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ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ECHOES



ECHOES

All is disposable,/ except for that which/ persists. The echo/ unhinged from/ the sound that/ threw it. ---Hannah Stephenson, “Aftermath”, The Storialist, 11-28-11



1. 

How far will an echo go
before it peters out to
leave its source’s halloo
sounding thin and hollow? 

How long will this echo
last in hallways that throw
peels of joy that follow
a escape from deep sorrow? 

Is it a will-o-the-wisp, too,
much like the brief flow
of warm breeze over snow
that won’t melt nor thaw? 

Everything here must go.
All is disposable. But echo
that ripples here through
time is an eternity or so. 

Am I not after all a shadow
of that maker of a rainbow,
who sent a dove not a crow
to fly from that ship’s bow? 

Am I not truly God’s echo? 

2.   

Echoes shape corridors lean
leaving them a cipher’s silence
not unlike the axiom of a day: 

All things go up to fall the way
fractured birdwings fall, violence
met in the loins of wind. 

Lean corridors shape echoes,
silence ciphering them, leaving
a day axiomed as not what is unlike  

the way the fall of things strike:
violence on the fractured birdwing,
winds loyned with zodiaqual zeroes.* 

 3.  

O THAT A FALL MUST GO
GO MUST A FALL THAT O
THE WAY A COMET’S TAIL
TAIL A COMET’S WAY...



---Albert B. Casuga
11-30-11



*Loyned – being the sound of echoed “loined”; zodiaqual, is “zodiacal” (from arcane to new).

Monday, November 28, 2011

HER SMILE




HER SMILE


(For Marie Clementine)



To mean anything,/ a container must store/ a visible substance./ We destroy them, melt them/ all together, make them/ into new versions/ of what they were already,/ fill them again./ Bottomless refills...From “Bottomless” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 11-21-11



Hija mia, donde esta su sonrisa bella?
Where is your lovely smile, my child? 

As if on cue, a pair of glistening eyes
brighten her quick grin flashed on a
fistful of face now suddenly larger
than the gaping windows around her. 

Barely dry from the ripples of a womb,
how could this infant speak a world
of adoring mime, a soundlessly gentle
smile that might as well be the sunrise? 

Is this the hidden world of a refilled
vessel, a venerable ghost in a new cup
of meaning come back to remind us
whence we come, a happy other place? 

There and here are a plenitude of grace,
where nothing is destroyed, where old
is new and a tandem of the eternal,
sprung from a gyre’s ever spinning cycle. 

A lover’s smile perhaps from a past
that is always present; a stored glass
brimming with what it already held?
Is this, therefore, a bottomless refill? 

Like a roadside cafe’s vending, does this
offer our parched lips with moistened
remembrances of ever tender kisses
that we slept by, warm and gentle still? 

De donde esta su sonrisa bella, hija?
Whence come your lovely smile, my girl?


---Albert B. Casuga
11-28-11


Sunday, November 27, 2011

A WAITING GAME




A WAITING  GAME

This is the game/ we keep engaging in, Finding/ a Good Stopping Point by/ Seeing Clues in the Universe./ Tell me when, that’s us,/ grinding, waiting. Say when. ---Hannah Stephenson 



Looking for a good time to stop,
is to stop looking like slumping
on a fallen trunk or a trail rock
jagged and jutting out of the bluff. 

Morning walks get longer along
empty spaces before familiar curbs
signal a turn to what we wait for:
the final bend. We are back home. 

“HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME.
Now Albert is coming back,
make yourself  a bit smart.”* Eliot,
of course, said it for me earlier. 

How long ago was that, when I
read those Wasteland lines? How
long have I waited to use them?
Is this a good time, yet? I waited. 

Because we have seen the clues,
because we have seen them all
already, I feel it is time to stop
waiting, sum up the bill, and go. 

What was I given to bear the pain
of knowing that I did not know?
Or build a home I could not live in?
What tools must I now return? 

