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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Town Cockfight *

What is reality?

Wind from the ashen bay wafts hillward
The raucous flavour of the cockfight’s frenzy.
Suddenly, one jumps out of a hard
Earned cogitation: “On Saturdays, you see,
Angono is agog about the cockpit’s orgy…
Oh, folks like us, we live it up…
Cocks have a manner of disembowelling guts, see?”

The streetcleaners will walk into the pit at dusk.
The mayor has ordered the cockpit’s cleaning.
After the gore has been washed at last,
And cockheads, cockguts, and cockeyes
Removed, folks will leave the pit scheming
To throw another when the parish priest arrives.
The wind from the bloodied pit blows hillward:
Gomorrah is a cockcrow from the empty churchyard.

(* Written after a retreat at the Jesuit House. Eons ago, when life was simpler.)
This poem was rejected for online publication. It used a word -- a vulgar slang -- that did not necessarily refer to the combatting fowl in the town's pintakasi (cockfight).
Surprise. Surprise. While the Internet parlays salacious and downright pornographic material into luridly lucrative business, would not accept this four-letter word. Cock. St. Peter's crowing gaoler. Chaucer's chanticleer. The weather vane logo. Red-flag this one, one cautions. Its editors (if any) cannot be serious. Or real.
Somewhere, the niceties of language still exist. In a rather unlikely place, an online poetry publisher. Of course, it would not take long for even the amateurs to recognize that exists mainly to cater to the vanity of the unpublished scribblers. It will publish your poem in a collection of "excellent poetry". There are artist's proofs to precede this publication, but the long and short of it, is for one to order a copy while "they last." Absent that order, it will offer that one's poem be etched in a "framed bronze plaque of your poem," at a certain price naturally. One's poem could also be an "Editor's Choice" for an anthology or even a CD of poetry recited by professional actors (whose names are never mentioned). They also offer a trophy for a few hundred dollars.
One learns quickly and ignores their promos, thereafter, that they "admire your poetry as distinctive artistic achievement, and you deserve a pin made of gold signifying you have joined the exclusive group of distinguished poets...please attend the annual convention to accept this pin, and be among your fellow poets. The annual convention fee is ... and it includes your hotel fees which you must reserve soon before rooms in these hotels ... get sold out."

At least they send elaborately printed letters that include promises of publishing your poetry soon. Better than call-centres, you say? Trust capitalist societies to make poetry just another merchandise. The anthology, alack, alas, could not be found in any city library, except where they get shipped from. Vanity presses still abound. Hapless innocents still people this earth.
This poem's epigraph then is apt: What is reality? One of the oldest questions, this, but we scarcely ask it. Nor answer it. Reality as reality is perhaps the vanity of vanities. What you are told, sold, see, or taught may not be what they seem. One must earn one's reality.
The pious may be tomorrow's molester Bishop; the righteous may be today's terrorist. Today's political messiah may be the next day's plunderer.
"After the gore has been washed at last,/And cockheads, cockguts, and cockeyes/Removed, folks will leave the pit scheming/To throw another when the parish priest arrives..../Gomorrah is a cockcrow from the empty churchyard." The gemini of the existence/essence syndrome is , after all, lights and shadows, life and death, good and evil, ergo, everything being nothing.
Man's distinction as a homo sapiens is perhaps best illustrated by his effort to "earn his own reality." It is never far from home --- he regales or scares himself with his own paradise or his own "desert places". His realities are what he shapes in his full being, while he can. His past, present, and future are what he knows, names, and treasures to build his remembrances, aspirations, and dreams with. While he can.
Everything is nothing here. Nothing is everything here. What then is reality?

No comments: