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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.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

BECAUSE YOU ASKED ME TO STAY



 
 
BECAUSE YOU ASKED ME TO STAY

 

(For Lourdes Veronica)

Summer simmers down, but it isn’t/ all gone. So drink slowly, drink/ everything, down to the thick,/ dark sludge at the bottom/ of the cup. Out in the fields,/find what remains when the grain/ has separated from the chaff.---From “Stay” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa 8-15-14

 

All I needed to hear: “Stay. Stay.” I have come home
Like that long absent hummingbird on your sill,
The one you said you would wait for on the trellises
That have fallen from a crowd of dead flower buds.
 

Take me back. Take me back. And we will retrace
those letters carved on some saplings grown tall
beyond our reach, and sing with carillon clangor
those old evensongs, brave songs. Old love songs.
 

We will outdo the bell choir master on the belfry,
ring them all, sing them all, hum them all until
sundown overtakes us and we hold our tremulous
voices like our stuttered promises of coming home.
 

I must turn around, will tarry at the street’s end,
wait for you. Must drink cold tea to its bottom sludge.
Will out-hoot the newfound owl on our lone oak tree.
Will drown rain staccato with my raunchiest halloo.
 

Hell will wait, heaven will not. I have some Zorba
dancing to do,  naked and happy again in this rain.

 

---ALBERT B. CASUGA
Mississauga, August 18, 2014


 

Monday, August 18, 2014

SUNSET DANCE AT SAUBLE BEACH

 
 
SUNSET DANCE AT SAUBLE
 
Today's poem (not to worry writer friend Blanca Datuin---poetry forces me out ot the woods, and heals me) is also a SMILE Trigger for me, recuperating as the dotard of a wounded old man, and you, wishing I was less stubborn/creative (?) and... just rest for a while until my heart mends (it probably would not at this rate?) Nah, no more putting it off; don't forget "domani" for tomorrow might never come.
 
 


Do you hear that rhythmic titter from the ebbtide, wee lass?
And the hiss from the sundown waves that mimics whistles
or calls of “encore”: an unbridled adoration if you ask us,
but I might just be bantering about old enchanted mortals
who have long asked whence, when, how, why, what haven,
have you come from to shower this grace on our little lives?

Dance, wee lass of all hearts. It is still the loveliest beau geste
to this sun and sea that have claimed you their own sweet child,
their bright pulsing star, their dancing laughing girl, their best
balm for all the ills of the Earth, O, our star on darkest eventide,
wee lass, to last us until the end of all that is beautiful and wild!
 

 ---ALBERT B.CASUGA
Mississauga, August 18, 2014
Photo by Adele Frances Casuga



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

WHEN WORDS COME BACK (THAT THEY MAY FORGIVE)



WHEN WORDS COME BACK
(That They May Forgive)

There are no lessons deep enough, clear enough,
that they could hold on to or use to decipher,
or understand, or even to respond: “Of what use?”
 

Of what use are murmuring creeks that turn
blue when they flow into the river’s mouth
as it meanders to an open sea, itself a tributary
to all that is deep and dark and dangerous
in these untamed oceans -- beginnings and ends
of life, the vast expanse of all our explorations?

What does it matter that the moon swings low
over pine branches, or that the urgent calls
to trek back to forgotten origins are inexorable?
Old men can only counsel them enough of beauty,
because this earth makes it more often an omen
of regrets, or even an augury of faithless betrayal.

When the words they lisped---as infants turned
somnolent in old arms--come back to haunt them,
they will rush back to you and pray for strength:

“Forgive our being blind to everything beautiful.”
When that time comes, tell them: “No apologies
needed, nor did I expect them. Beauty is an omen.”

