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Haiku in the Workplace: Maternity / Paternity Leave

The poems submitted this week find their common reference in the time taken away from work to celebrate the arrival of a new member of the family. The time-frame for these poems is generally within a few weeks after the event, when some of the elation is wearing off, and the challenges of the new situation are becoming manifest. Some poets clung, as you might expect, to that elation:

no one can praise
the new baby’s photos —
	[David Dayson]

And some embraced the new reality:

Nappies hang drying
I’m looking forward to work
And a longed-for rest!
	[Greg Skeen]

Most, however, were prompted by the eventual return to the workplace, where things were the same:

the desk and boss
as you left them:
	[Sarah Leavesley]

Or else were different:

more headaches
than at home, and without
the painkillers
	[Sarah Leavesley]

But no matter the stimulus, it was the poets themselves, rather than the work to which they were returning, that had changed. My third choice this week neatly captures this newly-divided mind.

return to work —
for the new parent
teething problems
	[David Dayson]

The poet conflates the issues of the office or workplace with those at home, in the language of the latter, in this case through an aptly chosen metaphor of a minor matter that causes oversized responses at the time. Teething is painful, and often quite loud, but it is transient and ultimately insignificant, just a phase we have to work through. Returning to work after time away might well have the same rawness to it, but we usually know we will get through it. My second choice comes from a poet just emerging from the euphoric haze of the happy event, and coming to realize what the passing of time outside the work routine has meant:

five days without sleep;
your inbox now the mother 
of all nightmares
	[Sarah Leavesley]

Couching this in terms of nightmare — an element from which even parents cannot protect their children, or even themselves — nicely collates the two worlds of the poet, which is further embellished with the felicitous choice of idiom. While we have been away, tending to the new situation, work has gone on, we have been outside the loop, and now it returns with a cumulative power. We might well have wondered, in this interlude, about our own status: have we been missed? Have we become expendable? Such fears are what drive my top choice this week:

still in demand —
breasts ache with yearning
for her baby
	[David Dayson]

As with the other selections, the crossover from the home environment to the workplace is handled deftly. The assurance that we are needed is fulfilling, but there is an ambiguity to this poem that fills it with tension. Whence does this demand issue? Is it from the workplace? From the baby? If the former, then the physical tug on a mother’s body against the regimen of work is disorienting, running counter to what must seem now to be of prime importance. If the latter, is the mother simply rationalizing the fact that work is simply no longer central to her life? It can be no simple matter to order these conflicting demands on our attention and sense of value, with no simple means of resolving them, either. The poet, by identifying her fraught circumstances, has brought that yearning to all of us as well.

New Poems

maternity leave —
my new bossy boss
is so cute!
     — Maria Laura Valente
paternity leave . . . 
in the hands of other staff
an esteemed career
     — Ernesto P. Santiago
new job 
on call 
for the next 18 years
     — Rachel Sutcliffe
blooming womb —
a young mother 
reveals the breast
     — Doris Pascolo
the maternity cover
after work
     — Mark Gilbert
paternity leave
the boss appears 
on “Maury”
     — Johnny Baranski
six weeks off . . .
at first it sounded
like a holiday
     — Marietta McGregor
newborn son
cherished by his father
work can wait
     — Kristjaan Panneman
extended leave
a yuppy finds a name
in the baby ads
     — Willie Bongcaron
with only
moments to spare
maternity leave
     — Michael Henry Lee
paternity leave
he downloads
the labor and delivery app
     — Sonam Chhoki
maternity leave —
her organizer fills
with feed times
     — Andy McLellan
still birth . . .
the maternity leave 
she wished she had taken
     — Celestine Nudanu
paternity leave
my gaze for the known
in a bar
     — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi
o u t si de
li n e s 
new daddy
     — Roberta Beary
expecting a co-worker —
a lunch-time
baby shower
     — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
night shift —
a lullaby to his son
on her cell phone
     — Angela Giordano
paternity leave
the father-to-be has
sympathy pregnancy 
     — Angelee Deodhar
maternity leave
sharp learning curve
on a new job
     — Christina Sng
wisely arriving
on a holiday, our baby
must know my boss
     — Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy
maternity leave
true labor
     — Olivier Schopfer
paternity leave
lessons from the nurse
how not to hold the baby
     — Madhuri Pillai
Spring Market . . .
a dad wrapped 
in a baby sling
     — Elisa Allo
maternity leave —
her old workflow
washes her colleagues away
     — Jennifer Hambrick
maternity leave —
self-employed wife 
still breastfeeding
     — Goran Gatalica
first week back 
backs his voice
     — Ron Scully
between feeds and diapers
office on the line
In maternità
Tra poppate e cambi
l’ufficio chiama
     — Lucia Cardillo
detached from work
caressing her tummy
     — Anthony Rabang
lullaby . . .
crooning  words of love
before the lunch break
     — Eufemia Griffo
paternity leave
our son arrives
on my day off
     — Michael Stinson
the last chocolates
on her first day of leave
pink spring clouds
     — Adrian Bouter
returning manager
humming lullabies . . .
paternity leave
     — Karen Harvey
small company 
boss wears many hats 
minding a new baby
     — Paul Geiger
midnight feedings
day tv, afternoon naps
dreams of back at work
     — Trilla Pando
maternity leave
the never-ending job
with sons
     — Lucia Fontana

Next Week’s Theme: The Ex-Pat

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 27 February 2015.

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