My photo
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.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A PEACE POEM FOR THE WORLD PEACE POETRY FESTIVAL


 
 
FENCE GRAFFITI POEM: VOICE, LOVE, PEACE

Five Poems Celebrating Peace

By ALBERT B. CASUGA

...No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice/...Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehoods/ Teach us to care and not to care/ Teach us to sit still/...Our peace in His will/...And let my cry come unto Thee. ---T. S. Eliot, “Ash Wednesday

1.

That would have required a lot of fences,
a lot of denuded trunks, fallen trees even.

You would have to stare at backyards
green with revived spring grass, risking

life and limb. “Is this your graffiti? Is it?”
But the three words I stepped on, walking

on the trail, in dotard cadence: Peace, Love:
they were temple bromides. But Voice?

They were sprawled on the grime, like
drunken derelicts, one did not have to look

but be accosted by their urgent demand
on winding asphalt: Peace. Love. Voice.

Like four-letter words, they surprise one
whose habit is to look down in timorous

gait, troubled by daily lust, greed, and lies
dreading mayhem from a gaze at the sky.

2.

Peace. A span of walls for a five-letter word,
perhaps havoc among the mansion lords

writhing in the spasm of murderous oath:
“Let me not catch the spineless vandal!

Or heaven forbid, I will sever both his arms
from his bastard shoulders. No piece spared

among his vile fingers. I will pluck his eyes
from their sockets. Paint “PEACE” with blood

oozing from hollowed holes in his crushed
face, across his torso, down to his dirty groin!”

I wonder at my walk’s anguish over the murder
of children, old women, and decrepit men

in the hovels of Kandahar by a calculating
American Marine, Rambo-like, making a target

practice out of frightened children, burning
their lean-to homes, maybe urinating, too,

on corpses like those cut-up Taliban lined up
by YouTubed U.S. soldiers in nasty whoopee.

Is this hurt, after all, not a misplaced dread
that peace is nothing now but a dying dream?

3.

Love. Like a four-letter word, it could not
have been used nor even abused in Homs

where Syrian fathers, brothers, and armed
kin mowed down children, more children,

dismembered children and all who could not
escape the carnage at Karm el-Zeitoun to call

down a leader beleaguered by an Arab Spring
blazing like fiery poems as flamethrowers.

“Disarm the shabiba* or arm village defenders.
This is our civil war! “As if war could be civil.

As if love were a filthy four-letter word thrown
at the askance who ask: How could you love

your country when you butcher your lovers
and plead for arming your rebels to wage war?

4.

Voice. Ah, the avant-garde call to general
quarters. From a challenging cry of rebellion,

is it perhaps rapidly withering? Voice your pain.
Occupy! Voice your anger. Occupy! Vox populi

Vox Dei. Occupy! Wall Street, Bay Street, or
even streetcars name Desire. Occupy! Occupy!

From the stupor of a languid walk, one recalls
a Via Dolorosa, a lonely wounded walk up

the Hill of Skulls, a golgotha presides over
a cacophony of voices, noises: Crucify! Crucify?

Is this not, somehow, the direst of oxymorons
when the spread-eagled, nailed, pinioned man

counsels love for neighbours? You will be with
me in paradise; forgive them, they know not

what they do. Yet, did he not shout out his pain:
Father, why have you abandoned me? Why?

The people must have their Voice. It is the Voice
of God. Soon, in the British Parliament, learned

voices will argue why the Crucifix should not
be worn on stewardess’s lapels, or civil servants

yearning for the equivalent of a tolerated turban,
or even a recondite dagger, all symbols of faith.

5.

I step on these words graffitied on the sprung
trail. I mutter: Peace, Love, Voice. I did not fall.

He did, got lashed, mocked. Kicked to stand
with his burden, he insisted on loving even

enemies, even those who cried: Crucify Him!
On my quaint walk through a new spring on

Glen Erin trail, I shrugged the lingering cold off
and whispered: Here is my empty heart. Occupy it. 
 

