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Haiku in the Workplace: The Vocation

Most of us are happier with a task. Doing something, especially something useful or creative, is nearly always better than not, until it ceases to be, and then if we can afford it we retire or try something else. Even better is when that something coincides with our own sweet spot, when we would do what we’re doing for nothing, because it’s what we’re called to do. If you’re lucky enough to be one of those who have arrived at such a place, congratulations. If not, perhaps you can write about it . . .

As usual, a great number of your submissions took the form of descriptions of the topic, which can make for pithy encomiums but do not often rise to poetry. Some, like this one, acknowledge the challenge taken up by those in what seem to others to be thankless jobs:

elderly care
most noble vocation —
day in day in
	[David Dayson]

This effort, while highly appreciative, could have been made a better poem if is had striven for a more natural diction. Still, the useful turn of the clichéd phrase in the third line places it on this list.

Several others suffered from this same “tarzan-speak,” presumably to accommodate the syllable count. Here is one of the better attempts:

C.F.O. orders
all figures into rows, counts 
spreadsheets in his sleep
	[Sarah Leavesley]

My third selection this week features a natural image, which was rare for this topic:

out of yearning —
a blackbird rediscovers
his calling
	[David Dayson]

The pun in this case seems to work, or at least does not exist simply for its own sake.

In second place we enter the realm of human need:

a zealot’s mission
to show us the error —
of his ways
	[David Dayson]

A televangelist, perhaps, or at least a recovered apostate who now believes his mission is to save others from what he learned through direct experience. But surely that’s the only way we really learn anything, so such a ministry is really just a form of entertainment.

My top choice is the obverse:

shared vocation —
priest and psychiatrist
suspend judgement
	[David Dayson]

Here the poet depicts a belief in the efficacy of one’s mission regardless of audience. The observation of the similarity of roles of priest and psychiatrist is hardly new, but to yoke them in the name of vocation — or, as we framed it at the outset, something we would do for nothing because we’re called to do it — deepens our understanding of the motivations at work. And given that such figures are our culture’s “sin-eaters,” that they are exposed to the range of human foible without recourse to “talking it out” themselves, makes their shared vocation as noble it is necessary.

New Poems

precarious ad vitam —
how strong
is my vocation?
     — Maria Laura Valente

          *

donated to the poor
the job
her parents wanted
     — Andy McLellan

          *

I am what I am 
eight to twelve hours 
of being single
     — Ernesto P. Santiago

          *

retirement 
finally he finds 
his true vocation
     — Rachel Sutcliffe

          *

Vocational Rehab
a life’s work spills from
two cardboard boxes 
     — Michael Henry Lee

          *

“And keep your nose clean”
he told me
wiping his nose.
     — Mark Gilbert

          *

PhD
in international relations 
still lives with mom
     — Paul Geiger

          *

Red Cross nurse
scrambles amidst the rubble
shaky dextrose
     — Willie Bongcaron

          *

mother dying . . .
a priest blesses
the hospice team
     — Roberta Beary

          *

100 kilos of rice
balanced above his grin
I work in Mumbai!
     — Richard Goldberg

          *

crocerossine —
on the front of the war
by vocation
     — Angela Giordano

          *

the vocation
of his dreams . . .
sleeping in
     — Michael Stinson

          *

traipsing from 
one interview to another 
my vocation
     — Devin Harrison

          *

winter sun —
between telling fortunes
the healer picks lice
     — Sonam Chhoki (Presence 45, 2011)

          *

vocation
lost patients 
show me the way

vocazione
pazienti sperduti
mi indicano la via
     — Lucia Fontana

          *

missed elevator
i answer 
another call
     — Jennifer Hambrick

          *

who I am
after motherhood
crickets
     — Christina Sng

          *

airplane pilot
dreaming of flying
as a child
     — Eufemia Griffo

          *

retired . . .
the barber finally exposes
his paintings
     — Elisa Allo

          *

gold-digger
she stopped smoking
Camel though . . .
     — Adrian Bouter

          *

still elusive
her byline 
on the front page
     — Madhuri Pillai

          *

middlescence
the new vocation
and the divorce
     — Lee Nash

          *

circus chimp
dressed in a suit . . .
do you still long for the forest?
     — Olivier Schopfer

          *

after hours
in the silence I hear
my calling
     — Debbi Antebi

          *

vocation —
worker by day
jazz musician by night

vocazione —
di giorno operaio
di notte musicista jazz
     — Lucia Cardillo

          *

potter’s wheel
the clock on his wall
stops clicking
     — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi

          *

seeking employment
    vocational advisor . . .
needs a new challenge
     — Karen Harvey

          *

on the bank a brood-hen
watches the ducklings’ swim —
vocation of mother
     — Vasile Moldovan

          *


Next Week’s Theme: Auto-Correct (or Spelchek)

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 6 February 2015.

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