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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.

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



 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

CARRIONS OF SHACKLED DESIRE AND HUNGER


CARRIONS OF SHACKLED DESIRE AND HUNGER
 
1. Do Not Disturb
 
You are noisy/ even when you are silent, / the world is dripping with/ Do Not Disturb signs in/ languages we don’t even/ recognize as languages. --- From “On Eggshells” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 01-03-12

It is easy enough to hear silence
at the edge of the woods. It is loud.
 
 
Your pounding heart is not there
beating sense into your dulled mind.
They just jump out like shadows
on walls, turn their backs, ignore us.
 
 
On its own, one whines with longings
struggling to spill out, uncorked,
from unguarded gaols of feelings
that have lain fallow, rotten carrion
 
 
of desire tardily unbound, love gone
still, a truant finally nailed dead
on broken beds creaking under cold
sheets that will never find heat again.
 
 
The other, a slug of a mind, stays mute,
until it is egged on to scream out a pain
in its pure form: a memory of loss,
a raw betrayal of troth. Cut, cut clean.
 
 
Out of the woods, on his way home,
it was easy to read on the locked cottage
door an absent sign: Do not disturb.
Silence has its sharp language. It is clear.
 
 
2.  Hunger
What remains after/ the marks are erased? / …You could be the sound of a shutter, the blank/ accordion surface of blinds turned down for the night. ---Luisa A. Igloria, “Erasure”, Via Negativa, 03-13-12
 
 
 
Look harder into the darkened corridor
after the shutters have gone down,
ignore the clipped clatter of slats slapped
shut with peremptory indifference;
 
 
blurred shadows should start jumping
through them as lingering sunrays
slither like paper-thin serpents flapping
languidly with the stale air. I am there.
 
 
How else will my lost carrion incarnate
except through the quiver of hungry loins
trembling achingly through cold nights
when your frenzied fight with the pillows
 
 
and caressing flannel become urgent noise
echoing unsatedly needy behind shutters.
 
--- ALBERT B. CASUGA
Revised, July 22, 2014 Mississauga
 

 

 
 
 
 

Monday, July 21, 2014

FIVE POEMS ON HOLDING BACK (I STILL HAVE TIME)



FIVE POEMS ON HOLDING BACK
( I STILL HAVE TIME)


1.  The Pasture


Olden days as a pasture---an expanse
of growth and green alive to laughter
and song---that’s where I am going.

Where windswept bramble rustles
with grass, you will find me there.
I can’t be rushed to skip off beyond.

I have time to paint a collage of faces
I have known in the deep mosaic
of a past now graffitied on these walls.

2. Hoarded Memories


Isn’t this why we hoard our memories?

We carry them like playing marbles
in pockets over our hearts, an easy draw

when the game is called, a quick toss
into holes dug on dirt we crawl on like
the kids we were, rolling them to dusk.

Olden days are there to sieve through
to find markers along obscured paths
once brightly lit now lost or darkened.


3.  Will Keep in my Knapsack


A smile after a first kiss would help me
remember there are caresses there
as indelible, as urgent, as when first

given or surrendered by the one lover
whose courage saw me through times
when absconding was an easy way out.

A rollicking hug from the boisterous
son, a lonely issue, my only boy, recalls
a hesitant embrace for my dying father

who whispered from his rocking chair
my schoolboy snivelling was poor form,
he needed a man’s goodbye. Goodbye.


4.  I Do Not Want To Go


The litter of olden days strewn like dry
leaves along my walk home holds me
back, awake again: I do not want to go.


5. Show me the Way to Go Home
 

What is it about gloom and an overcast sky
that calls back from buried remembrances
shadows of a discarded past folded like linen
tacked neatly into closets, camphorated, and
forgotten in dark attics until the next funeral?
Small consolation that these leaves transform
into a bravura of rainbow colours before fall
claims them from their trembling branches.
 

Blown off with the winds to places unknown,
would anyone recall how they sheltered birds,
worms, held nests in the fork of twigs, even
wayward kites? A fanfare of cricket songs,
however cacophonic, forms part of a memory
when even the bark of a whimpering mongrel
or the monotone of a midnight owl remind
us of walks in the dark trying to get home on a
drunken tune whistled and yelled to the moon:


“I got a little drink, it went to my head. Show
me the way to go home!” I did not get there.
I won’t go yet, I still have time. Time is still.



---ALBERT B. CASUGA

Revised, July 21, 2014, Mississauga



 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A SILENT SCREAM: A STILL POINT


 

A SILENT SCREAM: A STILL POINT
 

There is stillness /only when we drop to the ground, /pulling our legs in beneath us/like fingers clasping a palm /in order to become a fist. ---From “Light Year” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 08-24-11

 

It is the one place we learn too soon perhaps
to find that still point, early enough to know
stillness is easily within our grasp: grovelling.
 

East of Eden, could there have been any other
way to accept an edict of eviction? Hind legs
are the postulant’s crutch to stand tall again.
 

Was not the burning bush accepted in terror,
in quite the same suppliant surrender to rules
enslaved people must learn to struggle by?
 

Even a troth to die for a sovereign is still taken
on knees propped by legs beneath, like fingers
clasping a palm. Where lies the stillness there?
 

Did not the jubilant brave receive his infant
hunter on warm buckskin in the same position
as the homeless tramp accepting a tossed coin?
 

In wars waged for God and Country, a bereaved
wife, mother, father, or son are the orphaned
who -- kneeling -- must accept a hero’s carrion.
 

Where is the still point there? Does the lover
still offer his promise and fealty to his beloved
in that humbled, prayerful, drop to the ground?


One scours this place overcome by great wrath
descending from the skies, the oceans, the air,
fire below and fire above, fathers killing sons.


A buried miner scrounging through the bowels
of the earth for fossil to light cities and lift
warplanes off the ground, does he not crouch?


Is there any other manner, a decent mien,
to receive these wages of rebellion, a paradise
lost, not with legs curled beneath like fingers


clasping a palm to clench a fist against the sky?
Where is the stillness there? In a stilled anger,
deep in his heart where feelings are the hardest?

  

---ALBERT B. CASUGA



 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

IF THERE WERE STILL TIME, BUT IT IS LATE


 
 
IF THERE WERE STILL TIME, BUT IT IS LATE

(For all the Old Friends)


There will be time, there will be time/ To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;/…And time yet for a hundred indecisions…---T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

"Clearly, the parable speaks of the patience of God. Both saints and sinners populate the land, but no one gets judged until the very end. Everyone has the time and opportunity to, as it were, convert from weed to wheat (even as, in the case of the good seeds, the possibility to change from wheat to weed likewise remains). Who was it who said that, because of His decision to wait for man to come back to Him, God created time? Then time should have as icon, not the clock or hourglass, but God waiting outside the door." ANYONE THERE?---Simeon Dumdum, Jr., “Anyone There?” FB Notes July 19, 2014


1. It’s not too Late

 

It is not too late, there is still time.
Time enough to start all over again?
Time enough to peel off rotten edges,
Look new as cankered limbs, hearts
Of darkness lit by flickering starlight.
There will be time, and time to save
Even this hapless piece of wriggling
Worm, this man, this shadow of life
Creeping into sunlit shelters where
Crawling is de rigueur for the tenant
Of this place, this earth, this hole
From whose depths we late emerge
From shall so soon expire to claim
An orbit among the rent remains
Of body and soul and his illusions
Of immortality, his undying atoms.

2. It Might be Late


In what world will we find happiness
Again? In what place, a fresh start?
Like that moldy sweet potato left
In a crisper, there must still be a way
To save it for an evening’s repast
When this hunger gnaws no limits
In this suspected late night diner
And one orders something sweet,
Something filling while we wait
For brighter mornings in this desert.

But if that morning will not come.
What is there to save but saving?
It will be late then. Who will require
Bright days, cloudless skies, or joy?
 

3. All Will Be Late


When Time equals Being,
That would be the End.

Nothing would get past
The edges of ephemera.

What would the end be,
When Being equals Time?

There will not be a bang
Anywhere, nor a whimper.

There can only be trumpets
Of the winged proclaiming

An arrival in a regained
Haven where Death is dead;

At which time, no time
Marks being on time. Ever.

All will be late for the birth
Of God on Judgment Day.


---ALBERT B. CASUGA
07-20-14 Mississauga