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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.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I ALSO DISTURB THE UNIVERSE


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 -- but 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:

MY DESIDERATA

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 this echo-call.
Where am I? Where are we?
If the morning never becomes an afternoon,
will it always be a waking into a moment of
disfigured song, a dawn of perpetual clocking?

I have earned my anger.
I have earned my madness.
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 Fete, Grand-pere! Cumpleanos feliz, abuelo! Happy Birthday, Lolo! Maligayang Bati, Lolo!" My polyglotted 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 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.

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