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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, December 27, 2010

A HARVEST OF POEMS, 2010 (SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER)

A HARVEST OF POEMS, 2010 (September to December)



A GAME OF PONTOONS

(For Mikey)

Mikey bested his cousins in the game of balancing on the lily pads (mock pontoons) while crossing the pool without falling into the water before he gets to the last pontoon. This ancient mariner, bedazzled by his grandchildren’s confidence and derring-do, failed to even get past the first pontoon despite their egging him on: Come on, ‘lolo! You can do it! Just do it! --- Writer's Notebook on a Family Break at Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara


He leap-frogged lithely
with tentative grace
from one drifting lily pad
to the other, an uncertain smile
creased on his elfin face:
quite like relishing
the exquisite danger
of leaping from one life
moment to another
shorn of anxiety or fear
a fall could end it all.

Would the pontoons hold
while he teeters on them
grasping for absent branches?

His final leap was also
this old heart’s leap of faith
that this lad’s leap-frogging
will end in a crash of pool
where ripples are his balm
and sinking is his baptism
of fire in a game called living
where bridges crumble
with the tottering pontoons.

Mississauga, September 15, 2010




AUTUMN'S QUESTION
Why do we exist? Why is there something rather than nothing?
--- The question of the ages.






Someone, something, put one over the graffiti Pollocks today:
there’s paint all over the cobbled boulevard, a chiaroscuro
of foliage, a mayhem of hue cutting through dreary treetops,
an assault on the bleakness of a clean well-lighted street,
a rampage of glee gone berserk on a roiled canvas of forest
awash with windswept strokes running riot along walls
of maples and birches and whimpering willows, a cul de sac’s
Sistine vault, Klee’s templegarten, Monet’s pond. Aieee.

This fullness of surprise is still our constant wonderment:
what does this arboreal splendour, this arbour’s magic,
change sylvan verdance for? Why the circus of colours
before autumn’s chill crinkles leaves to brittle brown, black,
or even nothing? What temples rise from the deluge of shades,
what language of grandeur echoes in these ancient retreats?
Or what language of absence befuddles before this death
that crumples something to nothing? This fall, we ask again:
Why is there something rather than nothing?

Something, someone, did one over the city’s graffiti lads today:
someone has painted the rainbow on small palms of leaves.

Mississauga, September 21, 2010


WRITER'S NOTEBOOK:
Nobel Laureate and Physicist Stephen Hawking, an emeritus professor visiting Canada's University of Waterloo, came out recently with an obiter dictum that God was not necessary to create the universe. The Pope, speaking to a group of religious leaders in England during his state visit, stepped into the debate and conceded that the human and natural sciences "provide us with an invaluable understanding of aspects of our existence...but the disciplines cannot satisfy the fundamental question about why we exist...nor indeed can they provide us with an exhaustive answer to the question 'Why is there something rather than nothing.' "

The question became the ligne donee of the poem "Autumn's Question" which this writer wrote to welcome the fall with. All the colours of autumn become the central image of the poem that revels in the graffiti-like riot of hues. Is this nature's graffiti? Who is going around painting the arbours with the colours of the rainbow? Why the bravura before the leaves fall and die?

Why is there something rather than nothing? And why must there be nothing before something?



AN UNFINISHED POEM

A PLACE OF PRAYER*

(For Jason Montana)

What temples rise from the deluge of shades,/ what language of grandeur echo in these ancient retreats?/ Or what language of absence befuddles before this death/ that crumples something to nothing?/ Why is there something rather than nothing?
--- From Autumn's Question



Cold and rough hewn pews align the red clay floor
where rifles had lain at stock and inert most dawns
when bloodcurdling screams of combat gave way
to hard-earned slumber and crackle of campfire
in tempo with the rhythm of breath heard where life
might still have lingered among the beds carved
from crevices where crag flowers have bloomed
before nightmares came with the fall of sparrows:
this night’s sleep would be tomorrow’s horror.

But daybreak brought instead a temple’s prayer:
Upon this cave, our people will build their church.

