Receiving a bonus or promotion is a tricky situation to deal with. Either you are the recipient, which is personally gratifying but can create the risk of arrogance in you and enmity in others; or else you are the observer of the event, which can cause jealousy and feelings of persecution and inferiority. Finding a balance through this complex emotional battlefield is no simple matter. Marion Clarke encapsulates this fraught emotional situation with a surprising and effective fourth line: “top corridor . . . / a colleague’s well-wishes / from the bottom / of her heart.” And of course those left behind are equally discomposed, as this poem, also by Clarke, illustrates: “the fixed smile / of the other contender / — limp handshake.”
My three winners this week take this as the background to their considerations. With tongue firmly in cheek, in my third place selection assesses the scale of his accomplishment:
wage bonus I go for a larger bag of chips with fish Alan Summers, England
Modesty and self-effacement may be the best means of making our promotion more palatable to others, allowing them to discover that you haven’t really moved out of their orbit.
My second place selection offers a similar sense of self-abasement: not too self-important to recognize that our activities are no grander than that of invertebrates scuttling the beds of oceans:
new office space the hermit crab checks out a larger shell Marion Clarke, Northern Ireland
It’s hard to be too envious of anyone who identifies with such company.
My top winner this week makes a similar identification (though it would seem to be identifying someone other than the self):
little snail — you climb so high birds can see you David Dayson, England
The archness of the observation is telling and yet not overblown: the poem does not detail downfall, or incipient violence, it merely suggests the circumstances for such. The poet leaves it to our imaginations to fill in the (gory?) details. It feels like a perfect revenge in its own unassuming way. But what puts it over the top for me is its (I feel intentional and) express conversation with a famous classical Japanese haiku:
Hey, snail! Slowly, slowly climb Mt. Fuji [Issa, translation by Jim Kacian]
Such aspirations in a snail would be incredibly grandiose, but of course Issa is making fun of his own, and our, projections onto the snail. Scaling the heights may seem folly in itself, but our new poem suggests that, more, the poor snail is exposing itself to forces it hardly knows exist. We can even consider the poem a kindness on the part of the poet, a cautionary tale in ten words. Perfect.
my stare after my colleagues after our boss — Dejan Pavlinovic * spinning the rest of the plates — Ernesto P. Santiago * recession — the end of the year bonus a two euro scratch card — Marina Bellini * Christmas bonus grudgingly re-gifted to Uncle Sam — Terri French * odds of snow — no Christmas bonus this year — Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo * bonus in the new economy — you get to keep your job — Jennifer Hambrick * headbumping the glass ceiling tangerine dream Marietta McGregor * mea culpa the boss gives me a raise — Shloka Shankar * holiday bonus making time and a half again this Christmas — Michael Henry Lee * Christmas bonus — a little less in the red my bank account — Pasquale Asprea * first bonus in mother’s hands my promise — Billy Antonio * year-end bonus first girls night out without the kids — Christina Sng * long waiting — at last the squirrel steps up the ladder — Pravat Kumar Padhy * before Christmas my office's armchair became more comfortable — Nikolay Grankin * assistant super's bonus your own work and all of the manager's — Jan Benson * budget restraints . . . Christmas bonus hour cancelled again — Samantha Sirimanne Hyde * promoted for her brilliant business mind bottle blonde — Karen Harvey * green-eyed envy around the water cooler whose bonus? — Marilyn Appl Walker * newly appointed headmaster — can't help giving marks during briefings — Maria Laura Valente * this year again no pay raise one more crack in the ceiling — Olivier Schopfer * working overtime I celebrate my promotion — Debbi Antebi * his elevator To the top The boss’s son — Brendon Kent * at the greasy spoon he relishes his promotion — Charlotte Digregorio (Modern Haiku XXX:1, 1999) * showing off one more inch of her cleavage . . . annual bonus — Christina L. Villa
Next Week’s Theme: The Post-Holiday Season
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 30 October 2014.