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:
flickering 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.
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 who — 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 * midnight 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 stowaway — 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!
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 8 June 2015.