I’m listening to Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians” as I write this up, sipping a barolo (haiku, I find, pair nicely with something with body and opinion), smelling the bread I have baking for dinner, watching the cardinals and chickadees fight at the neighbor’s bird feeder.
a hamster running on many wheels at one time remains at the start [Alexa Mahnken]
Ah, Grasshopper, thank you for your counsel. I would like to see the hamster that could run on many wheels at the same time, but I take the point. If only there might be some solution:
Hindu Gods with so many arms — if only [David Dayson]
Perhaps this is what it means to be divine — or cursed. On the other hand (sorry), be grateful I am not this person:
text phone steering wheel poetry takes a back seat while I am driving [Alexa Mahnken]
You might well ask what part of this poem I am not: the code violator of the first line, or the poetry denier of the second, to which I can only suggest, yes.
We can’t help it — there’s so much to do. Those who study such things suggest that our attention spans have shrunk to a mere 8 seconds, but while this is alarming, it measures only one direction: we are so much broader than we once were, and can juggle so effortlessly our many balls and knives — until, of course, we can’t.
Before we get to the top prizes, I wish to point out two additional poems, the first for the shamelessness of a poet who cannot restrain himself (it had to be a male) from such a horrific groaner as
the ultimate home multi-tasker — swiss army wife [David Dayson]
And yes, I suppose I am enabling him by giving him the attention he so desperately craves.
And this second for a completely different reason:
deadline looming I try not to mention the ‘m’ word [Marion Clarke]
I recognize that this is a themed challenge, and that “multitask” appears in the header this week, but such a poem as this invites many sorts of departures. I tried to imagine this poem outside of the confines of this column, and, while it is ultimately unsatisfying because the poet is not doing quite enough of the work, it does succeed in creating a kind of mental space where we can go to surprise others and ourselves, and that is not a bad thing to do from time to time, no matter the occasion.
This week’s third prize goes to this neat metaphor:
blended roles of a multi-tasker — such smoothies [David Dayson]
The throw-away of the final line reflects both the multitasker and her products, and is a casual compliment, which is perhaps the best kind.
Second place goes to the seemingly unabashed perpetrator of this little mishap:
file deleted I annoy two bosses at once [Marion Clarke]
The fun of this is, of course, that we know that the topic is multitasking, and we expect that the accidental deleting will be the result of doing such, and that the poem is therefore a short morality tale. But no, the multitasking is actually at one remove, is both neatly noted and succinctly stated, and is acknowledged in such a light tone that it would be hard to take the deleter to task. An excellent job security strategy.
This week’s top prize goes to this rueful self-realization:
multi-tasked multiple outcomes — only one income [David Dayson]
We take the content point, of course, but notice the felicity of language here — how the ms stack up at the beginning, and with but a single one in the last line we feel a loss, quite in keeping with the tone and subject matter. And again, how the multiply-voiced os gather momentum toward the end, and how this round and various sound also catches a sense of the content. So not only was this poet writing his reality, he was listening to it as well.
And now, if you’ll pardon me, I need to get back to that barolo — some things deserve our full attention.
smoking a cigar while updating reports on the toilet — Ernesto P. Santigao * the pc is hooked up to the xerox machine too . . . my private domain — Willie Bongcaron * mulling over her words while making a cup of tea — enough tasks for now — Mark Gilbert * the librarian with the purple birthmark rare book room — Garry Eaton * multitasking wind and rain — Rachel Sutcliffe * no time to waste . . . even on the commode he writes haiku — Michael H. Lester * taxi for sale pay as you earn push start — Ashoka Weerakkody * correcting assignments — I tell the homeless student how to find free food — Carmen Sterba * Taking care While having a conversation I wash an elder — Kristjaan Panneman * the CEO juggling up to five women at a time — Michael Henry Lee * stonehenge equinox praises of the sales manager amidst a circle of cell phones — Gail Oare * chatting on line — I answer the phone grinding the walnuts — Angela Giordano * between updates confirming the monks for ancestral offering — Sonam Chhoki * his break failure hitting tree while in car multitasking — S. Radhamani * multitasked — the boss calls his assistant a napoleon — Marta Chocilowska * day moon whirling around doing this and that and that and — Jennifer Hambrick * a cat has nine lives so do I in my new role — Celestine Nudanu * multitasking a gust of wind scatters my papers — Olivier Schopfer * I’m talking fast — so multitasking may be hard for you — Rosa Maria Di Salvatore * multitasking i do catharsis in my dreams — Hifsa Ashraf * i m u l t i m u l t i tasking a s k i n g — Agnes Eva Savich * mind and body engaged in a single task fairy-tale wedding — Karen Wibell * oncologist’s receptionist while she multitasks I wait — Madhuri Pillai * failure to communicate left hand to right hand coffee-stained report — Peggy Bilbro * starbucks . . . I leave multitasking to the vending machine — Martha Magenta * flow in Word my lunch is starting the fire detectors — delete — Kerstin Park * conference call — counting a colleague’s facebook likes — Roberta Beary * splitting up hours . . . below his desk some ants around breadcrumbs — Adrian Bouter * multitasking no problem I am a robo t — Christine Eales * unforgettable e-mails I’m answering to forgotten lentils on fire — Lucia Fontana * an angry chef cooking up a storm — Mike Gallagher * downsizing everything but output . . . triage — Pat Davis * multitasking — stirring my coffee with my pen — Billy Antonio * heated discussion — the boss squats a fly in the meeting — Arvinder Kaur * job well done? more assigned work . . . unchanged salary lavoro ben fatto? più lavoro assegnato . . . stesso stipendio — Lucia Cardillo * cooking and lulling phoning and breastfeeding who challenges a mom? — Elisa Allo * Juggling Monday’s Trucking dispatch loads Up in the air — Stephan Massi * leaves of many trees heaped in a pile the end of my day — Timothy J. Dickey * ball juggling dialing a call while one on hold — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi * hardware store . . . the receptionist files her nails — Brendon Kent * order entry she simultaneously bobs to ear buds — Ron Scully * back at work the new mom on break pumping breastmilk — Marilyn Walker * multitasking seminar — I learn what I did as a mother — Lee Nash * training the brain to multitask . . . I go off without shoes — Tomislav Maretic * half of a brain fully engaged multitasking guru — Marietta McGregor * jack of all trade my cup overflowing with sweat — Adjei Agyei-Baah * in a bean bag reshuffling my tasks with a scarab — Alegria Imperial * multitasking — driving a new car and new business — Ana Drobot * of course I can multitask I said crash and burn — Karen Harvey * Summer time . . . The sweat of the secretary on the torn letters — Julia Guzmán *
Next Week’s Theme: In the Stationery Cupboard
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 23 November 2015.