In summing up, I will discount this,
in the game of haggling for a place
back in the Garden. Our stay here
was overpaid. We waited too long 

for that room with a better view,
that terrace with a canopy of roses,
and blue birds trilling on the sill.
O, for a touch of that distant sky! 

Next time around, if there is one,
I will be smart. I will settle only for
a room where I could see the sky
and the sea conspire to eat the sun.


---Albert B. Casuga
11-27-11

* T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland, II. A Chess Game, T. S. Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

OCCUPYING THE EARTH


OCCUPYING THE EARTH
A pile of fresh dirt at the woods’ edge: a groundhog has dug a den under the roots of a poison ivy-throttled maple. Will he itch all winter?—Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 11-23-11

Places shape us if we let them, like a dug den
at the woods’ edge would define the hog’s
winter under maple tree roots, poison ivy
wrapping its trunk at ground’s access points.

How much life can be eked out of this place
when boundaries throttle the explorer’s
spirit before one has started his exploration?
Not in my backyard, you don’t. Verboten.

There is poison in the air, water, dirt, or fire
from the bellies of the earth to the fusion
chambers of atomic energy plants; death
in coal-fired stations belching black smoke
to ozone distances, drought in global warming.

Seas gobble up atolls and resort isles; diseases
even sprout from infirmaries, and hospitals
become hospices for the dying and the dead.
Why must digging the dirt out of a den
start with the handicap of poison ivy?
 

Why plant genius and courage in a man
when his unbridled enterprise and struggle
can only lead to disasters that make burial
grounds his enduring, grandest monuments?
 

There is fresh dirt on the ground: An Occupier
will be buried among the tents in the park.
He could not restart his life; he took it instead.
Like that itch would do the groundhog in, I bet.
 
— Albert B. Casuga
11-23-11


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

DISCOMFITURE



DISCOMFITURE



Stay still, we ask/ our things, while we repurpose/ them. What we mean is stay, / still, we need a little longer.—From “Repurposed” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 11-22-11

Memories are needs reshaped as still points,
if they could just be pinned down to stay
whole before falling like shattered mirrors
that recompose as harlequins of fluid faces
struggling to remould beyond the shadows
and the strange masks that fears and dread
now wear as they strut about as tall desires
we pray would remain longer than a mirage
of remembrances perishing like the carrion
of dreams and endless longings to be here. 

There are no signs nor arrows on this path
that could retrace those gentle and happy
days when we owned the place where we
could not get lost even if we heroically tried.
We mean to rename these streets and mark
them indelibly so we could come home again.
But those still points are never there nor still
when we need them steadier than chameleons
that we are born with, where our zero point
is neither water, nor dirt, nor fire, nor air. 



--Albert B. Casuga

Posted 11-23-11


Friday, November 11, 2011

BREAKTIME

INNERMOST LONGINGS


INNERMOST LONGINGS

I’ve turned the bird of my inmost longings/ loose into the ether. / I’ll keep the green branch on which it roosts, / should it return. I’ll learn to live on this door’s swinging hinge, / sustain on flimsy hope. Because I/ love it so, I’ll let it take its leave of me.--- From “Aria” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via negative, 11-10-11



Should it return, I will be there by the sill
peering through drawn curtains, letting
the wind play with the chimes firmly hung
on its path. I need to be warned before I
open the door on its now rusty hinges.
I must appear unexpectant, must not look
surprised nor fazed, but gently regal even
as I welcome it back: You are home, love,

and your perch is still green like you never
left it. If you must go again, pray leave
the hinges swinging, you won’t take long,
would you? I could plan on it. But, will you?




— Albert B. Casuga
11-10-11







Wednesday, November 9, 2011

CHOOSING CHAOS


CHOOSING CHAOS



What is the difference between/ chaos and order, anyway. / Where would we look/to measure this. The before/or after. Where do those start. --- From “Methodology” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 11-08-11



Order is articulated chaos, its desire
an old rebellion that recalls the loss
of a streamlined paradise. Nothing
is needed here. Everything is given. 