--ALBERT B. CASUGA

 

BIO OF A. B. CASUGA

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. He maintains an online literary blog on http://ambitsgambit.blogspot.ca

 
PERMISSION TO PRINT/PUBLISH


TO: THE WORLD PEACE POETRY FESTIVAL

(Represented herein by Mr. Jaypee Belarmino, jp_belarmino@yahoo.com)

I am hereby giving permission to The World Peace Poetry Festival herein represented by Jaypee Belarmino to print the above Fence Graffiti Poem, that he has requested for their purposes during the Festival to be held in Richmond, British Columbia.

The material is fully copyrighted by the undersigned and may not be published by any other organization or publisher without his express permission.


(SGD.)

Albert B. Casuga
January 28, 2013
64-3125 Fifth Line West
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5L 3S8

 

CC: File, Copyright

Friday, January 25, 2013

THE GLEANER'S SONG




THE GLEANER’S SONG

When the gleaners stretch their backs at sundown
among the terraces, they troll their ditties of work,
and throw their jute sacks on their sunburnt backs:

“Where the heavens meet the sea, O Kannoyan,*
Where the pinetrees sway with the wind dance,
We will be there, we shall gather the roots, gather

the banana leaves to wrap the broiled mudfish,
and bring them home, bring them home, to hold
the feast at eventide, to burn venison in campfire.

O, Old Kannoyan, we praise you with our songs,
we pray with our flaccid hands that in the morrow
will be strong, we bless you with our gleaner's song.”

At sunrise, they will be there again to trace roots
that lace the furrows of ancient soil, where fathers
have found their forebears’ lair laden with lore

about the worksongs of the native braves, tillers
of the softened clay, hunters of the ripened hills
where wild boars roamed with the dappled deer.

I will learn these songs, sing these songs, until
every passage, every word, shall have become
my martial beat and the quiet lullaby of my soul.
 

—Albert B. Casuga

*Kannoyan---God of Good Harvest among the Mountain people.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

LESSONS ON THE LEAP OF FAITH


 

LESSONS ON THE LEAP OF FAITH

When the torch of desire burns clean
you would have learned all there is to learn:

To give, Datta. To feel and care, Dayadhvam.
To own and control, Damyata. Therefore,

To love beyond all loving because it is pure
like the mother suckles her infant. Give.

To know when caring will make things grow
like the raindrops nourish but will not sting.

To have and to hold even when that lashes
irreducible hurts to weary hearts that care.


It is for this that, naked, we halloo in the rain,
Let it come! Let all desires fill our dry vessels.


Then we wake to the warm caress of the Sun
for the day is always new, the flower lovely.

Is not the rose lovelier when its thorns sharpen?
Does not the potter’s knife need its razor edge

to pare the lips of the wine jar and smoothen
its mouth that lovers may drink to full desire?

Bare your body then to its wild abandon, salve
it with the cool spring water now welled

from the earth, and open your mouth to kiss
the sunlight, defy the anguish. Never say, not yet.


Let it come! Let the leaves fall on this Upanishad,
because the leap of faith is never to say Not yet.
 

—Albert B. Casuga

 

 

Friday, January 18, 2013

QUESTIONS BEGGING FOR ANSWERS:





QUESTIONS BEGGING FOR ANSWERS:

 
IS PHILIPPINE LITERATURE PERPETUALLY INCHOATE?


Authentic National Literature an Illusion?

Is the marginalization of languages a necessary effect of creating a national language at the expense of the less-spoken dialects/languages?

Is the creation of a national language as a tool for education and commerce stifling the regional languages at the expense of its literary output?

If the political purpose of a linguistic hegemony is achieved to the detriment of ancillary languages that have developed literature, should not a Government Commission be responsible for preserving disparate ethnic culture and languages?

How vibrant would a country's culture be with the withering of subservient cultures that find their expression in their peculiar literatures?

In the Philippines, this function of preserving all facets of culture should not only  be assumed by the National Commission of Culture and the Arts, but should also be the responsibility of the entire Government which is sworn to protect all the people and their political, social, and cultural aspirations.

Certainly, the writer is the primary guardian of culture and language development. Without this orientation, the writer simply cries in the wilderness.

Could this be the reason why Philippine Literature is "perpetually inchoate"?

If English (Filipino English included) is not the "language of the blood" of Filipino writers, could there truly be authentic Philippine Literature in English?