Mississauga, September 25, 2010

*Somewhere in the Sierras of Cagayan Valley, Penablanca, Cagayan, Northern Philippines

WRITER'S NOTEBOOK:
Why an "unfinished poem"? There is a "cathedral" of images left unlimned in the caverns of this place of worship. Borrowing from the practice of "ekphrasis", this composition links the image to "echoes" beyond the picture. These may proceed from the picture's history or from the poet's extension of the images that could exude from the image that vibrates with layers of mnemonic associations.

This blog invites poets to finish the poem's narrative with related images to create a "harder" gestalt, a poetic plenitude, as it were. Feel free to send in collateral tropes or other poems "induced" from the pregnant picture.

A blog (Poet's Picturebox) maintained by Filipino poet Marnie Kilates solicits this type of poetry from pictures. While it is an inverse version of poems that create pictures from words, "ekphrasis" is an old technique of using an existing visual image as the ligne donne (given line) or springboard of poetic creation. It has always been a resourceful tool for poets, particularly Oriental.



CHAIRS

1.

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)




2.
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 they 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.

3.
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.
Waiting.




FLORES PARA LOS MUERTOS



....who would fardels bear, / To grunt and sweat under a weary life, / But that the dread of something after death, / The undiscovered country from whose bourn/ No traveller returns, puzzles the will/ And makes us rather bear those ills we have/ Than fly to others that we know not of? --- Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, William Shakespeare




GRAVEYARD EPITAPHS


Flowers for the dead
Rot: the garbage man collects
Dumpster mementos.

Thus, songs for the dead
Become evening echoes drowned
In trash bin clangour.

Remembrances die
With spent candles snuffed
Over silent tombstones.

Flores para los muertos
Are dead flowers in the wind
Though wild winds tow them.

We are fallen twigs
That will not be back on trees
Though wild winds lift us.

Mississauga, October 31, 2010



THE CHILE MINE MIRACLE:
LOVE IN THE TIME OF DISASTER

ACTS OF GOD



All accidents save for Acts of God shall be deemed covered by this insurance policy. ---- Insurance coverage provision.

I lift my eyes to the mountains, from where shall come my help? / Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. --- Church hymn based on Ps. 121









Mario Gomez, 63, delivered on his promise:
“Querida mia, donde esta mi beso? Donde esta mi amor?”
Her lips quivering, she flirted on the inserted camera
Snaking through the pit, a cavern of refuge now,
A mansion no less for the indentured thirty-three,
“Ven aqui, Mario mio, si quieres beso, abrazo, y mas!
Ven aca! Venga, venga, viejo. Te quiero! Te quiero!”
Sobs arrested in her throat betrayed her when she bade
Him to stay puissant; she needs her virile man strong.

Those daily papelitos between lovers saw them
Renewing their nuptial vows: When you come out,
Not if you come out, we will get married once again
At the Iglesia on the hill, and offer our four children,
Our shrivelled skins, our shack, our mortgages, our debts,
Our dwindling years in grateful celebration to El Señor,
Y todos los santos, Who is our help, our true salvation.

Daybreak brought to its amazing plenitude the skills,
The survival tacks, the fattening of starved psyche,
The miracles of man and his science:

They’re out! Lazarus manqué!

They’ve surfaced the heroic thirty three! Sterling silver
Not unlike those Judas ransom, they ascended one
By quivering one, all clutching rusty crucifixes in praise
Of a God who was not in the sealed cavern even as they
Prayed: Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven
And the temblors of this earth.

What does it matter that Seguridad de Oro considers
This entombment non-coverable by mining insurance
Because it was an Act of God? After all, the caving in
Was in great pursuit of gold and silver, metals to shore up
The sinkholes of cities calcified in the manners of greed
That will not serve His greater glory, wherever He has gone
In the caverns of this empty, now liberated cave.
Mario Gomez will have his kiss, hugs, and more.

Mississauga, October 18, 2010




HAIKUS ON TWIGS


Autumn ---/ even the birds/ and clouds look old.
--- Basho



1.
Autumn leaves leave twigs
When wild fall winds shear branches
Of their brittle foliage.

2.
Twigs cast thin shadows---
Like trembling fingers, clutch air
For their treetop tuck.

3.
They cannot hold on---
Twigs must break away like sons
Preening as oak trees.

4.
Twigs cracked by wild wind
Fall pell-mell on bristly grass,
Burn as quickly too

When fierce sunrays turn
Valleys to tittering flame:
A covenant with spring.

