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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.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

POEMS: AN EARLY HARVEST, 2OO9-2010


AN EARLY HARVEST: NEW POEMS

POEMS FOR MY MOTHER IN FOUR LANGUAGES

1. EL NIDO DESOLADO

(Para mi Madre)

Los pajaritos estan dejando su nido;
el invierno de su vida ha venido
tan muy temprano!

Mira! Mira! Madre mia.

Tan fuerte ahora, sus pajaros
estan volando a puertas desconocidas;
estan volando tan lejos para que
nunca jamas devolver y quedar en la casa
de corazon triste, ahora casa abandonada,
nida desolada, madre mia.

O mi madre querida!

2. NAPANAWAN NGA UMOK

Pinanawan dan ti umokda,
nagtayab da aminen;
kasla ti naapa unay nga
isasangpet iti lam-ek ken
panag-uyos ti biag.

Kitaem man, Nanang! Kitaem!

Napigsadan dagiti bil-lit;
pimmanawdan --- agtaytayab da
payen nga agturong iti saan nga
ammo nga pagkamangan ---
adayo dan, adayo unay iti
pinagtayabanda tapno saan dan
nga agsubli sadiay umok
nga pinanawanda --- balay kano
iti naled-daang nga puso,
napanawan ken ub-baw nga biag,
umok kan iti angin-nen.

Ay, Nanang! Inak nga dungdungwen!

3. NILISANG PUGAD

Nagliparan na ang mga ibon,
at iniwanan na ang kanilang pugad,
tulad ng maagang pagdating
ng tag-lamig sa iyong buhay.

Tignan ninyo, Inang! Masdan ninyo!

Malalakas na ang mga ibong kamakaila’y
sisiw pa lang --- sila’y nagliparan na
patungong kung saang isang dipang langit
at di malamang malayong sulok
upang di na muling magbalik sa pugad
ng kalungkutan, pugad na nilisan,
isang bahay na wala nang laman.

O Inang. Pinakamamahal kong Ina!

4. AN EMPTY NEST

The birds are leaving their nest;
quite like an early Winterset
arrived too soon proroguing your quest.

Look at them, Mother! Look!

Now grown strong, these agile birds
are flying to unknown havens,
far-flung places, never ever
to return to stay in a house
of gloom, a home abandoned,
a desolate nest, my mother.

O my dear mother!

Mississauga, October 2009


OMNI SOLI SEMPER*

“ I just wish your Daddy Paking will come and take me soon. I am tired,” she said when I asked her what she wanted for me to send her when I go home to Canada.
--- From A Visit to Poro Point, Writer’s Notebook, 2009



The flannel blanket was an armour:
it shielded me through nights I needed you
to defend me against the onslaught of day
when I had to rise to know
that the children were all in bed last night
dreaming their dreams or fleeing nightmares
where flailing they fall from precipices
and you were no longer there to catch them
nor were they there to fall in your arms.

Even the sunrise assails me.

I beg for sunsets now and nights to hide me
from the rush of day when finally I ache to see
them home and you beside me asking
how I made it through my day.

When will you come to take me home?

The flannels have shrunk and, threadbare,
They could no longer keep the intruding light away.

Mississauga, December 29, 2009


LOVE POEMS IN FOUR SEASONS: FOR VERONICA

1. Growing Old Together

LOVE IN THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN (2009)

--- The female carries the male butterfly on her back while they reproduce, and then the female eats the male while waiting for the pupa to become another butterfly, and then she dies shortly after. --- Bohol Butterfly Farm Guide Felix.

1.

How a butterfly farm can turn
an upside down imitation of life,
haunts me still this side of art as life
or life as art as transfixed visions
of what we must be now:
like the gravid mariposa luring its mate
in a flight of duty -– she must bear
the male of her specie on her back
while they consummate a dance on air
not unlike our act of mating ---
she enamouring her mate
with scents purloined from blossoms
as, conjoined, they flit from flower to leaf
tumbling on air in ecstasy
not unknown to us when wild and young
and brave with joie de vivre,
for they must breed their kind
in a chrysalis of quiescence hurriedly,
urgently, before an inexorable end
where the male must be consumed
as her victual while clinging
to bramble branches bearing her pupa
seen to us now, voyeurs of unfolding
beauty and arresting splendour,
as the preening papillon bestirring
the dry air into a flutter of magic
sprung from throes of death and dying,
for she, too, must soon perish
after this function of issuing
a magnificence that for us can only be
borne of love and loving, yes,
perhaps also onto death and dying.

