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Haiku in the Workplace: Working Late

Have we created our own cachet? Spawned our own celebrities? It seems unlikely that our little haiku exercise should have an outsized effect on your lives, but consider this:

A haiku? Again?
Dayson and Leavesley gone home?
At last a haiku!
	[David Pilling]

Our poet has measured the competition, and apparently is willing to put in the long hours required to reach the top. Long hours are not unfamiliar to all our participants this week, nor are the potential consequences:

working late —
the sun sets on
their marriage
	[David Dayson]
spring sorrow —
to find a whole day
lost at work
	[David Dayson]
the alarm sounds loud
I was meant to be there
Oh I still am
	[David Pilling]

All of these poems feature loss as the primary consequence of working late: loss of relationship, of time, even of our sense of place in space. So why do we do it? Of course, for some of us, simply because something needs to get done, and we are the ones to do it.

with the stroke
of midnight a project —
is put to bed
	[David Dayson]

But there is more to it than that. Some of us like the emotion that accompanies such effort, a sense of meeting a challenge, beating a deadline, being the one others can count on in a pinch. There is a kind of quiet heroism to such behavior, even if from outside it appears more compulsive (or even the consequence of poor planning) than brave.

My three top selections are so close in terms of quality and achievement that I offer them as a group, so they may all claim to be best of the week. The first comes with the onset of the evening:

9pm at work:
I drink in the sky’s rosé,
then strong black coffee
	[Sarah Leavesly]

The neat segue from figurative to literal drinking, and the sharp contrast between colors and effects, make for an attractive moment, captured in strong, direct images and language.

The second rears up midway through our ordeal:

into the small hours
my nervous tic
	[Alan Summers]

This tic is endearing in its way, as it summons the frailty of the species even as it registers a greater than normal effort. The poet uses the haiku form skillfully, leaving the subject of the poem ambiguous. Is it light (the most expected referent) that is flickering, or else the poet’s will or energy or desire, or even the tic itself? The poem doesn’t insist on any particular reading.

Concluding our trilogy at the end of the quest, we have this:

an all-nighter —
the day begins and ends
with sunrise
	[David Dayson]

The poet has completed the challenge (though we can’t be sure he has also completed the project), and a new day begins, which is marked by a homely truth. But is it? In fact the day has begun long before, according to clock time. But the demands of the ordeal have stripped away from the poet any hindrance to his intuition. The day does begin with the sunrise, regardless of what clocks and conventions say, and the poet affirms it: not “my” but “the” day begins and ends here. It is an old wisdom, from before the days of clocks and offices, when an all-nighter would have been the night’s watch, and failure might have meant a great deal more than whether or not a deadline was met.

Congratulations to all our poets for the extra hours they have put in to bring haiku into their lives. And if that means a certain notoriety for some, well, that’s just another price they’ll have to pay.

New Poems

working late
with the boss
the moon winks at me
     — Celestine Nudanu
graveyard shift —
ghosts of bosses past
haunt me
     — Angelee Deodhar
wide awake
working late hours
this bullfrog
     — Ernesto P. Santiago
working late
the wife emails her
divorce request
     — Michael Henry Lee
working late
another sun rises into
the sunset
     — Rachel Sutcliffe
working late —
step by step
I draw my path
     — Doris Pascolo
cancellation text
reservations abolished 
working late . . . OMG
     — Katherine Stella
late in the office
the customer is viewing
the city skyline
     — Marta Chocilowska
working late
the cat 
at the taco shack
     — Danny Blackwell
work dinner
behind blue shutters
a child waits
     — Roberta Beary
working late
spectacles woke me up
on the same table
     — S. Radhamani
so many stars —
a yellow lamp
on my desk
     — Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo
office lights
at midnight the owl asks
     — Gail Oare
crescent moon . . .
the night owl’s shadow
sharper than mine
     — Brendon Kent
overtime duty
i say “sleep now” to my kids
over the phone
     — Willie Bongcaron
working late again
the supper her kids
leave her
     — Pat Davis
night workers . . .
their eyes meet
in the fog
     — Eufemia Griffo
unloading . . .
the passage of time 
after six
     — Angelo Ancheta
working late
because I want to
solitary bee
     — Mark Gilbert
neighborhood rumor —
the sugar mummy who drops me
every night
     — Adjei Agyei-Baah
“pavor nocturnus”
mom works late
and beyond
     — Elisa Allo
late shift
I test
the office echo
     — Lee Nash
a nod from the guard
last passenger snaps
shut her briefcase
     — Marietta McGregor
working late . . .
a cup of coffee
by the cleaning lady
    —  Madhuri Pillai
full moon
an overnight nurse
says a prayer
     — Tiffany Shaw-Diaz
the shining LCD
makes jack a dull boy
     — Jennifer Hambrick
Time to close
a furious customer
speaks to a colleague
     — Benjamin Opoku Aryeh
outside my office window
the constellation of
traffic lights
     — Jessica Malone Latham
deadline day dinner
perusing the menu
on the snack machine
     — Andy McLellan
Crisis time
Even the extraordinary one
Is a source of income
Tempo di crisi
Anche lo straordinario
è fonte di reddito
     — Angela Giordano
working late
husband in the kitchen
with my apron
“Resto in ufficio!”
Mio marito in cucina
col mio grembiule
     — Lucia Cardillo
office overtime
first one to fall asleep
the coffeemaker
     — Anthony Rabang
last train home
my reflection
     — Olivier Schopfer (Modern Haiku 47.1)
working late
in the lite of my fridge
everything  is brighter
     — Laughing Waters
2 am wake-up call —
my computer programs
have crashed
     — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
outside my office
even the birds stop singing
at sundown
     — Timothy J. Dickey
working late tonight —
cold shadows
at the window
     — Maria Teresa Sisti
foggy night ride
the lights are visible
across the cemetery
    — Carmen Sterba
working late
my boss keeps me
in the dark
     — Cezar Ciobika
End of a project —
my husband in the coach
starting snoaring
     — Monica Federico

Next Week’s Theme: A Job Well Done

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 8 June 2015.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Domenica mattina-
    il tintinnio dei pezzi
    nel forno aperto

    Sunday morning-
    the sounding pottery
    through the oven door

  2. job well done party –
    the blindfolded boss strikes
    a piñata again
    annual bonus for a good job done terrarium kits for all
    reward for all
    the new boss orders in
    a vegan take-out

Comments are closed.

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