Our respondents took this week’s topic in two distinct directions: the first, in honor of Hallowe’en, was replete with the ghosts and goblins associated with that occasion; but the second was directed more at the (actual or faux) everyday horrors of the workplace, often embodied by the authority figure. As a result, our selections bounce around in some unexpected directions. Are they the more chilling for the seeming disconnect? Or are they in truth all of a piece?
Let’s begin with a general invocation of the spirit:
along the Thames — autumn’s shadows pass by wreathed in mist [David Dayson]
This mild poem gently hints at what is to come. The seemingly innocuous shadows are but gathering their strength:
digital ghoul knocking on profiles — trick or tweet? [Kevin Millicheap]
Are electronic gremlins to blame for security breaches and malware irruptions? If they are, they have taken pains to cover their tracks:
Search for “office ghoul”. Get “502 Bad Gateway”; ghost in the machine? [Sarah Leavesley]
When we resort to low-tech methods, the results are still the same:
office Ouija darts between “yes” and “no”, but always spells bad news [Sarah Leavesley]
And how do these gremlins manifest themselves in real terms?
The boss calls us in. We all leave pale-faced, spooked by emptied chairs. [Sarah Leavesley]
We keep on in the face of it nevertheless, stiff upper lip and all that:
the grim reaper stands in the wings smiling — at our gallows humour [David Dayson]
And some of us remain simply oblivious to the odium in the air:
night shape — its breath low and deep. Shhh! the intern asleep [Kevin Millicheap]
It’s just that time of year, we tell ourselves, but of course we know better:
All morning felt like a labyrinth without a possible way out [Karine Bernier-Lapointe]
My three top winners all conjure the uncanny, albeit in very different ways. In third place I offer this volte-face:
all of a sudden the analytical boss a laughing hyena [Ernesto Santiago]
Has a malign spirit invaded his body? Or is it simply the sugar talking? Or merely some mask, and for what purpose?
Second prize goes to this aperçu:
long dead — tobacco smoke haunts her office [David Dayson]
The dead are long with us. This neatly wrought moment of awareness captures an essence through our most primitive and exact sense, that of smell. Our eyes and ears may be fooled, but not our noses, and we know this ghost all too well.
My top prize goes to this truly sinister musing:
chilling the air — the anniversary passes of your future death [David Dayson]
Whether a prophecy or something the poet will actually attend to himself, there is a frisson to be had by considering such a moment. The malign spirit it deeply alive in this conjuring, a kind of forbidden knowledge that resists easy analysis. A perfect mull for the season. Be careful out there!
end of the shift — an apparently peaceful dusk checking behind my shoulders — Doris Pascolo * In the eyes of the night guard his day job — Roberta Beary * minute to midnight I burn incense to ward off office evil — Celestine Nudanu * graveyard shift working with the office ghost — Rachel Sutcliffe * office ghoul — it can be harmless, this gossip? — Ernesto P. Santiago * the office ghoul — the envy of gossipers wears down like acid — Alessandra Delle Fratte * tough negotiation . . . eating up my mind the cigar’s smoke — Hifsa Ashraf * day of the dead business as usual in the mail room — Michael Henry Lee * behind his hunched back they call him Lurch old photocopier — Jennnifer Hambrick * office ghoul the curious crumbs on his tie — Pat Davis * unwanted attention from the office ghoul — I take the long way home — Martha Magenta * vinegar cocktail — now she's privy to the salary schedule — Marilyn Appl Walker * in the office ghouls and werewolves occupy high positions — Rosa Maria Di Salvatore * a jackal is about the offices — the hunt begins — Angela Giordano * the chimes of the keys on his belt a reminder of the good times — Mark Gilbert * at the end of the aisle her broomstick chasing shredded files — Tricia Knoll * white as a sheet the IT guy goes beyond the pale — Michael H. Lester * vampire maid his latest paperback love night watcher — Ashoka Weerakkody * people disappear bones in the bin — Christine Eales * after sick leave pile after pile pending files ghastly — S. Radhamani * dark night my colleague’s eyes my recurring nightmare — Eufemia Griffo * cold sweat the boss’s secretary with stiletto nails — Olivier Schopfer * the night shift a gentle rustling at the keyhole — Marta Chocilowska * office ghoul . . . from time to time its droppings — Madhuri Pillai * empty cubicle — the blurred face in the company photo — Enrique Garrovillo * nobody knows pallid lavender Visigoths cover tele-sales — Ron Scully * sniggers follow till the boss’s cabin — the office ghoul — Arvinder Kaur * “Stranger Things” . . . my ghosts follow me in the office — Elisa Allo * priority turnaround — she licks the seal of a “get well” card — Gail Oare * night silence — only one office window is lit — Tomislav Maretic * boardroom portrait mean-spirited in death just as in life — Karen Conrads Wibell * Since blood-sucker Dan was hired Personnel sick days increased tenfold — Stephan Massi * cold shiver our office ghost nothing like the dark web — Lee Nash * the office ghoul hanging in the cupboard a skeleton — Mike Gallagher * The office ghoul — The wrong address on the right side of the envelope — Julia Guzmán * crescent moon a crow’s caw splitting the dark — Brendon Kent * office ghoul — my every mistake stored in memory — Ana Drobot * trolling for office sounds I catch the ghoul’s foul breath — Alegria Imperial * still with a watchful eye — the founder’s picture on office wall — Adjei Agyei-Baah *
Next Week’s Theme: The Praise of Peers
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 26 October 2015.