2.

The poet’s refrain, “how do I love thee”,
is supercilious here, cher ami,
it cannot match the male butterfly’s sacrifice,
nor this mariposa’s dying
to bear life, beauty, and splendour.
Alas, beauty is an omen here.


2. Coming Full Circle

A RIVER'S RUSH (1985)

--On a cruise along Lachine, Quebec

It is the river as mother to the sea
Entraps us into this womblike feeling of ease;
It is the river draws us to this discovery
Of need, our quiet helplessness.
We are the river ran its course
Into an engulfment of restless sea.
How far have we gone from our rivered Nara?
Or how long have we gone astray?
Does the river current come full circle
From the breaking waves of sea?
Do we meet each other, dreamlike,
In the endless stream of the world’s Lachines?
When do we come back as rivulets
In some hidden rock spring?
The river runs full circle, and we discover
We have not even halfway met.
When will my currents break into your rocks,
You distant sea, you entrapment of need
And engulfment of ease?
When will the sea create the river?
When will the river create the sea?
Where they meet in the trickle of a little garden,
Who laves the riverstones?
Who laps the greening shores?
The river’s rush is also our question.


3. The Dreaded Maelstrom

DIES IRAE (1970)

1.
Halfway, between this river stone 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?
What quiet mood is pinching bloodless our spleens?
This is another pool –-- navel upon the earth.
Always, always, we cannot be grown men here.

After the white rocks, after the riverbend,
Nara becomes the dreaded dream.
We have put off many plans of soulful revisiting ---
We will go on re-stepping beyond the white stones,
Each step becoming the startled rising
Into a darkened city farther downstream
Where we once resolved never to die in.

2.

Do we wake up then afraid of Nara?
But rising here is the nightmare come so soon,
Treason in the daytime, maelstrom at night:

The nightmare was of cackling frogs
And serpents rending skulls and cerebrae
Of kitemakers who sing while termite logs
Burn and children, chanting the Dies Irae,
Mush brainmatter, pulling out allegory
Like unwanted white hair, stuffing black grass
Where brain was, casting tired similes
Into dirty tin cans where earthworm wastage was:

River swells drown us where, surfacing,
We wake up knowing our days have become
Termite nights and decaying metaphors.


4. Kite Seasons We Remember

REED LAUGHTER* (1962)

(For Lourdes Veronica Lim, University of Santo Tomas, Manila, 1962)

1.

There is an old haunt, Im-nas,
Where I am singer and kite-maker emeritus
Trumpeting reed laughter after the wind
On the rib of delivered rice:

It is the kite season in Nara, remember?
Time for the kite-song, remember?
Blow, Apo Angin, blow,
We whistle for the wind.

For us, sky-struck or one with this bird
Loving mate and leaving earth on the wind,
Winged: ravishing the sun, unblinded,
We wingless and simple wait for the wind.

We while kiting comatose away lifting crags
That room the secrecies of mating frogs.
They hop with surprised grace angered by
Blushing by.

2.

Veronica, you and I, child and kite,
We shall wait for the wind:
If I were the kite, fly me to the sky,
To the bird on wing.

Should I, descending, rip my fibre
On the thorns of a fig tree
Or the curse of its flower,
Do not abduct me: I perish there.

Thinking of you: Veronica-Im-nas,
And I am kite now, inured and waiting
For the wind to ravish me free.
It is the kite season in Nara. Remember?

