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.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A SENIOR MOMENT: LUCY DOES NOT LIVE HERE ANYMORE



LUCY DOES NOT LIVE HERE ANYMORE



Caminare. 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.



---Albert B. Casuga




ALBERT B. CASUGA: CRUISE FARE 2: HOLOCAUST IN MY MIND

ALBERT B. CASUGA: CRUISE FARE 2: HOLOCAUST IN MY MIND

CRUISE FARE 3: BRAZILIAN LOVERS



UMBERTO AND EDO DE BRAZIL


--- It rained at the Grand Anse beach in Grenada. Writer’s Notebook on the Cruise

Hurriedly, furtively putting on her top piece,
she looked triumphantly nubile coming out
of the make-do change nook of towels held
by her Umberto to hide her from sparse beach
traffic gaze --- gauche stares from a hawker
of fun would have been de rigueur in Rio
when they were young, but she must now
twist and turn to cover a sag-here a bag-there:

El triumfo de vejez! Nuestra juventud perdida !
Aiee, que lastima ! Aiee, hermosura perdida !

She would have wept, but the Viejo beside her,
is once again her swain, coaxing her: Venga!
is all she needed to rush into the lapping waves.
Venga! Queridisima mia! A lass again, halloing
again at the water’s bite: Come, Umberto! Come!

But the mountain cloud bringing the first rain
after a searing summer has overtaken her glee:
Lluvia! Lluvia! She cried, bewailing the sudden
leeward burst. Bolting out of the roiled sea,
no longer Venus-like, she scampered --- her
caballero in tow --- to the thatched shed,
pell-mell shelter from an abrupt summer rain.

Was it the surprise of a wayward downpour
stopped her from her frolic in the sea?
Or was it the intruding pall ruined her mark
of the sun, gone from the sky, gone from the sea?
Lluvia! Lluvia! She warned anyone who cared
to listen --- the beach frolic rolled unabated.
Under the windblown shelter, she asked him:
Por que? Dime, amor mio, por que hace llover
cuando estamos contento con poquito alegre?
Con poquito de luz del sol ? Con tiempo poquito?

He shrugged as he shook the water off his ears.
Put your clothes on, Edo. The rain won’t stop,
might have been what he wanted to say when
she asked: Why must it rain when all we need
Is a little sunshine? In such a short short while?


--- ALBERT B. CASUGA

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A CRUISE FARE: THE VIEUX MADAME, 84


A CRUISE FARE: THE VIEUX MADAME, 84


She held on to the shorter side of her skirt,
a Creole form of rainbow radiance raw on rays,
and took the proffered hand with a shy smile.

Her descent is uneventful save for all the eyes
riveted on her, the sole fare from an island shore
where fishermen glean enmeshed smelt
on day-long-heaved nets hitched to catamarans
docking light with empty baskets from a sea
that is now without fish or even fishermen.

To banter from ferry passengers tendered
ashore from cruising ocean liners, she mutters:
En Français, s’il vous plait. Non parle Anglais.

The boatswain gently cautions her to mind
the gangplank shuffle: Regardez ca!
On parle de vous, Madame.
Amused, she responds : Pourquoi pas ?
En fin, a quatre-vingts, gens remarquez!

They saw her looking away into that vast sea,
a half-smile cancelling a frown on her face,
quite like wishing away an unwanted memory.

Parlez-moi de votre voyage, mon cher,
the proffered hand asks past the gangplank.
En Anglais, mon ami: Et ees a long journée,
she says, pointing her cane rapier-like
to some lost horizon.
Un voyage solitaire.

She laughs weakly, whispering:
Alors, Monsieur, a la prochaine.
Bon chance!
She pulls her wind-blown skirt down and giggles.


--- Albert B. Casuga
01-18-12


 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A ZERO POINT: WITHOUT YOU



A ZERO POINT 



There will be a world with no you in it, / and it won’t be lopsided here without you.... Forever, you will never come back. ---Hannah Stephenson, “Fraction”, The Storialist, 01-17-12 



He said it first: after this death,
there is no other. It is peremptory. 

But a world without a memory,
is as final as it can get without you. 

Will it be a place where love is free?
Magical, except you can’t come back. 

The pictures will be on the walls,
as mute as the hooks they hang on.  

They will not talk to you, they can’t.
Even if they could, they would not. 

Even if you have become the cobweb
wrapped tight on the broken frames, 

you would not have been there. No.
You are not part of the furniture. 

Like dust in abandoned houses, you
will inhabit the nooks and crannies, 

and would not be disturbed until
termites take over. Too late then, 

because you are not even a remnant
of temps perdu, you are lost in time 

and in space; even among the stars
and black holes, you are not there. 

Like the sound of a single hand
clapping, you will not be heard. 

The first death is always the last. 



