It’s not the commute that bothers us. That same track, under circumstances of excursion or dalliance, would bring us anticipation and joy. It’s the energy- and time-sapping black hole of the workday that awaits us that give the commute its particular tenor. And, being human, we have our ways of projecting this onto everything else.
But the commute does give us time to consider our situation, as here:
Please mind the gap between what you expected and what you’ve got — William Stelle
And it does give us time (if we’re not driving, and sometimes even if we are) to look around us to see how our fellow humans are coping, as here:
station crowds: the netball player threading her way — David Jacobs
Nevertheless, it is the sameness that is the most telling, and most depressing, thing we associate with the commute:
from the morning mist the train lumbers into view same as yesterday — William Mist
This deadening of the soul that nearly all of you attribute to your commute has little to recommend it, but a few of you did manage to find a bit of compensation. My third choice was able to find (admittedly slight) humor in his or her situation:
Motorway to work I curse while contemplating the road less travelled — Evan Flaschen, England
At least the poet was able to recognize that s/he was at least one of the agents in his/her own sorry predicament, that there were other options, and that had s/he chosen another of them, s/he might now actually be moving at speed instead of bumper to bumper on the M1. And is that an allusion to Robert Frost, or just common cultural property?
The author of my second choice perhaps has dalliance on his or her mind:
Grey sky, autumn drizzle Grey cars on grey pavement — A blue-eyed passerby — Bradley Byington, England
Blue isn’t the greatest contrast to grey—in fact, it might be barely distinguishable—but in the context it comes as a shock. At the very least there is something there to arrest the eye. And a passerby—someone going, presumably, in the other direction. What does she know that I don’t? And I want to find out.
Still, these are private compensations. My top winner manages a magnanimous and communal “we”:
Monday morning we share each other’s rain — Lynne Rees, England
This could be read as a grouse, as nothing more than a cheeky way of saying “Monday morning — and it’s raining too.” But the words contain more: the poet chooses not to be isolated in that rain, but to share it, and when we all share it, it is no longer the elements against us, but rather the elements uniting us in a common lot and a common fate. What a wonderful thing to find in the rain of a Monday morning!
But enough of that — get to work . . .
on a bus the calming effect of pine trees — Ernesto P. Santiago * CLUNK CLUNK LUCKily I always wake up on the same stretch — Mark Gilbert * rush hour traffic coming to a halt; winter sunset — Johnny Baranski * 4 AM nodding off during my commute into the city — Devin Harrison * daily train ride — every time the sky a bit different — Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo * commuter train . . . the clickety-clack of foreign tongues — Charlotte Digregorio, (Modern Haiku 39.2, 2008) * afternoon rush poplar seeds drifting through exhaust fumes — Polona Oblak * morning commute a leaf takes a ride on the wipers — Rachel Sutcliffe * the drive to work crows circling overhead — Jennifer Hambrick * carpooling his aftershave rubs off on me — Shloka Shankar * dreaming I missed my bus stop I missed my bus stop — Christina Sng * farm life the morning commute to breakfast — Michael Henry Lee * in the distance a shimmering line of buses stuck in place . . . — Amy Losak * to and fro on the same bridge a new starry sky — Lucia Fontana * river crossing best part of my morning commute sometimes my day — Jere Kittle * platform five some brief greeting some yawns — Margherita Petriccione * morning darkness at the bus stop - snow twinkling — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams (Stardust Haiku 1) * rush out of work even my shadow is a suit — Tom Sacramona * night shift . . . on the car bonnet a thud of a kangaroo — Samantha Sirimanne * 7 am train — a man in a suit falls asleep on my shoulder — Marina Bellini * morning train the familiar faces of people whose lives I know nothing of — Olivier Schopfer * sunrise almost obscured along my path — Timothy J. Dickey * sitting — before and after work haiku and sudoku — Angiola Inglese * rear-view mirror a brief hurried look at the past — Neha R. Krishna * train commuter . . . outside a dirty window enchanting dawns — Maria Laura Valente * on the commuter working to catch-up crossword — Paul Geiger * #38 bus to town a roach escapes her straw purse — Jan Benson * crowdedtrainnothingtoholdonto — Lori Zajkowski * virtual commute to the website supermarket whiteout — martin gottlieb cohen * on the same track the same train — never on time — Maria Teresa Sisti * sunny morning in a crowded train a ladybug — Nikolay Grankin * outbound train social networking by shoulder — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi * briefcase: a heavier book every morning — Elisa Allo * evening commuters an arm stretches out for alms — Madhuri Pillai (A Hundred Gourds) * daily run on the train window I write your name — Eufemia Griffo * automatic home to work to home transmission — Michael Stinson * evening commute I salvage the remains of the day — Debbi Antebi * daily commute — my wife’s adapted office full of souvenirs — Goran Gatalica * the 405 commute the beachboy steers with his knees juggling — Marilyn Appl Walker * driving into dawn egrets fly between my lesson plans — Sandi Pray * from here to there I lose my train of thought late again — Peggy Bilbro * 5 am commute . . . wave at the stone dinosaur one of my landmarks — kris kondo * Keys coffee at the door hour trip’s roughest part walk to car — Trilla Pando * line of cars at the drive-through coffee shack muffin tops — Deborah P Kolodji * from the bedroom to my office in PJs working from home — Karen Harvey * a sea of faces waving through portholes . . . school bus — Brendon Kent * local train — my gaze at her every morning — Pasquale Asprea * one-way ticket no road leading back to being young again — Christine L. Villa * copper coins to pay the ferryman last commute — Marietta McGregor *
And I hope you don’t mind if I add my own small daily commute here.
Next Week’s Theme: Workplace Accidents
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.