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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.

Thursday, May 2, 2013





(For Marie who lost her Doll)

“Queridisima hija, su muñeca no esta aquí, no esta allá, quizás esta perdida…” *---Her grandfather’s unacceptable explanation.

Frantic, she rummaged through toy drawers, hampers,
Dusty bric-a-brac (long decreed untouchable by Maman
For anything that could break, crack, crash, hurt or kill):
“Jess.  Jess.” She lisped, gesturing to the doddering man,
Clasping her dainty little hands to signal an urgent plea
For help to find her ragdoll, a cherished, hand-me-down
Stand-in for a frayed security blanket gnawed at the edges.

Just as well, her unperturbed grandmère coyly muttered,
Looking up from folding the day’s laundry helter-skelter
On the family room sofa : She bumps into things when she
Runs with her manika*, losing her balance with just an arm
To lead her furious dash to anything she fancies. The doll
Had mud on it when she dropped it into a puddle while
Toddling with her sister, Chloé,  to the school bus. I washed
The dirty little thing. Check the washer/dryer, if it’s done.

She points the old man being pulled away by the elfin girl
To find the missing raggedy, to the crackling machines .
Befuddled, he called out to her: Wala dito. Wala doon. Baka
Nawala!* In his new-found dotard mien (to escape chores),
He pleaded with the cranky child wriggling out of his hold--
Bueno, hija, su muñeca no esta aquí, no esta allá, quizás
Esta perdida---in a fourth language, he calls God’s tongue,
Ending up baffling the wee lass who must think his tone
Was one laced with deep sorrow, nay pain, for her lost doll.
Marie Clementine,* unappeased, lets out a quiet cry: Jess.


A cane, bracelets, a phone, these are among the cherished possessions for Syrian refugees, whose names have been changed to protect them.---The Toronto Star, 03-16-13

Bracelets, Not Nancy

Will Maryam, 8, find Nancy back in Damascus? "I left her.
She is the most important thing to me in the whole world.
But these bracelets are second only to Nancy, my doll,
A gift from my brother working in Jordan, I miss him
So very much, but my mother said we must pray to Allah
So I could find Nancy again and show her to my brother."


*  “Queridisima hija, su muñeca no esta aquí, no esta allá, quizás esta perdida…”  (My dearest child, your doll is not here, it is not there, maybe it is lost.)

Manika (“doll” in Filipino)

Wala dito. Wala doon. Baka Nawala! (Filipino for  It is not here. It is not there. Maybe it’s lost.)

At 19 months, Marie Clementine ‘s father talks to her in French, her mother in English, her grandmother in Filipino, and her grandfather in Spanish. She responds to them quadrilingually with surprising ease.  To assert herself, she uses hand signals. (Taught by her mother, a professional teacher.)

+ Culled from my “The Things They Brought: Six Poems from Refugee Camps”, poems on the Syrian civil war victims published by Axlepin Publishing.

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