---Albert B. Casuga
01-17-12


Sunday, January 15, 2012

STAYING ALIVE



STAYING ALIVE



The clock’s hands never run the other way.---Luisa A. Igloria, “Oracle”, Via Negativa, 01-13-12 and To the unrepeatable life, the poet writes—/ a hymn of gratefulness…---by Luisa A. Igloria, ViaNegativa, 01-12-12 



Because what we now have is a life
we will never have again, something
as unrepeatable as living or dying,
we drink to it as often as we turn down
an empty cup, and learn to forgive
what was given or not noblese oblige,
coming as we do to this strange place
without as much as a warning or even
our consent. Because we did not plan
to be born, is it too vexing to learn,
perhaps to revel in the myriad acts
of loving, and in return be grateful
to perform the surprising magical art
of shaping life, nurturing it, finding it
where no one would lead us, blind
as we are to this fire in our weak loins
that was left behind by a rushed maker
like a spare screw, and we had to find
where it would fit snugly, divinely apt
and delicately, deliciously, our manner
of staying alive when dying is better?



--- Albert B. Casuga
01-14-12

Saturday, January 14, 2012

LOVE POEMS IN FOUR SEASONS: FOR VERONICA




LOVE POEMS IN FOUR SEASONS:
FOR VERONICA


Four decades and nine years ago, Veronica and I embarked on a journey that we are happy to look back at. The journey goes on. In these poems, milestones mark our way. We will remember.



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 Narra, 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 Narra. Remember?



--- ALBERT B. CASUGA



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


Thursday, January 12, 2012

TWO JANUARY POEMS: (A DEATH IN HAITI: FABIANNE GEISMAR, 15); A LULLABY AT SUNDOWN




FABIANNE GEISMAR, 15 : A DEATH IN HAITI


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


A LULLABY AT SUNDOWN


At sundown, on my hammock hour, I hum a lullaby.
And I become the magus among the cattails chanting:

O give me a home bursting with laughter and song,
O give me a nook to hide and hold quicksilver dreams.

In their crannies, I shall wrap them with sunflowers;
In icy snow chambers, I shall save slivers of sunlight

To keep them warm. I shall be the rabbit popped out
Of the magus’ cone hat, I shall jump and disappear

Into their hideaway taking the darkness with me.
In their lairs and treehouses, I shall bring dry flint

And candlesticks and all things bright and crackling;
I shall be with my wee ones and darkness be damned.


--- ALBERT B. CASUGA
Mississauga, 1-20-11

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

HER SOLITUDE




HER SOLITUDE




The flannel blanket was her armour.
 
“It shielded me through nights I needed you
to protect me from the onslaught of day
when I had to rise to know if our children
were all home in bed. Where are they?
 

“Did they perhaps fall from some cliff
and you were not there to catch them,
nor were they there to fall into your arms?
Where were you? Where have they gone? 

“Even the sunrise scares me.

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

When will you come to take me home?”

The blanket has shrunk and, threadbare,
it could no longer keep the intruding light away.



---Albert B. Casuga
01-11-12


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A PRAYER




A PRAYER


(For Marie)


I’m moved to get down on my knees./ I’m not even sure what is there.---Luisa Igloria, “Rezar”, Via Negativa, 01-08-12



Dark days will always be with us,
but they, too, will pass, like wind
blowing through gloomy rooms: 

look at her fleetingly smile at you
when you hold her to your chest,
the dove-like cooing telling you 

how warm it is to curl into arms
that will always be there to hold
and enfold however cruel days 

become, however bereft of grace
struggling to live becomes. Look
at her gaze at you long enough 

to manage another smile before
she looks away and closes her eyes
to sleep feeling you will be there 

when she opens them again still
singing her a lullaby, her smile
never once leaving her tender face. 

It is when you are moved to get
down on your knees and pray
that, if this were your final day, 

you would still have her cuddled
in your arms smiling at what you
have begun to doubt is still there 

holding us all in his steady palms.



---Albert B. Casuga
01-10-12

Sunday, January 8, 2012

ON THE FREEWAY



ON THE FREEWAY


It’s time we found the highway,
we seem to be driving in circles,
and the breaking circles are obscured
by the constantly hugging low clouds
that wrap around legs like children
pleading: Don’t go away, don’t go!

The highway sounds close, the hush
has broken into the steady hum
of the scrambling city---we will be
there before sundown, and get on
with put-off plans to ride down
those highways: We cannot go back.

The freeway sounds close,
the shimmering air smells of carbon
burning away the creeping clouds
that have waylaid us on our rush
to get out and not come back
to old houses and blackened ponds
too distant to remember. It is late.


