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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, April 22, 2014

OCCUPYING THE EARTH: A POEM FOR EARTH DAY






OCCUPYING THE EARTH: A POEM FOR EARTH DAY
 

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
04-22-14, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

 
 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

EGGS AMONG THE BRAMBLE


 
 
EGGS AMONG THE BRAMBLE
 

“Why on earth do we have Easter Egg Hunt?” --- Grandson in University
 

What’s inside the egg, little one?
You said you have to break it.
“There, abuelo, it is just a chocolate.”

You parted bramble to find them
Sparkling with colours only mothers
Can imagine. “Anything else in the egg?”

I knew grandmother put some coins
In them, too, because it was a surprise,
Not unlike the thirty pieces of silver.

Why Easter Egg Hunt? What’s to hunt?
She said, impatiently brushing shrubs,
Abuela said, Jesus is there in the egg.”

How the pagan ritual has transformed
This annual revelry into the mystery
Of the Cave I also call a womb tomb!

What’s inside your new egg, this time,
Little one? “I told you, Dada: Jesus.
When we break the egg, he comes again.”

Like a womb tomb, I said. “Not tom-tom.
Only Jesus coming out of the egg, ‘cause
He likes children to hunt coloured eggs.”

Among the bramble, I prayed quietly:
Into your tomb, Master, we will march,
Saving all the world’s suffering children.


---ALBERT B. CASUGA
04-20-14, Mississauga, Ontario

 


 
 

 

Friday, April 18, 2014

LA PIETA: A MOTHER'S LAMENT


 
LA PIETA: A MOTHER'S  LAMENT


(For my wife, Veronica, and my Mother, Nenita+, who also had only one son each, Albert Jr. and Albert Sr.)


When we lost you at that Jerusalem festival,
For three days and found you at the Temple,
I knew you would give me more impatient kicks,
This time not in my womb, this time on a cross,
This time from your most cruel embrace, my son,
A carrion of the proud lad who said: Mother,
I am not lost, nor mad, I am about my Father’s
Business. O, if he were there, your father Ioseph,
O, if he were here now, he still would not weep.
He would be mindlessly angry that you had me
Worry, and that now, now, you have me weeping.
What is left for me to worry over? What joy
Would you have brought me despite father’s
Annoyance? When you brought me to banquets,
Did you not make me smile like a worried mother
That water would not turn to wine however drunk
You were? Did you not make me beam with pride
When you saved that harlot from stones? Cast
The first stone if you were sinless, you had dared
The Pharisees who did not know how good she
Was for the rich Sadducees who lusted for her,
But you knew; you, who would not tell me much
About your disciple Mary, now hurt and crushed
That you must leave her mocked in the shadow
Of your having kept the company of even thieves
Whom your Father will keep with you in paradise.
O, my Son, my Iesu, is this death also your Father’s
Will? Is this also why he is taking you from me?
Why then did you cry in desperate despair: Abba,
Father, why have you forsaken me? Let me know
How I should understand how you could regain
A lost paradise when you would no longer be here?
O, my son, why have you also abandoned me?


---ALBERT B. CASUGA
04-18-14 Mississauga, Ontario

 



Thursday, April 17, 2014

THE BETRAYAL



"Cock Crow", Digital Painting by Alfredo "Ding" Roces, 1997
 
 
THE BETRAYAL
 

He is the one that I shall kiss: Jesus of Nazareth. ---Judas Iscariot

 
Who will do it, that His will might be done?
Not he who would deny him before cockcrow,
Nor fearful fishermen scrambling in the dark.
There must be a clean way, hidden from them.

Pilate will not hang him; look, he washes hands
Much like the whore who has just pleased him,
That he might not decree a wicked judgment;
After all, did I not choose the fairest of them all?

The one he has fished out to warm his cold bed
On bivouacs, clean his dirty toes with perfume?
I had to earn the pieces of silver for myself.
Must hie away from this wasted hole of wastrels.

The thief on the other tree proclaimed him ally
That he might be spared by those rabid rabbis.
Fool, he must perish like jackals before him,
Used like rags to wipe these asses’ behinds.

From my filthy ruse then, shall his promise
To save man from perdition become flesh, blood
Of the havoc that shall destroy Satan’s dominion
Over the Paradise that he said he will regain.

I will join my Master then, hanging from this Tree.
 

---ALBERT B. CASUGA
04-17-14, Mississauga, Ontario


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

THE RANSOM



THE RANSOM

This shall not perish from the earth.
That dark tree would. It’s ransom?
Why, the crown of thorns, of course.
And this valley of fear, this gloom?

Unlike the old wounding diadem,  

They will be there again at sunrise
Unlike His Tree and prickly Crown.
They will not be there to save them.

His blood shall be on their heads.


Yet, they too, will know redemption.
They, too, will find their good cure:
The vile and the cruel shall be gone
When He comes to live next door.

But how often do we need redemption?

---Albert B. Casuga

04-15-14, Mississauga, Ontario



 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A LENTEN DIRGE: A DARK CROSS

Ecce Homo by Alfredo Roces, 1952
 

A LENTEN DIRGE: A DARK CROSS
 

This gloomy day ushers in (an embarrassment
of fronds and a donkey) an entry of a warrior
proclaiming Love, exited as a prisoner of war
into the Hill of Skulls, spread-eagled as a thief
on a ragged cross, crucified for a killing
fit only for the those mocking Caesar's due,
while invoking forgiveness for his assassins
who stripped him naked in front of his wife,
mother, and brothers, wailing in stark despair
to a darkened sky: Why have you forsaken me?