Then, why walk out of this Garden?
A provident Eden where everything
grew including his wanton dreams,
of having his way: orders be damned. 

How simple things would have been.
Each pebble on the pond had a reason
to be there, each star a constellation
of sunlight, each sun a starter of life. 

How serenely flowers would bloom
on the tip of thorns, or water flow
gently from the cracks of dry rocks,
and ripe fruit fall on open mouths. 

Everything can happen here, nothing
is everything there, a cipher is full.
How benignly would mountains rise
from the sea, and lakes from mudpools. 

Would movement have moved this
conspiracy of stillness and creation?
He could not see this, nor feel the pain
of a yanked rib to make a woman cane. 

A yearning rooted in his belly burned,
a lust for roaming the hidden valleys,
finding struggle with fish and grain
a surprising tug on his arms and loins. 

Walking out on a promise of fullness
and unbridled abundance, did he
choose somehow to stand on hindlegs
and see whence came the thunderous 

offer? You who are made in my image,
shall have dominion over all that you
see and taste, all that is still or moves,
or none but the courage to choose. 

He chose to shape his own order out
of the unseen chaos of growth he
occupied East of Eden, and decided:
We will gather ourselves some fig leaves. 

We will make ourselves our own image. 



--- Albert B. Casuga
11-08-11


Illustration: Adam and Eve in Paradise by Jan Brueghel the Elder

Monday, November 7, 2011

AN EMPTY SKY

AN EMPTY SKY

The sky has taken its place/ leaning against the wall. / It is like a prayer to what is empty. / And what is empty turns its face to us/ and whispers.../ I am not empty, I am open. ---From Vermeer, Tomas Transtromer





1. For The Buried Miners

All they could have done was to stitch slices
of their picture of the sky, its blank expanse
their thin measure of what feels free and safe.

Buried for days on end under buttresses
that could no longer hold despoiled walls
of dirt, they prayed for a glimpse of the sky.

They did not need to: even in the starkest
gloom of that dark and black tomb of gold,
they each had a share of that absent sky.

O, for a smell of that dry air in Chile’s hills!
But this black hole, now a cloying dread,
is it all that is between them and raw despair?



2. Not Empty, but Open

Where is the sky when we need it? Or do we?
Even if it is there for the taking, will it answer
our prayers? It will empty itself of rain before

we can be saved. It is closed. It is empty. Pray
to the rocks, as loud as an intoning bishop,
it throws the entreaty right back. But you hear

an echo, a whisper from an unseen face: I am
the refuge of all the winged who roam spaces
for the free and unafraid. It is your little voice.

Like those darting sparrows, your unbound
soul will storm the abandoned bolted gates,
save that these doors are abundantly open,

and have always been agape; and the garden,
once lost has always remained open, the sky
its door, waiting for all who want to till it.



--- Albert B. Casuga
11-06-11


Saturday, November 5, 2011

MOVING SOUTH TO OCCUPY




MOVING SOUTH TO OCCUPY 



While oak leaves spiral into the yard, six vultures tilt and pivot high above, searching for an updraft, then turn and drift on south. --- Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 10-04-11




A mantle of oak leaves lifts with the updraft
like an unguarded skirt billowing to reveal
gnarled and spindly trunks, brittle leftovers
of the season’s turn, not yet rid of frost marks.

Nothing to look at from where I sip my tea.
Flapping vulture wings lend the fall wheeze
a healthier sound, their cackling a strangely
dismissive sneer as they fly towards tundra

where they might yet find carrion of seals left
after the hunt. Done with the hoarfrost, done
with the hollow whistle of the woods, done
with the walling-in poplar trees. Like nomads,

they fly south now to store meals heftier than
rodents and sparrows. Will they Occupy winter?

  

— Albert B. Casuga
11-04-11


Friday, November 4, 2011

GROWING AWAY



GROWING AWAY



Every room is full, / even the empty ones. --- Hannah Stephenson, “Untitled”, 11-02-11


It is the room we dread to open
when we go back home because
we have to. You can bunk in here,
nothing has changed, you sleep
well in familiar places, don’t you? 

