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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, August 28, 2010




There is nothing but trees for miles from where Allen and Margaret Berrington’s silver Chrysler Sebring was found on Wednesday afternoon. . . .A pair of dirtbikers found the Sebring, out of gas, and Margaret, 91, deceased, three kilometres down the road. . . .Mounties later found the body of Allen, 90, nearby, concealed by a small embankment. How they got there, and why, is a mystery. - - - Kevin Libin, National Post, Friday, June 4, 2010

Something about the spring sun slicing through
Shadows of maple and birches cuddling the road,
Their branches creaking like stretched backs do
When pulled erect from a burden of stoop, load
Of the years fallen off as derelict leaves gone
With the lashing wind, roiled into an uproar
Of rain and foliage --- something about the sun
Caught in her ruddy blush and now gossamer hair
Has sprung a sprightly pull on his flaccid arms
And he was going to enfold her again, trolling
Their road song again: O leggy Peggy in my arms,
O lovely Peggy in my arms! And hear her trilling
Again: Al of my dreams, I love you, honest I do;
Oh, what can I do, I love you so. I love you so.
But something about the spring sun on their faces
Was all he could recall, the sky, and empty spaces.

June 23, 2010

And these few precious days, I'll spend with you....these golden days, I'll spend with you. ---September Song


Ah, to be old and a mariner come upon that restful cove,/ Where the final weapon is a chair not love;/ To be old, cher ami, is a gallant slouching on that chair/ Some porch of the heart grown insensitive to care ---
--- “Houses are Better Off Without Porches Here”,
From A Theory of Echoes (Selected Poems)


“Favorite spot,” Nguyen Cao Tran pointed
To the bench on Lincoln Green before
He waved me bonjour the Montreal way.

“Favorite spot for wife and me…drink
Tim Horton Coffee from across,” he winked,
Now unafraid his accent might betray

A Viet Minh rasp from Saigon days,
A shrapnel buried on his nape: “Still smoke
Camel sticks from GI Joe friend in Frisco.”

He looked away when I remembered to ask
About Nguyen Bao. “Isn’t she walking
With you this morning? It’s spring, mon vieux!

He mumbled: “She gone…far away now,”
And shuffled away, his knapsack slung
Like a rifle crooked on his flaccid hand.

A single cup of Roll-up-the-Rim teetered
On the bench the next day while I waited.
No cups on the ground, the bench was naked.


Caminnare. Fare una passeggiata.
Eh, come stai? She shot back looking askance.
Perched birdlike on her stroller, she inched
Her way to the middle of the cul de sac ---
Where I tarried, a wide wave our ritual,
I called out, Come va, Nonna?
Her andador tilted off the cobbled strada,
She stared blankly, but smiled nonetheless
In the courtly manner she never failed to show
To neighbours and strangers alike.

Her sallow skin becomes her regal face,
I thought, but the same face furrowed,
Her eyebrows arched impatiently then;
She demanded: Are you the police?
Or are you my son with a Florida tan
Hiding as usual from me? I called them
From 2441 because I could not find
My house, nor my keys. Was just walking,
Was just enjoying the sun for once.
Crazy Calabria weather. Rain. Sun. Wind.
Sun. Snow. Cold. Hot. Aiee... who are you?

“2441 is your house, Nonna. And you have
A daughter who will be here tomorrow.
And this is Mississauga. I am Alberto
With the nipotes Chloe and Louie at 2330.”

Aieee...dolce angelo! My angels.
How are they? E come va, amore mio?
Caminare. Fare una passeggiata.
O, com `e bello, O sole bello!
But you will help me find my home,
Won’t you? Won’t you? Amore?
A lilt on her voice, she flirted rather coyly.