The plurilingual fact of culture in this archipelago appears to prevent the full bloom of a "national language" let alone a "national literature" that distinguishes the disparate literary expressions of the regions that up to this day are still finding it difficult to settle on a stable political and cultural unity.

Is this linguistic complexity necessarily inimical to Philippine culture? Is it counter-productive in the effort of amalgamating the indigenous dialects/languages under a legislated "lingua franca" based on the Tagalog dialect?

Is the Manila-centered Pilipino (Filipino) language the true literary language of Philippine literature? Has English not done a better job of crystallizing the literary vision of the island republic?

There appears to be a tug-of-war between preserving regional literatures and a "national literature" in Filipino (Pilipino) or Filipino English.

Will the economic and geo-political demands on the Philippines determine its uni-lingual aspirations to the detriment of its erstwhile vibrant regional literatures?

Where is the literary criticism that will re-direct the energies of writers to the one, true expression of the Philippine literary soul?

I thought this was an issue long settled before the declaration of Philippine Independence in 1898 and 1946. Judging from the number of questions that still demand answers, there must be a revisiting of the issue of literary inchoateness. It must be resolved once and for all.

Philippine literature or any world literature for that matter cannot depend on translations to speak for its people.
 

---ALBERT B. CASUGA

Thursday, January 17, 2013

CHANGES


 
 
CHANGES

 

Changes, as constant as they are intriguing,
slither through as coldly as serpents move
into crevices not unlike meandering fog.

Inexorable patterns, they are the unchanging
streams running through the cherished fables
we tell and retell until they become a reality

we cannot escape however sanguinely we try
to build walls to ward them off chambers
of fear housing our hapless lives. Hopeless.

Every sunrise fades into a sundown, all lives
dwindle with discarded days, anguish turns
into ecstasy and loops around like a storm.

What grows in spring withers in summer,
then, like twigs blown off in autumn’s fall,
get buried in winter frost, a carrion of a year.

Why struggle then for eternity? Nothing lasts.
That story about a lost paradise is still grit
for an unchanging story once upon a time.

Could changes have been that fruit in Eden?
An apple stuck in his throat, it bobs forever
like an intruding promise that everything

must perish even in paradise. The rot here
then is forever. Flotsam of ruined homes,
debris of broken lives, all tombs of betrayal.

Would a morning ever come, as we sip tea,
when like a wave laving the shore, it ebbs
only to crawl back at all sunrises and sunsets,
never ceasing, never leaving, never changing?
 

--- Albert B. Casuga

 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

REWRITING A COVENANT


 
 
 
REWRITING A COVENANT

 

“You have your paintbrush and colors. Paint Paradise, and in you go.”---Nikos Kazantzakis

 

It would have to be a clear canvas, and all the walls a limitless
expanse of nothing. Yet. My easel could turn or slide in all
possible directions, my palette a saucer of rainbows.

These are my terms before I end up in a heaven or hell
not of my own making: that I would be a child again,
wild again, unbridled in conjuring my own quaint realities

where realities match quicksilver dreams that shape
and reshape themselves however I fancy them; that I
would be free of the shackles of meaning or the ghosts

of language as their intolerable gaolers in dungeons
where there are no keys nor clanging cell doors to open;
that I would have all the sunrises and all the sunsets

under my control, and all the days of my life kept neatly
folded in drawers I could open and reopen for change
when I itch from sticky underwear and not have to curse

the padlocked building laundromat; that I would be free
at last to work at a burgeoning poem or a canvas whenever
I start one and not be constipated to leave it unfinished

because days would not be long enough, word processors
not fast enough for my careening thoughts that must see
their tail and catch it while running to fill all empty vases

of lives and loves as meaning of what meanings would
have been if my life meant anything at all. But does it?
Paint your paradise, I am told, and in you go. But I can’t.