December, Mississauga, 2009

*(From "Narra Quartet", Narra Poems and Others, 1968)
Im-nas is Ilocano for Beloved
Apo Angin is Ilocano for O Wind


POEMS FOR MY FATHER

1. A HOMECOMING

Tanqui’s supreme conceit is its dread
Of withering grass in the month of the frogs
When rain, like fingers in the night, tread
The lesions gangrened on a hillock’s carrion,
Carcass of a season mourned
As the briefest of them all.

“The rain is on the hill, the dry pond
Is red with clay, the gods are back!
And so must I --- shadow of a past long gone ---
Weeping, running through these deserted streets,
Crouching now in mud pools of childhood fun
When songs were chanted as songs for the dance.
A dance for the grass! My limbs for the grass!
I must dance for Tanqui’s singéd grass!”

He dances hard, his body clean and gleaming,
But Tanqui’s rain is on the ashen hill.
Neither his dancing nor his lusty screaming
Will stop this dreaded withering.
Tanqui’s conceit is stranger still
When songs are sung not for her lads and lasses
But for this stranger who, dying, has come back
To dance for black grass, dance naked
For Tanqui’s withered pantheon grass.


2. ONCE UPON A SUMMER SOLSTICE

(For Francisco F. Casuga+)


There is a scampering of grace in the dry woods
and a pulse upon some soliloquy:
it is the rain come as a smooth and forbidding lace
upon the cup of the dead and dying weather.

It is past the season of the grub.

The flirt of the monsoon upon the arid lap of Nara
is caked on the thick napes of children
dancing naked in the mire of the fields,
gaping to catch the fingers of the rain,
slithering like parched serpents guzzling raindrops
cupped in the hollow of gnarled father’s palms.

There will be no songs, for the ritual is not of birth
but of death as summer dies in Nara
and with it every titter bursting from a child’s mouth.

The rain becomes a bloody plot.


A POEM FOR ALL THE OLD FRIENDS

BASURA DAYS
(Sa atin din may Wasteland)

FOR ALL THE OLD FRIENDS
(For Cesar Leyco Aguila in Australia and Isagani R. Cruz who advocates this type of multilingual writing.)

--- I grow old…I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
---T .S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

1.
It’s garbage day today; it’s time to discard the refuse.
An inspiring mantra, I mutter, before I slip into autumn galoshes
Looking brightly at a voyeur’s walk through neighbourhood muck
Arranged immaculately into green, blue, grey, and sepia bins
Mandated to guarantee that the week’s basura and mierda ---
Prophylactics and sanitary napkins, masticated fries vomited
With the arrant fish bones, newsprint-wrapped pet faeces,
Faded pictures of grandmere leering at grandpere glancing
At some tightly dungareed wench flaunting palpable haunches
Sans underpants that was last millennium’s acceptance of taste
If not coyness or even breeding in vaulted manors of delicadeza ---
Are picked up by the City Dump Meister on an antiseptic mission
To rid these fallen-leaves-strewn paseos of accidental memories,
Recuerdos de faltas pasadas, putrid waste of body functions
And memento mori gone past their memorial usefulness.

2.
These streets are the starkest salons of the rejected.
But I, an essential old man of windy spaces, I build caminos
Of broken dreams, the day’s fleeting temple of crumpled portraits
(A lass on a pony, a go-soon clamping down on a pell-mell skirt
Blowing up with the wind come to frolic with limbs on a swing
Of wings, (Aieeee….que bueno! Que linda! Siempre fuiste la razon
De mi existir! Las lindisimas mujeres! Sangre del amor! ),
a campesino
With the ugliest-looking bass this side of the Credit River dangling
From the rod of ages, old women in antediluvian bloomers
Cavorting with Holocaust-surviving skeletons picking grapes
From a refuge of Neapolitan vineyards. Forgotten portraits,
Forgiven hurts, nurtured loves, haunting desires:
C’est mon vocu le plus cher.)

