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.
THAT I MAY ALSO DISTURB THE UNIVERSE: A DESIDERATUM
If every birth
anniversary were a "summing up", how would I sum this life up so far?
What criterion would I use?
I subscribe to one
measure -- not by coffee cups nor spoons -- but by how I also disturb a moribund universe whenever I
tap my fingers.
Did I make a
difference? Did that pebble I cast in the pond create a ripple that would --
unimpeded -- find itself on myriad shores?
Mother said I was
born in an almost empty hospital (when all the doctors and nurses were ordered
to attend the Session Road parade honoring the late Nippon Emperor Hirohito in
the Mountain Province city of Baguio in the northern Philippines). In defiance
of that edict from the occupying Japanese military government, I lived. 1943
was a good year.
Have all the years
been good thereafter? How often did I disturb the universe?
I borrow lines from
poems I have written to spell this measure by:
Halfway, between this
riverstone and many rocks after,
Nara shall have gone
from our echoes-call.
We have wandered into
a sunken mangrove and wonder:
Is it as silent
there? Are there crabs there?
Ah, to be old and a mariner come upon that restful cove,
where the final
weapon is a chair not love;
to be old is a
gallant slouching on that chair –
some porch of the
heart grown insensitive to care.
Nara must be the
reverie of a changing season;
we never knew quite
well how far we had traveled
before we ceased to
chant our rising songs:
O we have
blanched at the rustle of dried leaves
O we have
quaked at the fullness of a street’s silence
O we have
hushed at the coyness of echoing eves
O we have
known the crag flower’s quintessence!
It is no longer Nara beyond
Where am I? Where are
If the morning never
becomes an afternoon,
will it always be a
waking up into a moment
of disfigured song, a
dawn of perpetual clocking?
I have earned my
I have earned my
I have earned my loneliness.
I have not knelt nor extinguished my brain.
I have positioned my chair where,
when I tap my fingers,
I also disturb the universe.
"Bonne Fête, Grand-père!Cumpleaños feliz, abuelo! Happy Birthday, Gramps!
Maligayang Bati, Lolo!" My polyglot family
chorused in a cacophony that made my day. When the littlest one wrapped his
little arms around my legs, and mumbled "happi bedday, wowo," I knew
I have also learned to pray.
I pray for more
moments of love and wisdom. I pray that all those I love will measure their
lives according to how they, too, will disturb
the universe whenever they tap their fingers.
However high it goes, it will come down --–
Wrinkled on a branch, its message undelivered.
Harsh spring winds will blow it out of town
Before its whimsy, nay, its prayer is discovered.
Why play crapshoot among the clouds, my boy?
Could God be there, or does he hide elsewhere
Among the stars, or in some bramble being coy
Lest he expose himself as burning bush in fanfare?
Let your balloon fly shorn of its couriered burden
Of finding him sheltered in some unlikely heaven
Where heaven is not — for he never left your side
As you let it go to look for where his miracles abide.
much mirth with the greening Earth,
so I ordered more rain for the plains of Spain!
Perplexed yet with this morning’s menu?
Hail, rain, sleet, sunshine, winter remnants
are of no moment when I sip my minted tea.
I tap my fingers with the rooftop staccato,
dip my biscuit not once but thrice with brio.
That done, I slide my gafasanteojos down
my schoolmarmish nose to read the paper
like a salami
on my morning table.
Unfurled, my gazette of daily mayhem
confirms the slaughter of yet more lads
and lasses in the name of country and god,
of yet more hungry children orphaned
in lands where force majeure
the rule of nature and law, where hurt
and pain are never ever granted furlough.
“Aiee, Dios mio,” I
sigh quickly, and drink
my tea before it gets cold. Birds steal
my biscuits, but like the wind-blasted trees,
I droop and execute my dotard shrug.
Chloe had an angel costume, and Louis was disguised as a hamburger, and Marie stayed home doing what she does best: act as the runt and eating all the goodies with camouflaged diapers being her costume. --- Halloween Night
When the valley wakes up on Trillium Trail,
the Sarnath lessons will be the hushed
of the sunrise breeze: these are blossoms
from the other side where the creek turns
blue and the rivers calm: always, always,
in the maze of imprecise feelings, our mudra
shall shape the passion all lovers put to use
when love is beyond saying, beyond ecstasy.
When we wake up to find a harbour of sails,
we must all go their way, touch them to know
that what we have is not our own, nor yet
the place where we shall be but shall not be.
Beyond longing, beyond desire, we will all
wake up to where we are not. Where love is.
Mornings wake up with a start here.
From where I find myself brushing up
on counting in Chinese, I sip my tea
as often as a leaf falls, (no abacus handy).
A bright swath of cerulean sky revs up
a quick day—the scurrying of lorries
can only mean winter’s stocking is here.
Happens everytime. Mourning at high
noon, 9/11 families roar back home
to take up where they left off: Cut wood
for fireplaces, jar jam for the fall, clean
the heater filters, deliver the ripened
fruit to the food terminal, take the train
to the bursting schools, harangue nerds
to mind the socio-political situation,
lash out at rabid pols and sleepy solons
to pass an unemployment solution,
maybe consider filing the divorce papers.
A constipatedly harassed truck driver
squeezes an impolite blare from his horn,
yells murder at school bus drivers doing
sixty, sticks his lizard-like tongue at kids
chanting back: Up yours, up yours! Gay! Highways shape the taxpayer’s day.
on. Move on. Earn an American dream.
I sip my tea with a hint of a shrug; welcome
to the littered porch a yellow leaf landing
with a soft click. The brown one awaits its
turn as the twentieth, except I can’t count
that far in Chinese yet. Aieee…ya! Ni
A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems (2009, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House)
The Aeshetics of Literature (De La Salle Univeristy Publications, 1972)
Narra Poems and Others (San Beda College Publications, 1968)
In a Sparrow's Time (Infocom, Canada. 1990)
Still Points (Selected Poems), 1972, (Flores & Associates, Manla)
Songs for My Children (Selected Poems), 1996, (Infocom, Canada)
A. B. Casuga's works are anthologized in A Habit of Shores by G. H. Abad (UP Press), Introduction to Poetry by Edith Tiempo et al (Silliman University), and has been published in journals and magazines in Philippines, Canada, United States, and Australia.
Summer Suns (short story collection with Cirilo Bautista, Manila UST Press 1962); Narra Poems and Others (poetry collection, San Beda Publications, Manila 1968); Still Points (poetry collection, Flores & Asociates, Manila 1972); In A Sparrow's Time (poetry collection, Infocom, Canada 1990); Songs for my Children (poetry collection, Infocom, Canada 1996); The Aesthetics of Literature (Literary Theory and Criticism, De La Salle University, Manila, 1972); Editor: Man in Search of Meaning: Literature (Humanities Series, Asia Foundation & DLSU Textbook Committee, Manila 1970); Man and His Literary Past: The Classical Tradition (Asia Foundation & DLSU Textbook Committee, Manila 1971); A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, Manila, 2009).