Sitting on her Florentine chair
Atop the red-tiled stairs, the sirocco
Breeze playing with her ivory hair,
She awaits her turn to say hello:
A caudillo-like half-raised wave
And a schoolmarm’s smile on her
Waxen face, a smirk at times to save
Her some chagrin falling off a chair
While she wags childlike to say:
Blow a kiss to your window-waving
Girl, say au revoir for now, and pray
That as they grow, won’t stop loving,
And they do grow and go away,
And you’d be left sitting on a chair
Wondering why they have flown
Like swallows, and hope would care
To come back and perch at sundown.


(Para mi Madre)

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

Mira! Mira! Madre mía.

Tan fuerte ahora, sus pájaros
están volando a puertas desconocidas;
están volando tan lejos para que
nunca jamás devolver y quedar en la casa
de corazón triste, ahora casa abandonada,
nida desolada, madre mía.

O mi madre querida!


“I just wish your Father would come and take me soon. I am tired,” Mother said and closed her eyes. --- 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.


*All alone, always


1. Impressions Dyed in Red

Swatting flies off the sahib's table,
Slapping bloodsuckers off the soft skin
Of money changers in the Dhaka alleys,
Dumping discarded foetuses in rivers
Curdled with carcasses and dung:
All in a day’s work of a boy in Bangladesh.

Beating dread into brittle skeletal backs
Of scampering beggars, howling slumdogs
Praying for mercy while batons are rained
On loins to supplant the eked out alms
That could have bought this lad’s repast
Coming out of sweatshops drenched
With dye that reeked with bodes of dying:
All in a day’s work for the Rajah’s riot police.

Impressions swathed on mud-splattered
Garments strung in shanty town washlines
Wound tightly on gnarled branches of trees
That will not grow beyond this lad’s height
When he creeps out in the night toward
The hills these armed bastards have driven
Him to, and he will come down a grown man
Of wraith-like limbs and dark sunken eyes
Burning with wrath and towering anger.

2. Looking Back in Anger

Decapitating the governor and his paramour,
He lisps: All in a day’s work for the child-slave
Who prayed for them to stop dumping batons
On his mother’s back: “Hit me! Beat me instead!”
They spared the splayed old woman grovelling
Atop a mound of scavenged used diapers
But did not think the better of him that time,
This waif, this little boy, running through
The streets begging for a little more rupiah,
A little more dried squid or corn for siblings
Around his table. The riot police jeered:
Eat shit, you little shit. Eat this rattan stick!

All in a day’s work for police and lads in Dhaka,
The proud city of Bangladesh, where label
Shirts of Tommy Hilfiger, Grenadier, Chaps,
Yves St. Laurent and Ralph Lauren are made.
July 3, 2010, Mississauga


(For Alain and Anik)


Know by all these present: that after leafing through the folds of the Earth, l’ monde de joie et crainte, wherever their hearts saw them against the imperatives of the Law, La Loi, et Le Droit and its claim on their lives, minds, hopes and dreams, that --- enfin --- M. Roussy et Mlle. Lalonde, Barristers, have found what they have always been searching for: l’amour pur, the purest of them all, that man can ever find or offer: une belle bébé, Annabelle, for whom they will cease their exploration because they have by noble covenant found the root of the rainbow, their l’amour pur, Annabelle Jeanne, the beginning of their days, the sundown of their eves, now the life of their lives.


Bienvenue, Annabelle chère.
However fearful or fearsome
You will find this old old place
Amidst its temblors, fiery blazes,
Cloying floods, endless disasters,
Deceits and wounding betrayals,
This is still l’monde de amour,
Et vraiment la place unique,
The only place for love.


There is a scampering of grace/In the dry woods/ And a pulse upon some soliloquy: / It is the rain come as a lace/ Smooth and forbidding upon the cup/ Of the dead and dying weather!
--- “Fugue in Narra’s Rain”, Narra Poems and Others, 1968

Something about running naked in the rain
recalls some lost decades withered now in
a fading trail hallooing with surprised laughter
tickled out of our backs by sudden pellets of rain.

The river! The river! Chanted my little lass

Skipping to the tempo of scampering rain:
Let’s swim there, abuelo! Let’s dance in the river!
Brown and slithering over scraped-clean rocks,
the river meanders sans snails, eels, or crayfish,

Now emptied of carp, catfish, small-mouth bass.

O, how we could have raucously scared the wren
with catcalls while mounting a wading caribou,
but those were noises of our lost years when
naked lads swam with dung and water buffalo.

We can’t swim here, hija mia, City Hall says clean
rivers are for clean table fish. We do have our rain.

--- A. B. Casuga
August 22, 2010, Mississauga


He would not take a proffered
hand to cross the street:
"I'm not a baby anymore.
I will wait, abuelo."

But he will not wait.

No, he cannot wait for the world
to pass him by: no cars nor wars,
landlslides or fires, floods of blood,
or trembling babies wetting sheet
will stop him. Across the street
is a pizza parlour.

He will not wait.

--- A. B. Casuga
August 24, 2010


The stool stood sentry to a darkened room where
she said she would wait if it took forever and it did.

The stool will outlast the stonewalls, rotting doors,
loosened bricks, dust, and bramble. It will be there.


A.B. Casuga
---August 19, 2010


Last June, Coastal Poems and Asia Writes published my Earth Poems, an unlikely Cassandra of disasters plaguing the planet. In this week's dailies, news about subsequent disasters all over the globe seemed to have validated fears of the true wrath of days descending on man.

The floods in Pakistan, the infernal temperature rise and resultant forest fires in Russia, the floods, fires, and mud slides in China, the temblors in unpredicted points, the outcrop of drug-resistant viruses, microbes, and diseases compounding these disasters were capped by news that the glaciers on Earth's poles are melting and ocean waters are threatening to reclaim terra firma.
I rewrote the Earth Poems to update on these calamities, but I am not laying claim on prophetic powers nor putting one over Nostradamus. I almost want to derive so much wicked delight over the realisation that I could say at this point, "I told you so," but I would rather not. It is not funny, you know.

I clip with this revision the week's disaster news.


It’s when I’m weary of considerations,/ And life is too much like a pathless wood.../ I’d like to get away from earth a while/ And then come back to it and begin over.../...Earth’s the right place for love:/ I don’t know where it’s likely to go better. --- Robert Frost, Birches


If you marvelled at the dance of the Northern Lights
Counterpointing the smouldering plumes of ashen smoke
Billowing out of an Eyjafjallajokull cradled by melting glacier,

Or quietly scanned the opal horizons of Banda Aceh swathed
In a glorious sunset chiaroscuro before the waves claimed
Atolls and infants back into the rip tide roar of that tsunami;

If you were ambushed by an unforgiving temblor that rocked
Haiti out of its romping in reggae regaled beaches turned
Into common graveyards of carrion crushed under rubble;

If you have walked through cherry-blossom-strewn streets
And smiled at strangers’ hallooing: How about this spring?
Before rampaging twister funnels crushed hearths and homes;

If you have strolled and danced ragtime beat on Orleans’
Roadhouses rocking rampant with rap and razzmatazz
Before Katrina’s wrath wreaked hell’s hurricane havoc;

If you still marvel at forest flowers as God’s fingers
And espy sandpipers bolt through thicket cramping marsh
Before infernal flames crackle through Santa Barbara’s hills;

If you have stolen kisses and felt purloined embraces
In the limpid ripples of Cancun’s caressingly undulant seas
Before the onset of the curdling spill on the playa negra;

If you braved the stygian stink of Ilog Pasig and sang songs
While harvesting floating tulips, debris, or stray crayfish
For some foregone repast before it turned into River Styx;

If you have lived through these and now blow fanfare
For Earth’s being the right place for love or maybe care,
You might yet begin to accept that Mother’s lullabies were
Also her gnashing of teeth when you wailed through nights
When slumber would have allowed her love not tantrums
Of infants grown now and “quartered in the hands of war”:


How else explain the wrath of days descending
not into quietness but pain? Has she not kept her anger
in check for all the tantrums of the Ages: Thermopylae,
Masada, Ilium, Pompeii? Hiroshima, Auschwitz, Nagasaki?
Stalin’s pogroms? The death chambers and Holocaust trains?
Polpot’s killing fields in Kampuchea? Rwanda’s genocide?