—ALBERT B. CASUGA

Monday, August 4, 2014

TODAY'S SMILE TRIGGER: A Mini Commencement Address




TODAY'S SMILE TRIGGER: A Mini Commencement Address to the University of Hard Knocks Class 2014 by Mme. YO DETTE, Chancellor, DA-DA-Versity, Mississauga, Ont. Canada, Fifth Line Campus.(Via Spyke, Cloud Nine Satellite)

 
"My dear Grads of HKC 2014, and all your invited and uninvited guests: Thank you for inviting me as your Commencement Speaker. But what can I say? This is a quick satellite feed. So, hear this. (Here goes. Beam me on.)

 
“Friends: Make your own mistakes, but learn from the lessons they invariably reveal to you. Look for your happiness.  “Feast on yourself” so says my poet friend Derek Walcott. You are the man or woman on the mirror. Make sure, though, that you have the equipment and the necessary learning to get to your goal without harming anyone on your journey to get there. Those behind you are doing their darndest best to climb up the ladder just as you did or are still doing. Don't step on their fingers or hands. Pull them up when they falter. They might learn to catch you when you miss a step yourself. Weren’t the Ten Commandments a Commencement Message? So asks Brodsky in his great commencement address eons ago. Yes, of course. Marching orders they were to the Chosen People. (Where are they now, by the way?  At war? Pity.)

    The Golden Rule, likewise, is normally your commencement thought when you step out of your shelters to work and achieve in a civilised world. Yes, "Do unto others what you would like others do unto you"; love begets love. But mark well: Do not do unto others what you would not like others do unto you. They will.  

 
“Thank you for listening or not.  
 Good Day.”
 

(Poster flash: Applaud. Please. Pretty Please? :(  )




Wednesday, July 30, 2014

SUMMER SMILES ON MY MIND


 
 
SUMMER SMILES ON MY MIND

 

1.  A Summer Dance

 

48 summers ago, on our maiden dance,

I knew I had only one left foot,

but almost died to discover I had two.

 

2. Baguio on my Mind

 

Skating, sailing at Burnham Park,

I stole my first kiss, and carved

her name on a pine tree’s brittle bark.

 

3. Summer Sundowns

 

Now we watch shimmering summer sunsets

on porches while we play our waiting game,

wondering if her name is still among the branches.

 

---Albert B. Casuga

 

Monday, July 28, 2014

WEANING SONGS


 
 
WEANING SONGS

 

1.  An Uncertain Quiet

 

They will discover strength on their wings,
and, soon enough, they will find the sky,
and they will abandon these nests to fly
wherever their questions bring them.
However wild they are, they will ask them:
How far is the sun from this burnt branch?
Soon enough, even their needy nesting sound
will give way to breast-beating flutter of wings,
and they will be gone with the strangest wind
that scoops them off from an unsteady home
of inadvertent chances, and catch-as-catch can.
Icarus-like, they must test their flaccid wings

against the sinews of a wild summer wind. O.
Is this uncertain quiet an augury of mourning?



2. Her Vigil


It will not cease, nor will the smell of grass
supplant the scent of brine from this sea,
this angst from absence that was not worth it.
I must keep their plates on the table.  Keep vigil.
They will come home, even as hints of shadows.
I must keep their beds warm, however cold they
left them. They will come back from the storm.
It will soon be over before they know it. I know.


---ALBERT B. CASUGA

Revised, July 28, 2014, Mississauga

 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

FENCE GRAFFITI POEMS *


 
FENCE GRAFFITI POEMS *

 

(For Israel and Palestine at War on the Days of Eid)

 

...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. Voice, Love, Peace

 

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. Back to the Hill of Skulls on Glen Erin

 

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 his

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

*Two of the five poems featured at The World Peave Poetry Festival in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

 




Friday, July 25, 2014

SUMMER ASHES: THOUGHTS OF A DRY SEASON


 
 
SUMMER ASHES: THOUGHTS OF A DRY SEASON


I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it/Since what is kept must be adulterated?/. . .Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.---FromGerontion by T.S. Eliot


1.  Enough Said


What could I tell you after all that was said?
Nothing could be taken back, nothing offered.
The passion I thought I had is an old saw---
It would not, could not cut through the years
That have turned into whorled cores in a tree
Cut down in the harvest of logs, a clearing
That will not grow again. Will not be here again.
Dry timber in a forest fire can only offer ashes.

