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Haiku in the Workplace: The Commute

It’s not the commute that bothers us. That same track, under circumstances of excursion or dalliance, would bring us anticipation and joy. It’s the energy- and time-sapping black hole of the workday that awaits us that give the commute its particular tenor. And, being human, we have our ways of projecting this onto everything else.

But the commute does give us time to consider our situation, as here:

Please mind the gap
between what you expected
and what you’ve got
          — William Stelle

And it does give us time (if we’re not driving, and sometimes even if we are) to look around us to see how our fellow humans are coping, as here:

station crowds:
the netball player
threading her way
          — David Jacobs

Nevertheless, it is the sameness that is the most telling, and most depressing, thing we associate with the commute:

from the morning mist
the train lumbers into view
same as yesterday
          — William Mist

This deadening of the soul that nearly all of you attribute to your commute has little to recommend it, but a few of you did manage to find a bit of compensation. My third choice was able to find (admittedly slight) humor in his or her situation:

Motorway to work
I curse while contemplating
the road less travelled
          — Evan Flaschen, England

At least the poet was able to recognize that s/he was at least one of the agents in his/her own sorry predicament, that there were other options, and that had s/he chosen another of them, s/he might now actually be moving at speed instead of bumper to bumper on the M1. And is that an allusion to Robert Frost, or just common cultural property?

The author of my second choice perhaps has dalliance on his or her mind:

Grey sky, autumn drizzle
Grey cars on grey pavement —
A blue-eyed passerby
          — Bradley Byington, England

Blue isn’t the greatest contrast to grey—in fact, it might be barely distinguishable—but in the context it comes as a shock. At the very least there is something there to arrest the eye. And a passerby—someone going, presumably, in the other direction. What does she know that I don’t? And I want to find out.

Still, these are private compensations. My top winner manages a magnanimous and communal “we”:

Monday morning
we share 
each other’s rain
          — Lynne Rees, England

This could be read as a grouse, as nothing more than a cheeky way of saying “Monday morning — and it’s raining too.” But the words contain more: the poet chooses not to be isolated in that rain, but to share it, and when we all share it, it is no longer the elements against us, but rather the elements uniting us in a common lot and a common fate. What a wonderful thing to find in the rain of a Monday morning!

But enough of that — get to work . . .

New Poems

on a bus
the calming effect
of pine trees
     — Ernesto P. Santiago
I always wake up
on the same stretch
     — Mark Gilbert
rush hour traffic
coming to a halt;
winter sunset
     — Johnny Baranski
4 AM
nodding off during my commute
into the city
     — Devin Harrison
daily train ride —
every time the sky
a bit different
     — Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo
commuter train . . .
the clickety-clack
of foreign tongues
     — Charlotte Digregorio, (Modern Haiku 39.2, 2008)
afternoon rush
poplar seeds drifting
through exhaust fumes
     — Polona Oblak
morning commute
a leaf takes a ride
on the wipers
     — Rachel Sutcliffe
the drive to work
crows circling
     — Jennifer Hambrick
his aftershave rubs off
on me
     — Shloka Shankar
I missed my bus stop
I missed my bus stop
     — Christina Sng
farm life
the morning commute
to breakfast
     — Michael Henry Lee
in the distance 
a shimmering line of buses
stuck in place . . .
     — Amy Losak
to and fro
on the same bridge
a new starry sky
     — Lucia Fontana
river crossing
best part of my morning commute
sometimes my day
     — Jere Kittle
platform five
some brief greeting
some yawns
     — Margherita Petriccione
morning darkness
at the bus stop - 
snow twinkling
     — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams  (Stardust Haiku 1)
rush out of work
even my shadow
is a suit
     — Tom Sacramona
night shift . . .
on the car bonnet
a thud of a kangaroo
     — Samantha Sirimanne
7 am train —
a man in a suit  falls asleep
on my shoulder
     — Marina Bellini
morning train 
the familiar faces of people
whose lives I know nothing of
     — Olivier Schopfer
almost obscured
along my path
     — Timothy J. Dickey
sitting —
before and after work
haiku and sudoku
     — Angiola Inglese
rear-view mirror
a brief hurried look 
at the past
     — Neha R. Krishna
train commuter . . .
outside a dirty window
enchanting dawns
     — Maria Laura Valente
on the commuter
working to catch-up 
     — Paul Geiger
#38 bus to town
a roach escapes
her straw purse
     — Jan Benson
     — Lori Zajkowski
virtual commute 
to the website supermarket
     — martin gottlieb cohen
on the same track
the same train —
never on time
     — Maria Teresa Sisti
sunny morning
in a crowded train
a ladybug
     — Nikolay Grankin
outbound train
social networking
by shoulder
     — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi
a heavier book 
every morning
     — Elisa Allo
evening commuters 
an arm stretches out
for alms 
     — Madhuri Pillai (A Hundred Gourds)
daily run
on the train window
I write your name
     — Eufemia Griffo
home to work to home
     — Michael Stinson
evening commute
I salvage the remains
of the day
     — Debbi Antebi
daily commute —
my wife’s adapted office
full of souvenirs
     — Goran Gatalica
the 405 commute
the beachboy steers with his knees
     — Marilyn Appl Walker
driving into dawn
egrets fly between 
my lesson plans
     — Sandi Pray
from here to there
I lose my train of thought
late again
     — Peggy Bilbro
5 am commute . . .
wave at the stone dinosaur 
one of my landmarks
     — kris kondo
Keys coffee at the door
hour trip’s roughest part
walk to car
     — Trilla Pando
line of cars
at the drive-through coffee shack
muffin tops
     — Deborah P Kolodji
from the bedroom
to my office in PJs
working from home
     — Karen Harvey
a sea of faces
waving through portholes . . .
school bus
     — Brendon Kent
local train —
my gaze at her
every morning
     — Pasquale Asprea
one-way ticket
no road leading back
to being young again
     — Christine L. Villa
copper coins
to pay the ferryman
last commute
     — Marietta McGregor

And I hope you don’t mind if I add my own small daily commute here.

Next Week’s Theme: Workplace Accidents

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 October 2014.

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