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Haiku in the Workplace: Work Travel

The pain of business travel was evident in your many excellent responses to this week’s challenge. For some it arose from disorientation most manifest in the sameness of place:

Conference room
	[Evan D. Flaschen]

For others from the sense of separation from others:

Together we are
Yet collectively alone
On the Central Line
	[Frederik van der Zeeuw]

And for yet others from some telling detail that most suggested they were far from home:

my coat sleeve
swaying from the luggage hold
drowsy moon
	[Paul Chambers]

Some were even able to find a bit of wry humor in their circumstance:

airport meeting—
the growing tension
of compression socks
	[Lew Watts]

Such humor nicely counterbalances any possibility of taking the work too seriously. My third selection also deflates any sense of self-importance:

airport arrivals—
my misspelt name
among balloons
	[Lew Watts]

This is not merely humor, however. There is an ache of homesickness in recognizing that the public gaiety and not-quite-professional hospitality of the meet-and-greet is just a facade, a means of making you feel as though you are welcome, when in fact you are just another client, just another payday.

My second choice is nimbly self-reflexive, and opens a host of questions:

aloft he dreams
he no longer dreams
of flying
	[Andy Coleman]

It’s impossible to tell how the author feels about this situation, but the matter is really intended to redound upon the reader. We know the author is flying, so he is not yet to the point where the dream has taken him. But the reader can inhabit both the “real” situation and the “dream” situation simultaneously. Is there sadness there due to the loss of ambition? Relief? Dread? The poem allows the reader to fill in the blanks with her own affect, personalizing it. A very great achievement in nine words.

Finally, travel can sometimes make us aware of what we most value, as in my top selection:

slow descent—
this sudden urge to share
life stories
	[Lew Watts]

We know the statistics, we know flying is safe, and yet we also know that the many tons of steel that now encase us is currently falling to the earth. Our certainty of mortality lies in direct proportion to the protraction of the descent. What might have been for us an insular flight becomes, at the last moment, an opportunity to find, even among strangers, a common humanity. This assertion of what matters most to us is triggered by a moment’s anxiety, suggesting such things lie much nearer to the surface than we normally allow, and perfectly caught in this small gem.

New Poems

at night to work 
a fruit bat
     — Ernesto P. Santiago
take off
I watch the office block  
     — Rachel Sutcliffe
a kiss to the son —
every morning by train
between strangers
     — Angela Giordano
fear of flying —
the travel agent
dreams of palms
     — Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo
first business trip
documents not lunch
in my briefcase
     — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
home at last —
my long-legged travel companion
goes unmentioned . . .
     — Maria Laura Valenta
calculating mileage
the distance
between us
     — Jennifer Hambrick
jell-o shots
the closing session
i can’t remember
     — Sandi Pray
airport shuttle
a heel or two
eases out of loafers
     — Lamart Cooper
the merry-go-round
of out-of-town talks . . .
a different hotel's ballpoint
     — Marietta McGregor
base to base
    helicopter flight
with open door
     — Paul Geiger
dad abroad —
my postcard collection
     — Angiola Inglese
all-conference reception
  a tiny lizard
                   darts and hides
     — Timothy J. Dickey
having missed my train
someone will pay
for another beer
     — Mark Gilbert
who knows —
why a “zero” discount 
on my ticket
     — Maria Teresa Sisti
driver’s chatter
  of fines and Moulin Rouge —
the moon rises
     — Margherita Petriccione
work travel
hand baggage lighter
by weight
     — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi Sambang
Cold in hotel —
the teddy bear little son 
in your briefcase
     — Nazarena Rampini
striding the airport 
wearing a fit bit 
Odysseus 2.0
     — Jan Benson
another trip —
I blow out the candles 
all alone
     — Elisa Allo
work travel
a love note
before leaving
     — Eufemia Griffo
work travel
in the hotel mini-fridge
guilty pleasures
     — Debbi Antebi
flight delayed
business meeting on skype
at airport lounge
     — Neha R. Krishna
hotel room
to keep me company
a chocolate on my pillow
     — Olivier Schopfer
best vacation
in years
Helsinki work trip
     — Christina Sng
door to door
peddling the existence
of God
     — Michael Henry Lee
night flight
another city another conference
how I miss my dog
     — Madhuri Pillai
morning haze
over Los Angeles
departing planes
     — Deborah P Kolodji
back from work
spring frogs
in counterpoint
     — Lucia Fontana
conference in Las Vegas
she knits yet another 
pair of baby shoes
     — Marina Bellini
landed New Delhi
luggage on to Shanghai
new sari
     — Trilla Pando
the best of beers
and falling in love . . .
expenses paid
     — Michael Stinson
morning commute
he reads Getting Published
I dream out the window
     — Sonam Chhoki
car crash —
a body extracted
from the hearse
     — Antonio Mangiameli
travels light
pen and pencil in pocket
poet at work
     — Karen Harvey
A two star hotel 
my boss
     — Pasquale Asprea
Panamanian heat
my workshop begins
with reggae-ton
     — Terry Ann Carter

Next Week’s Theme: The Answering Machine

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 13 November 2014.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Hi Jim,

    Four offers, hope it works this time!

    punching playback
    a fifth time
    mumbled number


    always there
    for my convenience
    your tinny voice


    missing the point
    music louder
    than the message


    after the tone…
    deciding against

    1. Whoops! Wrong method of submitting. Sorry, sorry! I blame a brain outage from our 43 degrees Celsius temperature today!

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