---ALBERT B. CASUGA

Saturday, January 7, 2012

DOWN THE SLOPE


DOWN THE SLOPE

(For Francisco F. Casuga+)

Yet all the precedent is on my side:/I know that winter death has never tried/The earth but it has failed;.../It cannot check the peeper’s silver croak. --- Robert Frost, The Onset


I would run down the slope and catch myself
a rolling ball of snow before it falls into the ravine,
but walking through the silently falling snow
at the trail is a choice for these creaking knees---
no more gossoon games defying gravity for me
or flying off the hillside edge into fluff below
among the stiffened bramble and wild apple tree.

There’s warmth in the silence of falling snow:
I feel his gentle hands on my nape, I hear him,
I ask him if he would drink a pint with me
if I had reached beer-guzzling age before
he’d make his final trek, before he’d leave,
but I hear his whistling for the wind instead
and tug at his wayward kite now puncturing
some sombre summer sky in San Fernando.

O, how I’d run down the barren slopes to catch
his fallen kite among the burnt logs of the kaingin,*
but these are flakes I find myself catching
and whipped out twigs that break the silence
of falling snow. O my father.

__________


*Clearings made by burning forests


--- ALBERT B. CASUGA



In Memoriam: Francisco Flores Casuga,  b. January 9, 1921

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

HOMESICKNESS


HOMESICKNESS



Homesickness hurts/ because it will always be unrequited. ---From “Heartland” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 01-04-12



Mudfish between fingers, rice stalks
whipped by whistling monsoon wind
on our thin backs, rain-pelted faces:
you cannot look back at them in anger. 

But you do. You have lost them forever.
You can never be there again. Forever.
You will go back to the old schoolyard,
but you will not find the desk you carved 

her name on, hearts, initials, arrows,
all gone from sandpapered desk tops,
dark paint covering the deepest cuts
like healed cankers, mended wounds, 

scars of the rawest longing for the girl
who had the longest hair, wiliest smile,
cleverest excuses for going home late,
“O, we cleaned the blackboards and all.” 

Are the moss-gowned shore boulders
still there? The rocks in whose crevices
you buried secret vows to always be there
for each other in this place, this town? 

That tamarind tree in whose branches
your kite got caught, rended bamboo
ribs cracked you wept over until she
stilled your quivering shoulders in her 

arms, is it still there between the hills
you named after her, body parts you
were too scared to call were like hers?
Does the tree still bear its tangy fruit? 

There will be more questions. Will you
find the answers you need to go home?
You will even ask the trees, if you must,
but even they will no longer talk to you. 



---Albert B. Casuga
01-04-12




Tuesday, January 3, 2012

DO NOT DISTURB



DO NOT DISTURB

 

You are noisy/ even when you are silent, / the world is dripping with/ Do Not Disturb signs in/ languages we don’t even/ recognize as languages. --- From “On Eggshells” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 01-03-12 

 

It is easy enough to hear silence
at the edge of the woods. It is loud. 

Your pounding heart is not there
beating sense into your dulled mind. 

They just jump out like shadows
on walls, turn their backs, ignore us. 

On its own, one whines with longings
struggling to spill out, uncorked, 

from unguarded gaols of feelings
that have lain fallow, rotten carrion 

of desire tardily unbound, love gone
still, a truant finally nailed dead 

on broken beds creaking under cold
sheets that will never find heat again. 

The other, a slug of a mind, stays mute,
until it is egged on to scream out a pain 

in its pure form: a memory of loss,
a raw betrayal of troth. Cut, cut clean. 

Out of the woods, on his way home,
it was easy to read on the locked cottage 

door an absent sign: Do not disturb.
Silence has its sharp language. It is clear.



--- Albert B. Casuga
01-03-12

Sunday, January 1, 2012

IN SEARCH OF MEANINGS

Photo by Dave Bonta, Via Negativa


IN SEARCH OF MEANINGS



We point our dishes at the farthest stars, / searching for any crumb of meaning. / Who but the most downwardly mobile, / undocumented aliens/ would turn unjaded ears toward the earth? ---Dave Bonta, “After Rilke”, Via Negativa 



Missing the many splendored thing
is one way of looking at this search.
How really far out there do we need
to fly, or espy for the god particle we
seemed to have lost in the process? 

Why look behind the stars or in them?
Did we not lose our angels coming off
the crib or the direst cranny for shelter?
They do not grow with us, nor guide us.
Absconding, they quietly creep away. 

Courage and devilment open our eyes
to what stories we could live with or by,
or what places to board up or occupy.
Orphans at birth, we are alone at death.
What we mean here is what we make. 

The womb is a meaning we cannot do
without: our final breath is a call:
Mother, hold me. Our first cry is a call:
Mother, love me. And then we grow old
shaping up all excess purposes and ends. 

The tomb is yet another meaning we
scarcely begin to understand before it
pulls us to its urgent demand: living
to die trying to live while dying is easy
may yet be the meaning we struggle for.


---Albert B. Casuga
01-01-12