 

---Albert B. Casuga

 

Monday, January 14, 2013

HOMO VIATOR


HOMO VIATOR


We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.---T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, Little Gidding


Sunrise on a highway ridge baffles us.
This could be sundown elsewhere by the bay
in Poro Point, a merging of origins, east or west,
a cycle of living and dying on the reef,
a coming and going on the harbour of fishing boats
and war machines, a pot of stirred calm and tempest
really, where remembering and forgetting are sides
of the same coin---memories made, buried, raised,
extinguished or lived again in a string of moments
that defines the journey of a man as symbol
of a moving object, wandering back and forth,
from nothing to something, something to nothing,
a Brahman-Atman, Alpha-Omega, being-non-being,
body-mind and soul all in one simple brownbag
of wonder and questions. Quite like that silly
white-tailed squirrel wandering, wondering
where it last buried a nut or a memory of one,
as its quaint prompter of an imitation of life,
a movement here, a movement there, all
really meaning a stillness of finding where
the end is one’s beginning and also his end,
a circle at last where the hole defines
life’s next of kin. One arrives home to ask:
Is anybody home?



---ALBERT B. CASUGA

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A COIN IN THE FOUNTAIN




 
A COIN IN THE FOUNTAIN


It has been some time since I threw a coin
into a fountain: I worry my wishes might
just come true. The last one was terrifying.

Did you ever wish for men to stop bickering
about how to achieve world peace, love,
and human dignity? The last one who did

got all his loincloths splattered with blood
gushing from gaping bullet wounds that must
have shattered his heart. Gandhi-ji fell.

Before him, another man of peace came
riding into old Jerusalem on a tired donkey,
and rode forsworn into the place of skull

where he promised a craven thief a place
in paradise before he moaned how his people
and his Father have forsaken him. Crucified.

On a good day, like this, on a Good Friday, too,
I look back to the skies, as that man on the tree did,
and see a sun glowing faintly through a penumbra

like a rusty coin at the bottom of a broken fountain,
and whisper a wish as would a perching whippoorwill:
May I find rest today, a little respite from myself,

And wish nothing for the lonely and the restless save
a quiet day humming a hymn of hope on a hammock,
and not the sour wine soaked on a hyssop branch.

—Albert B. Casuga

 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

ATOP A HILL OVERLOOKING THE SEA: TWO POEMS FOR MOTHER

 
ATOP A HILL OVERLOOKING THE SEA: TWO POEMS FOR MOTHER
 

1. AN UNCERTAIN QUIET
(For Mother*)


But there is silence now at the phoebe’s nest–-/ the fledglings have flown–-Icarus-like must test/ their wings against the sinews of a summer wind. / Is this uncertain quiet also an augury of mourning? ---From “Gone: A Weaning Song”, A. B. Casuga, 06-10-12


Is this uncertain quiet also an augury of mourning?
It is a cool, bright, and clear but silent morning,

what should move have not, even the gentle breeze
ruffling foliage rampant now on the crowns of trees

seemed to have gone still like the stale pool of mud
that must have caked in the warm night and seized

around the trunk clinging, child-like, on Mother’s
knee wailing: Don’t go! Don’t leave me! Please stay?

But she could not; she has waited for this clear day
to take a trip she must have wished for among others,

all dreams gone stale then, but she must go and meet
Father somehow where he has waited along a street

Where they were to see each other again on a cool day,
Eager to wrap each other in arms that pleaded: Stay!


---Albert B. Casuga


*Nenita Buenaventura Casuga, b. January 11, 1923 , d. June 11, 2012)+ R.I.P.


 

 
2. GRIEF: THE OTHER FORM
(Remembering Mother)


"Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes around in another form." ~ Rumi


Lo siento, mucho. I am sorry. Sympathies,
thoughts, and prayers.
They are staple;
when the loss stings, these do salve pain.

But is sorrow eased somehow by these
when in the gloom, they are only able
to shape and reshape, as only niceties can,

into dread that they will not be there again
when mornings jolt the stricken and unable
into a stream of emptiness, a hollow niche

where totems people the blank memories
that must fill in the gaps like this candle
melts into a candelabra to hide what it can

about the abyss of oblivion, a gaping solace,
when the dead are interred in this dark place?