2. Frozen Acts and Dreams

Come out of the garden, we will need to redeem
this wasted lifetime of frozen acts and dreams.
How can we relive what never lived beyond that?
Where is it now, or when? Why should we care?
There was a time when it was good to sing songs,
and sounds made sense. The songs are cackles now.
Why should I even rise from a sleep I never had?

---ALBERT B. CASUGA
Revised, July 25, 2014, Mississauga 






Thursday, July 24, 2014

THISTLEDOWN BLUES



THISTLEDOWN  BLUES
 

This cool stillness on a bare porch
jolts me from a somber thought:
Hanging by a thread, this fluffy piece
of thistledown is all about being here,
about how tenuously we cling to a place
we never really owned. Will never own.
Like that wind-tossed seed-carrier,
when we dance our one final twirl
and all the dancers are off the floor,
we hold on to a lingering melody
that keeps us swaying, alas, briefly
to an absent band---an invisible yarn
binding us to a story's end. The last.
We will never pass this way again.


---Albert B. Casuga

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

COMING HOME: LIGHT THROUGH A CRACKED MIRROR


A Suite of Love Poems




COMING HOME: LIGHT THROUGH A CRACKED MIRROR

 

“Ring the bells that can still ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack in everything/ That's how the light gets in” ~ Leonard Cohen

  

1.  Her Questions

 

How far have you gone from all that you were,
little chipped stone from a hidden tributary,
little pebble that has yet to reach the bottom
of the well to hear its thunk and come to rest?
 

How far, indeed, that you must finally beg
to be taken home? Where, what place, what
troubled spaces have you been all these years?
Bitter years, you say almost in descant candor.
 

Take you home? But where do you belong?
If I knew, if I could follow that map long
faded in your doleful heart that has dogged
every fickle chord from every pied piper—
 

If I could find every pied-a-terre you’ve been
that I might collect the shattered life pieces
left of your gypsy heart so I could remould
them to our heart’s desire, I would. I will.
 

Take you home. Prop you up, start you up
once again from whence you came, where
your heart is not merely a sieve for sorrow
or pain, but where it is a fortress of care.

  

2.  His Ardent Offer as His Plea
 

I am back, but I have nothing new to say,
nor anything that I can offer save myself.
Unchanged, undefined, unshackled, free.
There is no other way you would have me.


Would you rather I had lost my insouciance?
Would you have me speak only one language,
that of fear, and would not risk this loss again?
Sing only your song? Part my hair another way?



At the edge of the woods, I have mastered wiles.
You’d think I had changed and now just a shadow
of a broken man come home to lick old wounds
that were left unsalved, cankered when I lost you.

I am the same, and this sameness will make you
want to look again even if the thousand faces
that you behold are those from a shattered mirror
through whose cracks some light must still slither.

 

3.  Looking Back to Coming Home

 

Trek back to the church belfry and be the deft
hands of the carillonneur you wished you were
when you were young, malleable, and oh, so free
to dream, to laugh, to thumb your little nose
 

at the carousing lads vaulting over rooftops
to call your name, to sing your name like
perching sparrows lined on some errant wires
at sunset warbling: sweet-sweet, sweet-sweet!
 

Take me back. Take me back. And we will retrace
those letters carved on some saplings grown tall
beyond our reach, and sing with carillon clangor
those old evensongs, brave songs. Old love songs.
 

We will outdo the bell choir master on the belfry,
ring them all, sing them all, hum them all until
sundown overtakes us and we hold our tremulous
voices like our stuttered promises of coming home.

 

---ALBERT B. CASUGA

Revised, July 23, 2014, Mississauga