The poems submitted this week find their common reference in the time taken away from work to celebrate the arrival of a new member of the family. The time-frame for these poems is generally within a few weeks after the event, when some of the elation is wearing off, and the challenges of the new situation are becoming manifest. Some poets clung, as you might expect, to that elation:
no one can praise the new baby’s photos — enough [David Dayson]
And some embraced the new reality:
Nappies hang drying I’m looking forward to work And a longed-for rest! [Greg Skeen]
Most, however, were prompted by the eventual return to the workplace, where things were the same:
the desk and boss as you left them: wooden-toned [Sarah Leavesley]
Or else were different:
more headaches than at home, and without the painkillers [Sarah Leavesley]
But no matter the stimulus, it was the poets themselves, rather than the work to which they were returning, that had changed. My third choice this week neatly captures this newly-divided mind.
return to work — for the new parent teething problems [David Dayson]
The poet conflates the issues of the office or workplace with those at home, in the language of the latter, in this case through an aptly chosen metaphor of a minor matter that causes oversized responses at the time. Teething is painful, and often quite loud, but it is transient and ultimately insignificant, just a phase we have to work through. Returning to work after time away might well have the same rawness to it, but we usually know we will get through it. My second choice comes from a poet just emerging from the euphoric haze of the happy event, and coming to realize what the passing of time outside the work routine has meant:
five days without sleep; your inbox now the mother of all nightmares [Sarah Leavesley]
Couching this in terms of nightmare — an element from which even parents cannot protect their children, or even themselves — nicely collates the two worlds of the poet, which is further embellished with the felicitous choice of idiom. While we have been away, tending to the new situation, work has gone on, we have been outside the loop, and now it returns with a cumulative power. We might well have wondered, in this interlude, about our own status: have we been missed? Have we become expendable? Such fears are what drive my top choice this week:
still in demand — breasts ache with yearning for her baby [David Dayson]
As with the other selections, the crossover from the home environment to the workplace is handled deftly. The assurance that we are needed is fulfilling, but there is an ambiguity to this poem that fills it with tension. Whence does this demand issue? Is it from the workplace? From the baby? If the former, then the physical tug on a mother’s body against the regimen of work is disorienting, running counter to what must seem now to be of prime importance. If the latter, is the mother simply rationalizing the fact that work is simply no longer central to her life? It can be no simple matter to order these conflicting demands on our attention and sense of value, with no simple means of resolving them, either. The poet, by identifying her fraught circumstances, has brought that yearning to all of us as well.
maternity leave — my new bossy boss is so cute! — Maria Laura Valente * paternity leave . . . in the hands of other staff an esteemed career — Ernesto P. Santiago * new job on call for the next 18 years — Rachel Sutcliffe * blooming womb — a young mother reveals the breast — Doris Pascolo * interviewing the maternity cover after work — Mark Gilbert * paternity leave the boss appears on “Maury” — Johnny Baranski * six weeks off . . . at first it sounded like a holiday — Marietta McGregor * newborn son cherished by his father work can wait — Kristjaan Panneman * extended leave a yuppy finds a name in the baby ads — Willie Bongcaron * with only moments to spare maternity leave — Michael Henry Lee * paternity leave he downloads the labor and delivery app — Sonam Chhoki * maternity leave — her organizer fills with feed times — Andy McLellan * still birth . . . the maternity leave she wished she had taken — Celestine Nudanu * paternity leave my gaze for the known in a bar — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi * coloring o u t si de the li n e s new daddy — Roberta Beary * expecting a co-worker — a lunch-time baby shower — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams * night shift — a lullaby to his son on her cell phone — Angela Giordano * paternity leave the father-to-be has sympathy pregnancy — Angelee Deodhar * maternity leave sharp learning curve on a new job — Christina Sng * wisely arriving on a holiday, our baby must know my boss — Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy * maternity leave true labor begins — Olivier Schopfer * paternity leave lessons from the nurse how not to hold the baby — Madhuri Pillai * Spring Market . . . a dad wrapped in a baby sling — Elisa Allo * maternity leave — her old workflow washes her colleagues away — Jennifer Hambrick * maternity leave — self-employed wife still breastfeeding — Goran Gatalica * first week back fatherhood backs his voice — Ron Scully * Maternity between feeds and diapers office on the line In maternità Tra poppate e cambi l’ufficio chiama — Lucia Cardillo * emotionally detached from work caressing her tummy — Anthony Rabang * lullaby . . . crooning words of love before the lunch break — Eufemia Griffo * paternity leave our son arrives on my day off — Michael Stinson * the last chocolates on her first day of leave pink spring clouds — Adrian Bouter * returning manager humming lullabies . . . paternity leave — Karen Harvey * small company boss wears many hats minding a new baby — Paul Geiger * midnight feedings day tv, afternoon naps dreams of back at work — Trilla Pando * maternity leave the never-ending job with sons — Lucia Fontana *
Next Week’s Theme: The Ex-Pat
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 27 February 2015.