---ALBERT B. CASUGA

 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A DEATH IN THREE SEASONS: 3 POEMS FOR FATHER


 
 
A DEATH IN THREE SEASONS

(3 Poems for Father)

 
(For Francisco Flores Casuga + In Memoriam)
 

1.DOWN THE SLOPE


Yet all the precedent is on my side:/I know that winter death has never tried/The earth but it has failed;.../It cannot check the peeper’s silver croak. --- Robert Frost, The Onset


I would run down the slope and catch myself
a rolling ball of snow before it falls into the ravine,
but walking through the silently falling snow
at the trail is a choice for these creaking knees---
no more gossoon games defying gravity for me
or flying off the hillside edge into fluff below
among the stiffened bramble and wild apple tree.

There’s warmth in the silence of falling snow:
I feel his gentle hands on my nape, I hear him,
I ask him if he would drink a pint with me
if I had reached beer-guzzling age before
he’d make his final trek, before he’d leave,
but I hear his whistling for the wind instead
and tug at his wayward kite now puncturing
some sombre summer sky in San Fernando.

O, how I’d run down the barren slopes to catch
his fallen kite among the burnt logs of the
kaingin,*
but these are flakes I find myself catching
and whipped out twigs that break the silence
of falling snow. O my father.

__________

 


*Clearings made by burning forests


--- ALBERT B. CASUGA
2011
 

2. ONCE UPON A SUMMER SOLSTICE


There is a scampering of grace in the dry woods
and a pulse upon some soliloquy:
it is the rain come as a smooth and forbidding lace
upon the cup of the dead and dying weather.

It is past the season of the grub.

The flirt of the monsoon upon the arid lap of Nara
is caked on the thick napes of children
dancing naked in the mire of the fields,
gaping to catch the fingers of the rain,
slithering like parched serpents guzzling raindrops
cupped in the hollow of gnarled father’s palms.

There will be no songs, for the ritual is not of birth
but of death as summer dies in Nara
and with it every titter bursting from a child’s mouth.

The rain becomes a bloody plot.

 


--- ALBERT B, CASUGA
2010 


3. A HOMECOMING


We re-buried Father’s remains on a hillock overlooking the sea.---A Letter from Home


Tanqui’s supreme conceit is its dread
Of withering grass in the month of the frogs
When rain, like fingers in the night, tread
The lesions gangrened on a hillock’s carrion,
Carcass of a season mourned
As the briefest of them all.

“The rain is on the hill, the dry pond
Is red with clay, the gods are back!
And so must I --- shadow of a past long gone ---
Weeping, running through these deserted streets,
Crouching now in mud pools of childhood fun
When songs were chanted as songs for the dance.
A dance for the grass! My limbs for the grass!
I must dance for Tanqui’s sing├ęd grass!”

He dances hard, his body clean and gleaming,
But Tanqui’s rain is on the ashen hill.
Neither his dancing nor his lusty screaming
Will stop this dreaded withering.
Tanqui’s conceit is stranger still
When songs are sung not for her lads and lasses
But for this stranger who, dying, has come back
To dance for black grass, dance naked
For Tanqui’s withered pantheon grass.



---ALBERT B. CASUGA

2009

 
These poems were culled from my literary blog in memory of Francisco F. Casuga, b. January 9, 1921, d. December 7, 1975.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

RETURNING TO THE ROOT


 
 
Returning to the Root
 

“Will courage redeem stupidity?” -- Nick Joaquin
 

There is a manner of returning to the root
that explains the virtue of a hole,
its quietness the petering circle:
The canon of the cipher indicts us all.

And you, rocking yourself to an eddy,
drown the death wish: O that grief
on sons’ faces could tell you all.
“Will courage be visited upon my children?”

It is this cut whittles the tree down,
not of consumption but of fright
that bereaving is one’s splintering
of children’s bones. Death is our betrayal.

They are sons gaping as grandfathers die
shapes the gloom of the breaking circle.
They who knew the frenzy of the bloodcry
must never return to find sons become spittle.



---ALBERT B. CASUGA


That year, after Father’s death in 1975, this poem was adjudged the Grand Prize Winner of the first Philippine national Parnasso Poetry Writing Contest. A handsome trophy sculpted by noted Philippine sculptor Edwin Castrillo and a princely sum of a thousand pesos made me happy. Father must have returned the favour. But he was no longer around to applaud. I would not even have minded a slap on the nape.  

On January 9, 2013, he would have been 92. Come January 11, Mother would have been 90.