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.
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!
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 6 February 2015.