Except that this room is too full
of everything I might have been
running away from: you will be
back for the summer holidays,
won’t you? Mom would like that. 

I did not catch the train back,
nor did I try that summer when
father said he was ill: come home
as quickly as classes end, your
father would like that. Come home. 

It has been some time since I last
dusted off the cobwebs and dirt
from the sill and the pictures
in this room. I stare at them longer
now praying they would talk back: 

You’ve come home at last. Stay,
stay longer, we would like that.
There’s catfish to hook at the river
a stone’s throw from home. There’s
black berries to gather for wine. 

They stare back at my wan face
from the confines of the ornate frame
and the bursting memories in sepia:
Father in white gabardine suit,
Mother in her white terna de boda. 

I have come home, but I cannot stay.
This room is now full.  And empty. 



--- Albert B. Casuga
11-03-11

Click on image to zoom in on text.

A SWIMMING LESSON: REMEMBERING FATHER



A SWIMMING LESSON


For Father (Francisco F. Casuga+)



How much of those happy times
would you bring back, like the waves
ebb but must always rush back? 

It is the sea that returns you intact
into my now empty days, windy days,
your laughter always a raw memory. 

You threw me into those restless
waves, cried out a challenge: Swim!
Kick hard, swing your arms! Swim! 

And I never stopped, not for hurts,
not for lost dreams, nor for losses.
You warned me never ever to cry. 

--- Albert B. Casuga
11-03-11


*Culled from "Poesias Para Los Muertos" (11-01-11). I was not able to say goodbye to my Father when he passed away at the Bethany Hospital in San Fernando City, La Union Province, the Philippines. Just as well. He is still with me.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

PATINTERO: REMEMBERING INDAY



PATINTERO



For my Dear Sister (Brenda Teodora Casuga-Maglaya+)

How do I best remember you, hermanita?
That father would call you princesita mia
after a swig of Domecq and sarsaparilla?

You were not one to get excited by these,
nor would you bat an eyelash; you’d jump
off his lap and call out to me: “ ‘manong!

That was always my cue for another game
of patintero under the lone lamp on our
camino; your sad eyes lit up, you’d smile.

The smile you bravely left me when you
hugged me from your sick bed, was your
own smile, nobody else’s. I will not forget.


---Albert B. Casuga
11-03-11


*Culled from "Poesias Para Los Muertos". Brenda is a younger sister who died in Naguilian town in La Union Province, northern Philippines. She was my best friend.

TWO MEN IN MY LIFE*

COIN RACES

For Lolo Candro  (Don Alejandro F. Casuga+)



Calling it a day at the old Mercado,
do you remember me running to you
snivelling at the tail end of every race? 

Kin of all sizes and wile would beat me
to all the coins in your trouser pockets
where you kept them as gold for the best, 

really, the most agile and the fastest
hands, the greedy and the needy, but you
said you knew I was simply the slowest. 

So you had the small pesetas for them,
but you always saved the peso de plata
for me near your heart: your chestpockets.



AN ARTISAN BY DAY


For Lolo Jose  (Don Jose Buenaventura+)


I would look at your fingers, abuelo, if you
were here crouched by my easel, my paint,
my oil, my bastidores. They are my fingers. 

We hardly knew you, save that illustrados
from the city would look for you if they
needed the latest design in haberdashery. 

Don Jose, make my shoulders look broad,
Don Jose, I need to appear commanding;
Don Jose, please look away from my wife. 

Swarthy as your Basque roots, your eyes
blaze beyond your gaze; an artisan by day,
an artist and lover, abuelo de mis sueƱos.


--- Albert B. Casuga
11-03-11 

*Culled from "Poesias Para Los Muertos" posted 11-01-11 to highlight two great influences on my art and my other life as a politician and academic: my maternal grandfather, Jose Buenaventura, and paternal grandfather, Alejandro F. Casuga. The etches are how I remember them in my mind's eye.