to “stationery cupboard” seems a diminution in power.

My three prize winners this week all hold nostalgia in common, and should be regarded as equal firsts. The first of these treats the space as an anachronism:

arcane skills —
reporter’s note books 
pencils and rubbers
	[David Dayson]

And in fact this is not much different than visiting the cuneiform rooms in the British Museum. The chief virtue of the poem, then, is how it telescopes time for us.

Next, we have a bit of irony:

trade secrets
in the file cabinet
dusty cobwebs
	[Ernesto Santiago]

What was once the most important thing in the world is now visited only by spiders. Technically, the poem employs a hinged second line that unites the first and third lines all the more closely.

And finally, a personal accounting:

one last peek —
nothing but paperclips and
a hint of aftershave
	[Marion Clarke]

The first line indicates an ending of some kind — perhaps the office is closing, perhaps the poet is leaving his position. The second line makes it apparent that not much of value is being left behind. The third line, however, suggests something more. Might it have been a tryst? Or simply some sign of life where now there is none? The small bit of intrigue that is conjured here doesn’t amount to much, however, since the clause is still modifying “nothing.” This is a fair amount of emptiness for three lines to convey.

And so I whoosh these comments back to you via electrons. Perhaps some day we will be nostalgic for this mode of communication, once we are all wet-wired and telepathy is the norm. But will all our trysts then be virtual?

New Poems

a shriveled rose
tucked in the note book
keepsake from my boss
      — Celestine Nudanu
half-formed words
the bane of proving:
“I’m not a robot”
     – Sonam Chhoki
law firm letterhead
names of the living
     — Roberta Beary
on the stationery cupboard
an office rat
     — Ernesto P. Santiago
the clerk’s cupboard —
is it going to be
at the feng shui’s north?
     — Willie Bongcaron
feminist leaflets —
in the stationery cupboard
the mistress copy
     — Martha Magenta
day of dismissal
among the stationery
top leader award
     — Marta Chocilowska
half-formed words
the bane of proving:
“I’m not a robot”
     — Sonam Chhoki
stealing from the company
I take one pack of Post-its®
of every color
     — Mark Gilbert
a pair of mittens
under the pending files —
mother’s workplace
     — Arviner Kaur
cupboard door ajar
rat pops out with powdered
     — S. Radhamani
supply room . . .
he said
she said
     — Michael Henry Lee
new supply closet . . .
what stationery
now includes
     — Pat Davis
easily accessible
the stationery cupboard
out of stock 
     — Hifsa Ashraf
supply room —
dimly-lit kisses
of an office affair
     — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
special pencils
to clear errors
and an amulet
     — Angela Giordano
budget cuts . . .
in the stationery cupboard
only red pens
     — Samantha Sirimanne Hyde
Drawn Buddha
the tip of an eraser
totally black
     — Julia Guzmán
stacked stationery cupboard
stuck on the door
the road map
     — Madhuri Pillai
turning five again
that back-to-school scent
of the stationery cupboard
     — Marietta McGregor
first day of school
the stationery cupboard’s
scent of new beginnings
     — Karen Wibell
ream of copy paper
snowflakes, swan
     — Ron Scully
in the stationery closet
the stacked
     — Chad Lee Robinson
stock on the shelves reminding of tasks
     — Adrian Bouter
adults play
in the big cupboard
     — Christine Eales
finding pens
in the stationery closet
losing buttons
     — Erin Castaldi
looking for a notebook 
with pumpkins
     — Elisa Allo
bottle of red wine
found among typing ribbons
tasted better
     — Ashoka Weerakkody
stationery cupboard
I used to know
how to write in cursive 
     — Olivier Schopfer
open cupboard
a paper crane lost
between pencils and pens
     — Eufemia Griffo
stationery cupboard —
remembering which drawer
I hid my haiku in
     — Tomislav Maretic
Princess K
paper moon
another inventory of the supply room  
by the office couple
     — Gail Oare
old cupboard —
yellowed by time
unused registers
vecchio armadio —
ingialliti dal tempo
vecchi stampati
     — Lucia Cardillo
office tension
one of us
the stationery thief
     — Lee Nash
in, the, stationery, cupboard, a, folded, paper, crane
     — Billy Antonio
opening my stationery cupboard doors
I meet him again
     — Lucia Fontana
Sears catalog 
In the stationary cupboard 
crescent moon in the door
     — Paul Geiger
paying it forward 
a few odds and ends you might 
sometimes need at home
     — Devin Harrison
 e   l                    t –  a -  n
j      y                  s         o
b      s                  o         t
 e   n                    p      s  e
    a         lime
     — Deborah P Kolodji
among stationery
a resignation draft 
sadder than a love note
     — Alegria Imperial
computer mice in
the stationery cupboard 
my chair squeaks
     — Karen Harvey
field mouse
new letterhead
with a watermark
     — Jeff Hoagland
stationery cupboard —
I daydream about 
origami cranes
     — Ana Drobot
in the stationery cabinet
scent as well classified 
on shelves
     — Adjei Agyei-Baah
scribbling with each pen
so many duds
this deluge rain
     — Tricia Knoll
stationery cupboard
all the pens
we smuggle home
     — Rachel Sutcliffe

Next Week’s Theme: The New Boss

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 30 November 2015.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Dear esteemed poet,
    Warm greetings! how much of musings and different approaches with
    amusement the stationery cupboard reveals – seen here.
    with regards

  2. What a shame my submitted poem hasn’t appeared

    stationery cupboard
    all the pens
    we smuggle home

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