3.
On garbage days, I walk the boulevards of refuse absented from
Their satiated origins, pick up discarded whistles or some such
Aeolian reeds, pick up reusable stuff better known as un tesoro
Hallado de basura de otro hombre
– televisions, computers, ipods,
Stereos, stoves, microwave ovens gone kaput or obsolescent,
Bathroom douches, screws, nails, tacks, pens, mock penile-shaped
Doorstoppers, and music boxes still wound to play Volver a Sorento.
The dumpster looking majestically impregnable upon its pedestal
At the Senior’s Home is spray-painted with blood-red letters “J.C.” ---
A startling graffiti proclaiming “SAVES” (a jumble of garbage chutes
Astride the metal bin) makes one cogitate: JC SAVES. Jesus Christ
Saves. The Catcher in the Rye
, indeed. El hombre propongo,
Y Dios Dispongo
. What man has built on his crumbling sandboxes
Only God can make last, like the Temple J.C. built upon some Rock
“Where the Gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

4.
I, an old man, accept the wisdom of the dumpster: How much
Garbage, indeed, has Jesus as dumpster caught that they may
Be delivered to the proper dumpsites of vile, filth, and dirt
So that they may, as human dregs, be recomposed as food
For the worms, the essential worms? On a morning constitutional,
A cathedral is no better than the dumpster where J.C. saves
The refuse of a lost paradise as compost for a paradise regained.
I am in good company as a picker. The Good Fisherman picked
His minions from the dissolute fisherfolk and bade them fish
Where fish was not. The Great Mao gathered his rebels as firesticks
On Hunan and burnt the hills to bear the fruit for the wakened Tiger.
Did not Mahatma Gandhi-ji gather his poor to cram the railways
That rendered them supine and in penury, that they may rise
And subdue the Empire that once did not see a sunset? Shantih.
Shantih.

5.
Onto my dying days, I, an old man on the streets of dung,
Shall recall to any lad or lass who would listen: Ang Kagalangalangan,
Kataastaasang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan ay siyang gumulpe
Sa mga Kastilang nagbenta sa Amerika ang Inang Bayang Pilipinas,
At tumuli sa mga dayuhang Yanqui upang ang PIlipinas ay lumayang muli.
At ang mga Bolomen? Hindi nga ba sila ang mga gerilyang pumutakte sa
Mga sakang ng Bayang Hapon nang ang Pilipinas ay muling nagwagi
Maski na hindi nakabalik on opportune time si Heneral Douglas McArthur
Upang kanyang tuparin ang kanyang pangako: I shall return?
Sila man din, itong mga kababayan ay lahat mistulang dukha, pulot sa basura
Ng tadhana, namayani, ang tuloy na ring sumugpo sa karimlan maging ito’y
Digmaan or dili kaya’y baha, martial law, GMA, at iba pa. Sa Manila ngayon,
Basura sa baba, basura sa gitna, at basura para rin sa kataastaasan. (1)


6.
Its garbage day on Tuesdays here, Hermano, and that’s when I go picking
Refuse, myself included. I pick my decrepit body up from its hapless
Detritus, and whistle for the wind. We cannot be old men here,
Where when we reach the end of our walk, a little boy or girl awaits
With outstretched hands, running on the wings of love and glee, to give
Their grand abrazo, besito y abuelo, abuelo! The old man is back.
He did not perish along the way. So should you not, Hermano.
We need to walk through more garbage days. Because I have not seen
Any discarded book along the way, I promise you garbage days
Are good while the Word is not yet muck with the filth of waste.
Do you have garbage days in Wales? Sydney? The Outback?
In garbage days we trust.

Missisauga, Canada, October 27, 2009

__________________

(1)English translation:
Onto my dying days, I, an old man on the streets of dung,
Shall recall to any lad or lass who would listen:
The Honourable and Supreme Organization of the Country’s
Children (KKK) destroyed the Spanish colonial master
Who sold the Philippines to America and also cut the Yankee
Balls asunder so that the Philippines would again reign free.
And the Bolo Men? Did not its freedom fighters wreak havoc
On Japan’s bow-legged troops to win yet another war despite
The tardy return of General Douglas MacArthur who pledged:
I shall return? They, too, these impoverished compatriots,
Veritable recruits from the dumpster bins of Colonial Fate
And fortune, have overcome the grim disasters be they wars,
Floods, martial law, GMA (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo), etcetera.
In Manila this time around, there’s garbage below, garbage
In the center, and garbage, too, above.

