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.
What sound is made/when something slips away and the hand closes/and opens on nothing but cool air in its wake? /…That’s/the heart missing what it wants to hold fast.---From “Aubade” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 06-27-11
That humans need time, and the senses/with which to paddle through it/and navigate, and to get lost in the water’s/response as we push and kick.---From“Making Sense” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist.
It was a Rational Psychology 101 lecture,
and half of us were half asleep. De rigueur:
Half of what I now recall about nothing
is that there is nothing in the mind
that does not first exist in the senses.
Common sense. Except that it is uncommon.
Is it not special to find that goose pimples
are but the tell-tale signs of being touched?
That time, you caressed my face when you saw
those letters I cut into that hapless branch.
You did not need to say anything: your heart
did as it skipped a beat, my head on your chest.
“Con amor duradero*,” completed the carving.
Your mute kiss said:forever. I said: always.
Would our eyes have seen that same eternity
if they were all that we had to have and to hold?
On sundowns like this, on my hammock hour,
I look back to those lost years, bleary eyed.
My mind was right. Nothing lives forever.
Are our lives all a lump of dearly felt lies then?
Lush hedges, iron gates, beveled glass doors,
patio doors opening to a river view of birds
on the wing and gardenia petals wafted
into rooms where there is no one there: I was looking for a home. This is a house.
All it would have taken were those dancing
figures, reflections on smudged chromes,
the frolic of rolling oranges on speckled tiles,
kitchens redolent with burning bagels,
and those sounds we cuddle by as rain
patters like little feet on windows we will
look out of waiting for the peal of children
running naked through the rain.
One of the day's pleasant surprises was an e-mail from my son attaching an "ace" composition by his second child, his only girl, Megan Sarah Casuga, who is finishing her sixth grade this June at the St. Dunstan Elementary School, here in Mississauga. An essay on the Crucifixion of Jesus, the brief narrative/descriptive essay delighted me no end. From a sixth grader, it was a better written material than some of those submitted by my university students.
Here's my fifth grandchild (of the present 9, soon to be 10 some September), Megan, writing about Christendom's holiest event in a palpably anguished but quiet elegance befitting the solemnity of the Crucifixion. Not a word wasted. The narration is served graphically by descriptive words and phrases.
A little while ago, when she was barely five, I remember bringing her to weekly art classes at one of this city's community centers. She can draw and paint. I did not suspect that one day, without my mentoring, she would also add writing to her treasure chest of talents. Writing with aplomb. I cannot fully claim the gene-pool since her father, my only son. Albert Beau, writes and etches himself. Of course, I include myself in that area of "responsibility". Indeed, "the apple did not fall far from the tree."
Avoiding any close analysis or critique, I am posting her composition below. I invite all readers to make a judgment on how well her narrative/descriptive essay was written. I am, of course, proud to say, I have another literary creature climbing the ladder in the family tree.
In an earlier blog post, I called the poem collection (a chapbook entitled Young Poems) of another grandchild, Taylor C. Kwan, a 7th Grader at St. Valentines Elementary School and Megan's best friend, a "gift outright". Here's another "gift outright" from provident hands, and I am not sure I can thank them enough.
Everything is silent. You can only hear the faint sound of crying. You can hear people praying for forgiveness. The air is filled with sorrow. He is dead. Jesus is crucified.
When you look back you can see him struggling to carry the cross. Falling again and again. People screaming and crying out. He is in pain yet no one helps. The guards scream at him to move on. He knows he has to do this so he moves onwards. He is coming closer and closer to his death.
All you can hear is the loud pounding nailing him to the cross. Again and again. Jesus has to be brave. Giant storms are cast. Lighting and thunder fill the sky. Rain pounds down. He asks his father to forgive the people. He is calm even though all around him is pain. A tear rolls downs his mother’s cheek as she asked God why? It becomes louder and louder until you can no longer bear to look. He looks up and says his last words. Then… silence.
We even have rain dances, Stick, to pray for rain.
But we still have our little deserts despite that.
The Hopi have it, the Navajo, the Igolots. The lot.
Mayans, Aztecs, and all the prayers they have got.
In the old country, tots still sing that song while
they halloo in the rain, bathing naked in the rain.
“I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain.
I’m happy in the rain, just happy in the rain…”
Why can’t I recall those Gene Kelly lyrics? Dang!
Oh, to feel that downpour on my face again!
In Ranchipur, they un-learned rain-prayers.
Monsoon scares even the farmers and fishermen.
Grade schoolers have even learned another ditty:
“Rain, Rain, go away, come again another day.”
Schoolhouses float in floods brought by monsoon
rains from Indonesia to China. Now Australia.
It’s summer at last, but does it have to be humid?
Poor chap over there has a dour face. He gazes
at his garden, at the portion given to all that moss,
looks back at stunted buds on his rotting trellises.
Like a sad farmer who has lost a crop. Like a sad
father who needed the money to send a kid to school.
