Deprecated: Function set_magic_quotes_runtime() is deprecated in /home/lastexit/public_html/textpattern/lib/txplib_db.php on line 14
Last Exit Magazine « Haiku Lunch




[published: September 23, 2008]

Photo by Malias

Haiku Lunch

To distract herself from her boring job, a writer posts two very different lunch invitations to Craigslist. One of them sparks a curious literary phenomenon – and possibly even good company.

I’m bored at work. I’ve just misspelled the last six Stevens I’ve plugged into the database, and now I have to redo them all. I’ve been assigned to move a 10,000-strong subscription database from Excel to FileMaker and must crosscheck all records against their archived paper sign-up sheets. With 18 data fields per record, the work is excruciatingly slow and not what I expected I would be doing at a design magazine. Sometimes I try to take a break from the monotony by making a joke to a co-worker, but every time the publisher spies me with a look that says I’m stealing money from her by not working.

My only refuge is my lunch break. I don’t know anyone working in the area, so I’m forced to eat lunch at my desk or amble through the narrow streets of Chinatown sucking on pork buns. Not exactly the fun working girl experience I was looking for in New York, but I’m set on making this change.

I’m looking for someone I can enjoy my 60 minutes of freedom with. I’ve looked to dating sites —, eHarmony — but most of them push me to look for the man of my dreams instead of searching for anyone — female or male, gay or straight — to have an interesting conversation with. If I put down that I’m looking for everyone — SF4F, SF4M SF4T — I sound like a kinky wacko with an identity crisis.

So I turn to Craigslist. Though it is most often is used for casual threesome encounters, I think it’s the venue for me. Its short application process makes Match’s character dissertation look insane. Plus, there’s a section for me: Strictly Platonic. I don’t want to come off desperate, weird or sexual, so I’m trying to sculpt an appropriate post that keeps the nutters away and attracts noontime casual browsers.

Though I’m nervous about posting to a personals section, I figure it’s anonymous, and if anything I can delete the emails and forget the project, should the responses be terrible. What have I got to lose anyway, except maybe 5 minutes of my time?

I make two drastically different posts, hoping that one will attract someone I might want to meet. And because I want to attract more than just single males, I refrain from stating my sex.

My first Craigslist posting states: “I’m 23, blonde, working downtown and looking for someone to grab a bite and have an interesting conversation with.”

Notice it gives a little personal information: my age and hair color.

My other Craiglist posting refrains from stating personal details: “Broke and bored downtown / Need some noontime nourishment / And nothing else more.”

Why a haiku? I started writing the sentence anonymously — no personal details — but it kept coming off as eager:“Hi, I’m interesting, meet me for lunch.” A haiku places some distance between me and the reader, and it makes me seem a little creative.

Three hours later,my inbox is flooding. I’ve had over 150 responses to the Blonde 23YO. As I open one, I receive three more. There are pictures of lecherous old men making their best biting sexy face, men’s underwear and under men’s underwear. And nearly all of them state, to paraphrase, “Penis Penis Penis Penis Penis.” There are so many grammatical errors, as if people are too excited by the prospect of fair hair to ruminate over the proper spelling of “sex parhtner,” “freeky,” and “suger daddie” — and all assure me that they could make my “fatnasies” come true.

Where are these guys that they can send nudie pictures and write crude comments at 3pm? How do they know I am a girl? I can’t help but loathe my young and blonde posting and mark the conversations as spam. I’ve seen too many hairy backs, legs and balls for one day. I’ll check out the haiku results tomorrow.


I’ve received a paltry 18 responses to the haiku. Apparently a sexless 17-syllable post isn’t a viral hit. I open one:

Gabe states:

to whom it may concern:

How does coffee sound
ennui surrounds me, fix it
please send your picture

A haiku?! Someone responded in a haiku?! That’s amazing! I wasn’t sure people would pickup on my post being a haiku, let only repeat one back.

I respond:

now home in park slope
send some info and a pic
perhaps we shall meet

I’m a little nervous to engage in an online conversation and am hesitant to share personal details, but I soon find out Gabe is a 35-year-old ex-dancer that lives in Union Square and teaches pilates. And he’s cute.

I check the other responses. Every single one is in the form of a haiku. With each online relationship I engage in, I find there’s something poetic about getting to know someone slowly using rapid communication methods. And there’s a thrill of the unknown, meeting someone and judging someone by their phrases instead of by their looks, age or voice. Though I eventually want to know these details, the first rapid exchanges excite me, as I slowly chisel out an opinion of them in my mind.


this overcast day
I stumble on your haiku
perhaps you have more

I respond:

The hardest thing about
writing haiku is you just
get started and then


For me, the hardest
part is getting to know you
three lines at a time

Maybe the haiku acts as an instrument to work through online shyness because I soon find myself falling for these gentle 5/7/5 words. After twenty or so haiku exchanges, we take it to the next level: prose. I find out Elisha is a 28 year-old architect who had a Schnauzer named butterfly as a child.

I lose interest in some haikus and cannot reason how I can continue fighting my daytime boredom with something that is going nowhere.

Chase writes:

All is not lost, friend
I seek your intelligence
Replenish my mind

Though he tells me he’s 32, lives in Staten Island and writes poetry, he says his genre is “spiritual romance,” and he mostly discusses how to massage one’s chi. I keep talking to Gabe instead.

And when I’m sick of engaging in polite conversations, and can’t think about the sweet invitations to share a cup of coffee, I relish the other type of haiku my post has generated: the haiku wars. Some people, fed-up with their 3pm rut, expound their disapproval off my proposal and lash back in the form of haiku. I, of course, give them the same consideration in return.

JR23 states:

some days little girls
must learn to work instead of
bothering the men

Richard states:

you are pathetic
looking for free handouts here
go get a job bitch

thank you

I retort:

Stop wasting your time
I just ate some free fois gras.
What is it to you?


Who appointed you
Keeper of propriety
For the viral world.

I keep responding in haikus, but as with most people I meet, eventually the conversations trail off. I find myself responding with less frequency and hear back from people even less as the novelty wears off. Eventually, most of them will fall back into the blankness of obscurity without even a face to jog my memory. I still have many thousand data entries to work on, and with my weeks of emailing, I know my pace has suffered. Still, I’m planning on going on a quick lunch date with Gabe and have forged a tight friendship with Elisha. Though I didn’t get the plethora of interesting lunch dates I was seeking, I had some luck, and in New York, the fact that I want to hang out with 2 out of 18 strangers, is quite a social feat.

Copyright Last Exit 2008

Reader Comments