HAITI POEMS

1. ALIVE IN HAITI


PORT-AU-PRINCE --- French rescuers pulled a teenage girl...very dehydrated, with a broken left leg and moments from death...from the rubble of a home near the destroyed St. Gerard University on Wednesday (January 27). a stunning recovery 15 days after an earthquake devastated the city...Darlene Etienne, 17, was rushed to a field hospital...groaning through an oxygen mask with her eyes open in a lost stare. ---The Toronto Star, January 28, 2009, Catastrophe in Haiti.

DARLENE ETIENNE, 17

How will your story be told, Du-du cheri,
Without the Lazarus lore tacked on it,
Limbs now freed of crucifying rubble?
In the terrifying gloom of broken days
Or broken nights, whichever endless waking
Found a harbour from pain, wherever fear
Dragged you to a cliff where you could smell
The brine of the bay and hear the muffled
Urgency of a gecko's staccato counting time
Where time sits still between shadows seen
Through cracked spaces and ebbing groans,
Did you cry for a little more time, pray for
A little more light, sing childhood lullabies
Or whistle for the wind: Mon Dieu, a cri d'couer
A lonely whisper echoing from walls fallen
In other rooms, other voices hushed in silent
Anger: O, St. Gerard, O, Mother of God,
Salve, salve, salve. Seigneur, Mon Dieu! Salve!

But you have become like your shattered country,
Darlene --- these wounds shall not hurt you,
Like La Belle Haiti endured the penury lashed deep
Upon the gnarled backs of peons singing creole
Songs in the wind-swept canefields verdant
With razor-edged leaves that hide their tears
From their carousing children who would one day
See a Haiti free, Le Isle de Hispaniola an isle
Shorn of the filthy gens d'armes, the rowdy Yanqui,
And Mon Dieu, from the ladrones of the Spanish
Galleon who harvested both garlic and gold,
Or traded peons young and old for pesetas to lick
The fetid hands of donnas, duennas, damas
Y caballeros sin caballos, sin verguenza, y
Todos barbaros de Francia, Espana, y America!
Basta ya, basta ya, las barbaridades!


The shackles of this temblor will not hurt you,
Darlene, but the garrottes of freedom will;
We know them now as dollars and cents, tourists
and tourism, just as your people paid back the Yanqui
Ransom that freed you from France, only to be yoked
By French-manque Duvaliers, or defrocked friars
Like Aristide --- horsemen of your apocalypse
That straddles your country's hills and laves your
Haiti's beaches and shores. To be free is to be enslaved.

But was your lost stare a confused reckoning
Of new found puissance? These rubble shall not bury
You, cheri, for you will rise scarred but ramrod certain
That rancour nurtured well in your heart and soul
For this rapier from Reapers unknown will invigorate you.
Though ripped and routed and retreating into some hell,
Your people will learn to rule
A haven For Haitians, as Haiti is for Haitians,
And temblors be damned.

Mississauga, January 28, 2010


2. A DEATH IN HAITI

FABIANNE GEISMAR, 15

Shot dead for stealing mirrors.
---Headline, The Toronto Star, Catastrophe in Haiti, Jan 20, 2009, Pg. 19

While the temblor's carrion burn
in common graves unnamed,
you have a name to go by, and
will have confreres wail to mourn
your falling on brittle rubble,
mirror clutched as you would a rag doll
if you had a more innocent childhood,
if you even were a lass in pigtails
or braids or ribbons or princess veils,
and did not have to scrounge for food
or even think that a purloined mirror
is a prize too precious to die for.

O, Fabianne, would you have seen
a flushed reflection of the fairest face
this wounded city has haplessly hidden
in unforgiving debris of shattered grace?
Or would you have recoiled from scars
on scars that faces become inured to
seen through cracks of shattered mirrors?

Mississauga, January 21, 2010

---ALBERT B. CASUGA

Mississauga, January 30, 2010

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