5.
When twigs break away,
Shorn saplings do not take them
Back as prodigal branches

Like shadows swallowed
By sunsets gone past mountains
Lost to murky nights.

6.
O, we are fallen twigs
And will not be back this way again
Though wild winds lift us.


Mississauga, October 12, 2010





A HAMMOCK SONG: REMEMBERING JAYJAY

(For Julian Ashley+, October 2, 1984-January 30, 1885)

It is the Sea eats limb so life (so love)/ may not to its eternal wanting finish/ what it late started must soon deny:/ a clown’s journey through a circle’s shadow. . .




Another fishing season would have gone
by sundown, but I have stopped counting
and stopped fishing, too; think of all the bass
that got away and the crayfish dried brittle
on rocks laved clean of seaweed and brine,
ebb tide marking rhythm and time when
breaking waves drown the homeward hallos
of fishermen pulling empty nets and ruined
mesh dragged off by catamarans whose relics
now jag brackish breakwater rocks when
low tide retrieves stray shells wrapped in flotsam.

It is my hammock hour. Come swing yourself
on this final refuge. Don’t take too long, hijo.
We have groupers to grill, oysters to chuck!

Echoes of your shrill shrieks and laughter startle
me still when I cock my ear to catch them
filling rooms and spaces that I would have shared
with you if you had only given me the chance
to teach you how to fish. But you left without
saying goodbye. At sundown, though,
on my hammock hour, I still hum your lullaby.


October 2, 2010, Mississauga


WRITER'S NOTEBOOK:
On October 2, Julian Ashley Casuga-Dela Rosa, my first grandchild, would have been 26, but he succumbed to sudden infant death syndrome four months after his birth.

I wrote an earlier poem marking his passing, "For the Grandson Who Did Not Choose to Stay", which I reprint together with the new poem above in his durable memory. O, how we could have gone away fishing, had he stayed longer. Con amor duradero, hijo mio.




THE DEATH OF A POET:
OPHELIA ALCANTARA-DIMALANTA +

Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta, Poet (1932 – 2010+)

A HOMECOMING DREAM

...I regret to inform you that our dear Ophie Dimalanta passed away shortly before dinnertime in her Navotas home due to hypertension-related illness....she got out of the house, returned promptly because she was not feeling well. She died in her sleep. --- Nov. 4, 2010 E-mail from Wendell Capili, poet and University of the Philippines professor:


To die, to sleep; / To sleep? Perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,/ For in that sleep of death what dreams may come/ When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, /Must give us pause.--- Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, William Shakespeare


The dreams must include a salon of jesters
Belting throaty ululations announcing her coming
To the party of outpouring angst and crippling blocks.

Are you all poets here? Yarn spinners maybe? Ah,
Sparrows wounded in flight bogged down by fear
Of rejection slips and rancid rancorous reviews!

She will touch them ever so lightly, giggling a little,
Having been there, flying, dying, having done that,
All figures waylaid on her poems’ wake bleeding.

Why write at all when raucously rabid living
Is raunchy enough for the sad and unfulfilled
Who find themselves eunuched by etudes and song?

The salon erupts into muffled moans and laughter,
Crowning its homecoming poet and doyenne,
Proclaiming life and love will trump poetry this time.

Are you all poets here? What rhymes tie you down
When verse and breath and beat must go on flowing,
Or perish with them entangled in death and dying?

A gaping satyr perched on a rock, waits and wails:
Monarch of dreams, lover of lust and life, Ophelia,
You have come home where poems have no dominion.

Mississauga, Nov. 4, 2010



POEM ON A
WINTER SOLSTICE






SOLSTICE

Scampering rodents cast long shadows
On snow fallen from shorn branches.
Night falls quickly and twigs dragged into
Crevices cut eerie lines on the ground
That will not be there in the morning ---

Quite like absconding lovers brushing
Off dirt from their backs before walking
Off to shelters unknown after sundown
Trysts cut short by the solstice chill.
Scampering, they lose their shadows.

Mississauga, December 21, 2010

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