“Into each life, some rain must fall…a rolling stone
gathers no moss,” my roused errant friend snapped.
Tracing a searing Gobi in that man’s countenance,
I grabbed its scruff and mumbled: Shut up, Stick!
—Albert B. Casuga
Prompt: The steady rain of 6 a.m. gives way to sticky heat by 10. I stand gazing like a sad father at the portion of my garden given over to moss.---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 06-22-11 http://www.morningporch.com/2011/06/
A quid pro quo, if there is one, Stick.
One act of kindness has its other side
on the same coin: that spider would
come down the drain and mangle
some parts, but for this ushering.
Foraging, the woodchuck is startled out
of its thicket and barrels through but
also releases the grass from its burden
of rain and it springs up to sunshine
and softens the craggy valley with
green blades cutting through earth.
Huh? What squid? What pro?
Shut up, Stick. It’s the circle of life.
—Albert B. Casuga
Prompt: Ushering an enormous wolf spider outside, I disturb a baby woodchuck. Grass blades weighed down by rain spring up as it barrels through.---Dave Bonta,The Morning Porch, 06-1-11
You know, milord, that guy who wrote: “…And Death shall have no dominion,” he’s wrong. Terribly. Look at these lilacs crushed by a fallen dead elm branch. Even in death, it destroyed the beautiful!
Shut, up, Stick. A little learning is a dangerous thing. The poet said: “Death, where is thy sting?” Leave me with my tea, will you? I need it hot this morning. Look, Stick, a phoebe uses it as a perch.
—Albert B. Casuga 06-20-11
Prompt: Gone for just two days, I come home to find half the lilac crushed by a fallen limb from the dead elm. A phoebe already uses it as a perch.---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 06-20-11 http://www.morningporch.com/2011/06/
I wake up mornings now counting
what’s left of my constancies, like coins
in a child’s piggybank. That everything
is in a constant flux is itself constant.
But I stay grateful for the same sun
rising over the mountain ridge at cockcrow.
At sundown, I chirp with the swallows
as they perch to wait for that same sun.
My yesterdays and tomorrows are twin
pictures of what was and will be or might
have been, like the ebb tide that will still
be there erasing footprints left on the sand.
Will there be old footprints there again?
It is a rhythm of a quiet watch over how
soon the death we have been born with
will pay its final visit. Quite like a cricket’s
chant describes the kind of day I’ll have,
after my tea, after all the teas of my life.
—Albert B. Casuga
Prompt: At 8:47, the sun puts in its first appearance. The cricket in my garden—the only weather forecast I follow—doesn’t miss a beat.---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 06-17-11 http://www.morningporch.com/2011/06/
On my hammock, on afternoons like this,
I have the whole sky for a taut canvas.
It is easy enough to paint a landscape
rolling on clouds that transform quickly.
That mass of cumulus moving toward
the hillocks of Nara is my father’s face.
I can see my Chloe in a furious pirouette
among those swirling cirrus. A ballerina.
Are clouds the sum of all our memories?
Do they shape the fears that we run from?
Or have I just run aground, no wind
on my sail, no seascapes nor harbours?
On afternoons like this, on my hammock,
I cull the pictures I have collected, a collage
of dispersing dwindling drawings on skies
that darken at sundown drowning them all.
What have I rushed for, hieing to a country
of old men? These are empty spaces of empty
hours, a dull ache that stands for a leftover life
marking rhythms of time on a swaying hammock.
—Albert B. Casuga
Prompt: Now /I try to learn the gold-slow rhythms of afternoons,/ the thrift of hours from the longer bones of time.---From “Anniversary” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 06-14-11 http://www.vianegativa.us/2011/06/
A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems (2009, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House)
The Aeshetics of Literature (De La Salle Univeristy Publications, 1972)
Narra Poems and Others (San Beda College Publications, 1968)
In a Sparrow's Time (Infocom, Canada. 1990)
Still Points (Selected Poems), 1972, (Flores & Associates, Manla)
Songs for My Children (Selected Poems), 1996, (Infocom, Canada)
A. B. Casuga's works are anthologized in A Habit of Shores by G. H. Abad (UP Press), Introduction to Poetry by Edith Tiempo et al (Silliman University), and has been published in journals and magazines in Philippines, Canada, United States, and Australia.
Summer Suns (short story collection with Cirilo Bautista, Manila UST Press 1962); Narra Poems and Others (poetry collection, San Beda Publications, Manila 1968); Still Points (poetry collection, Flores & Asociates, Manila 1972); In A Sparrow's Time (poetry collection, Infocom, Canada 1990); Songs for my Children (poetry collection, Infocom, Canada 1996); The Aesthetics of Literature (Literary Theory and Criticism, De La Salle University, Manila, 1972); Editor: Man in Search of Meaning: Literature (Humanities Series, Asia Foundation & DLSU Textbook Committee, Manila 1970); Man and His Literary Past: The Classical Tradition (Asia Foundation & DLSU Textbook Committee, Manila 1971); A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, Manila, 2009).