A dark cross casts its shadow over the valley,
but the blown rain breaks buds burnt like ashes...
on the forehead of the land---this is a desert
where fear and pain thrive---only these twins
will grow out of the oases of blood let out
by blades broken into each brother’s bones:
crosses have lost their balm here, where houses
are better off without porches anymore.
 


 —Albert B. Casuga
Revised 04-13-14 Mississauga



 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

AN UNCERTAIN WEATHER


 
 
AN UNCERTAIN WEATHER


It’s 36C outside, let’s take that deferred swim at the resort’s pool.” She said. “Yup,” he said. But the water was still cold from the cold spell in Nevada. He cursed.


 “We have known them all already,
known them all”. Thus, we measure lives,
abandoned hopes, laments, even sighs.

We have heard them all already,
the prayers that remain unanswered
behind bolted doors, darkened rooms.

This anguish over being here and not
here is all too familiar, but like innocent
children, we still look toward times

when we eagerly open holiday boxes
and find surprises no longer there,
but manage to smile anyway, bottle up

a “No thank you,” and move on to other
boxes, only to find feigned familiar
joy that those are still the wanted toys.

Like a dip in the pool on a beastly hot day,
that turns out like a party-pooper’s retreat
from a douse of frozen water in a cold pool.

Thus ends a holiday in a pretend paradise,
in this defiant desert of dystopian dreams:
Not with a sigh of bliss, but with a shiver.

Like uncertain weather marked in the sky,
we move on, unchartered, with the flux,
like all things plotted must begin then end.


—Albert B. Casuga
04-09-14, Las Vegas, at the Elara




Tuesday, April 8, 2014

THE LIGHTS OF FREEMONT



THE LIGHTS OF FREMONT


The play of lights on the dome is what gathers them to Fremont. Moving lights, in the dome of a pretend sky, not unlike the lights and tinkles of a slot machine.

 
It is what we have absently forgotten,
that we still abide in a strange gyroscope
of happenstance of giving and taking,
of coming and going, visions and revisions.

Or there simply is nothing to remember
from the darkness whence we came except
the pain of pushing or pulling out of a hole
into a yet more fearsome cave of struggle.

Is it dread then that is left in our satchels?
This journey has neither maps nor diviners
to guard against a free fall into an abyss
of irreducible gloom and cold desert silence.

Is this dome of blazing lights also a strum
for a quiet waking into a space of loneliness?
Or are these spaces our own echo chambers
where ripples of our calls are heard by others?

In the Beginning was Light, and we go back
again and again to understand the shape
of the spark that was left undefined in hearts
that recreate it in brief outbursts of that Light.


---Albert B. Casuga
04-08-14, Las Vegas, Nevada

  

ICONS NAILED ON THE WALL



ICONS NAILED ON THE WALL


(For Marilyn Monroe and James Dean)

 
Lights and shadows on the wall,
These are the icons of his youth.
How so like them to coyly disturb
A silent room, nailed on a wall.
She, reclined with a come-on grin,
He, pensive, slouched as the lost-boy
Rebel without a cause, stares east
At an Eden long lost to the giants
Who have taken over the garden
Where he lies buried with a Porsche,
His coffin of choice, a fleeting star
Gone quickly like a haunting mirage.
Could she have written that lyric
For him, this recondite Sappho,
Who was thought as a mere wiggle
Of a hip and a pucker of the lips,
Not a wicked siren in a white house
Where nothing was pure that side
Of the universe, that side of loneliness.
Bright images on a wall, still shadows.
 

---Albert B. Casuga
04-08-14



 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

THE STREET MIME


 
THE STREET MIME
 

They stand still, move a little when someone stares, then point to the tip can.

 
How grotesque should I get to get noticed as a busker?
An earlier mask was that of an Oscar statue, gold, de oro.
Yes, I was naked, except for a fig leaf on my privates.
Standing ramrod straight like the stroked movie award,
I can’t even get rowdy sistahs to scream libidinal cusses,
Nor the crotch-scratching, repositioning, baggy-pants
Brodahs to giggle at my golden balls and golden tool.


Have been doing this before Hollywood sent Britney
To bare her derriere at salivating dotards on front row.
But where is the silver change, the crumpled bills?
I regret leaving Oaxaca’s fishing village, but fishing
Is not a man’s job. It is a lazy act. Miming here is art.
Haven’t I sent my boys through school with this work?
I will stand still here and listen to the can’s clunking.


Maybe tomorrow, I will put on a wig, and put on a garb
Much like that of Jesucristo, a glowing heart on my chest
And mime a gentle smile on my lips, two fingers raised
In an act of blessing scuttling tourists in the Name
Of my Father, in my Name, and in the Holy Ghost’s.
Maybe someone will notice me then, as a stolen statue
From the Cathedral behind the 24-hour brothel in Reno.


---Albert B. Casuga
04-07-14, The Strip, Las Vegas, Nevada