You know who you are. You are either the person who can write this straight up:
an expat’s worry — how does one find reliable servants [David Dayson}
or this ironically:
only an expat knows what it is — to be British [David Dayson]
Or vice versa. The days of Empire are over, and though nearly everyone thinks that’s a good thing, it may not be unanimous:
while ex-pats play Gilbert and Sullivan — the sun sets [David Dayson]
Fewer things evoke nostalgia with more insistence than the country we left behind, and nostalgia is rarely the road to great art (there are exceptions, of course). Instead, we are often diverted by our sense of personal loss and lack. So it was with the bulk of the submissions for this topic — heartfelt, to be sure, but also a bit maudlin and po’-faced.
Nevertheless, a few of our poets have managed a broader perspective. I think the sharp language of this one, for instance, raises its level by a great deal:
Airport Patriot Memories of the ‘Auld Sod’ In a streaked pint glass. [Kate Corr]
And the metaphor maintained throughout this poem doubles back nicely on the poet:
exotic expat — siamese cat transmogrified into familiar pet [David Dayson]
(though for my taste dropping the last word would have made this poem even better, while also coming closer to syllable-count rectitude).
My third choice this week is quietly sardonic:
the diplomat retires — a career of pleasantness behind him [David Dayson]
We presume this person, who has made a career of tact, will now move on to a more honest expression of his or her thoughts and feelings. Surely “pleasantness” is meant to be treacherously loaded, past and present.
Second choice is this charming vignette:
the only one who takes tea weaker than me — and always says please [Sarah Leavesley]
What makes this poet long for the homeland is not the flag, or the food, or the roistering politics, but rather being in the presence to one who embodies the kinds of cultural politesse and humility that is so hard to find in the brassy world. We have all bemoaned the loss of civility in contemporary life. This poet has found a small way to celebrate it where it still exists.
My top choice this week alludes to one of the best-known of Basho’s haiku (summer grass — / all that remains / of warriors’ dreams, translation Barnhill):
all passion spent — Heaven’s River stretches over soldiers’ graves [David Dayson]
Though not strictly an ex-pat haiku, this poem does conjure the idea that these soldiers, buried in a foreign land, are forever disunited from their homeland. The first line comes to be seen as an arch commentary on the human condition — we all arrive at such a point, whether it be early through the tribulations of war, or late, by our natural course. Is the presence of the Milky Way (in traditional Japanese poetry styled “Heaven’s River”) a comfort here? Can it matter to those buried beneath? Or is it only to those remaining that it offers the comfort of familiarity?
Visitors flood park vigil stance given for its . . . fallen Patriot — Katherine Stella * ‘Singapore Sling’ the Ex-pat’s preference at their annual meet — Angelee Deodhar * expatriate or immigrant my job description for his — Celestine Nudanu * lost and found in the lives of others an expatriate — Ernesto P. Santiago * working abroad — my mother’s weekly shipping of homemade pasta — Maria Laura Valente * martial law the foreign boss brings back the expats — Marta Chocilowska * snakeskin i find myself in your shoes — Betty Shropshire * In Scotland everyone’s a cricket fan once England lose — Mark Gilbert * refugees seek safety — in the eyes only one flag — Doris Pascolo * the perfect excuse for not taking work home ex-pat assignment — Rachel Sutcliffe * the call to prayer turns even the skeptic’s mind toward God — Alison Zak * the ex-pat fell pushed? — Paul Geiger * living large the different protocols the different bars — Devin Harrison * airport lounge the porter never loses his asian twang — Willie Bongcaron * foreign posting — the familiarity of my pen — Andy McLellan * the ex-boss a bon voyage party after the fact — Michael Henry Lee * long journey . . . among my old fingers time goes fast — Eufemia Griffo * ex-pats dilemma — how many cheek kisses this time? — Anna Maria Domburg * expat learning to drive on the “wrong side” — Sonam Chhoki * expat life a fish left in unknown waters — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi * job appointment the expatriate locked behind second language — Adjei Agyei-Baah * Expatriate Everything has the flavor Of nostalgia — Angela Giordano * Switzerland . . . half of my heart lives beyond the Alps — Elisa Allo * young ex-pat . . . feelings and smiles on skype tonight giovane ex-pat . . . emozioni e sorrisi su skype a sera — Lucia Cardillo * apart from her cooking her accent . . . merci beaucoup — Madhuri Pillai * ex-pat uprooting himself for her — Lucia Fontana * our new expat boss gingerly takes a bite local delights — Christina Sng * foreign correspondent already on his fifth gin and third wife — Marietta McGregor * lunch debate marmite versus vegemite — Olivier Schopfer * le hameau rural before liquidation we employ them all — Lee Nash * foreign wind the bird shed old feathers to join the flock — Anthony Rabang * immigration — in hands of our workers a skilled work visa — Goran Gatalica * we envy his life amid wild tales he admits hamburger hunger — Trilla Pando * seeking one’s own kind getting away from it all for more of the same — Karen Harvey *
Next Week’s Theme: Springtime in the Office
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 4 March 2015.