Before it lured tourist trekkers, the verboten Walls of China?
The Berlin Wall? The Gaza Wall? Fences of n.i.m.b.y.
neighbours: India and Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, splintered
Korea, the Irelands shorn of the emerald isles, the fractured
United Kingdom where the sun has finally set on its Empire,
the still haemorrhaging American southern states crippled
and still unyoked from black history but seething now
from the African-American’s irascible entitlement ---

With Zimbabwe’s apartheid, Congo’s rapes, Ethiopia’s
hunger, Sudan’s ceaseless putsch tango, Somalia’s piracy
trade, tribal wars in Uganda, Namibia, Botswana, Kenya,
will blacks overcome someday, soon? Only if they, too,
would get munitions from Venezuela’s bottomless vaults
gurgling with black gold, aceite y petroleo, and Oil of Ages.
Lubricator of the war and killing machines, in Oil we Trust.


Has it gone any better? Love on this piece of terra infirma?
The man crucified on Golgotha preached love,
And he got killed.
Free the enslaved black man, he cried in Gettysburg,
And he got killed.
The loincloth-clad man asked for non-violent resistance,
And he got killed.
Another Gandhi later, the distaff side, asked for peace,
And she got killed.
The man got his people to the moon, and said:
Ask not what your country can do for you;
Ask what you can do for your country.
And he got killed.
I have a dream. He said that equality of races will ring true,
And he got killed.
Exiled and returning to forge a conscience for his people,
He said the “Filipino is worth dying for”.
And he got killed.


Guam gets rattled with its strongest quake yet, sunken atolls
In the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand become sea again.
Landslide carnavals in Brazil? Uganda, too? Chile quakes 8.2.
Russia’s galloping inferno will reach Chernobyl in no time.
Radioactive fallouts imminent; its reach unimaginable.
What’s 14 million homeless like in Pakistan’s deluge?
Wait till China registers its numbers after floods, forest fires,
Mud and muck will roll out its carrion in denuded hills
Like stuck-up slaloms sloshing down where snow will soon
Cover all – not grass on knolls – just searing deserts. Gobi.

“An earthquake is expected on the fault lines between Israel
And Palestine”, the breaking news announces another temblor.
Nazareth shrines will be closed to pilgrims. And Jerusalem?
Closed. Gaza? Construction abandoned. Problems solved.
Like the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo drove the Ugly American
From the Philippine’s Clark Base where the legions
Of armed rebels, limp politicos, and clap-infected whores
Could not. Tomorrow, then, the Ring of Fire.


Has it gone any better? Love on this piece of terra incognita?
That’s when Mother shushed you back to sleep,
An impatient rhythm clipping away what should have been
A gently lulling melody from the Song of Ages:
Rock-a-bye, baby on the treetop; when the wind blows,
The cradle will rock. When the bough breaks, the cradle
Will fall; and down will come baby, cradle, and all.
The bough breaks, and you scream. Too late for that.
This is not a dream. The freefall is Mother’s little slip
When she could no longer hold you still, somnolence
Finally taking over, and your cri d’couer, a scream,
For help, for caress, for all the love gone from an empty room.
The cradle falls, she can’t pick it up. Exhausted and utterly
Spent, she mutters in her sleep: Spare the rod, spoil the child.

Tomorrow, if it comes, Mother will prop up --- backaches
Assault her waking days now --- will step into her plimsoll
As she would her dancing pumps, oil-soaked slippers.
She will slip and fall before anyone else wakes up.
She will yell: “Damn it, who spilled oil on the floor this time?”

Earth Poems, Revised from Asia Writes release, August 14, 2010

August 28, 2010

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