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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.

Sunday, July 14, 2013



(Six Poems of Lives So Far)

 "We shall not cease from exploration/ And the end of all our exploring/ Will be to arrive where we started/ And know the place for the first time."------Little Gidding, Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot

" the stillness/ Between two waves of the sea./ Quick now, here, now, always---/A condition of complete simplicity." (Ibid)

Where should I go/ so the wind can reach through me,/ so I can rifle through life while/ living it.---From “Great Plains” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 10-19-11

1. Where we Started

We were young and had our hearts and heads
trapped in dreams of mansions in the sky---
we said we will get there somehow, not afraid
of taking on the wherewithals of getting there:

How could I have stayed in that graveyard shift
relaying news around the planet, and sowing
anger in sponge-like minds at the abbey’s
colegio de artes liberales at the peak of day?

How could I have crawled back to put the day’s
paper to bed on dogday afternoons, and come
home to sweat-caked sheets thereafter? All,
all in one grabbing day to eke out this dream?

Could you ever forget the rush or feel of hastily
shorn underwear when we found ourselves
frenziedly marking time before we would rise
again to the hungry calls of earning a living?

At two or three, underclothes were our clothes.

2. Lost Chances

These are the day’s fears come home to roost,
when all that we can look forward to is sleep
to salve hurts heaped as staples of our lives:

How often do we lash out to blame each other
for lost chances at being happy? For laughter
gone from rooms we leave never ever to return?

In other rooms, in other voices, do we hope
to remake, maybe rebuild, a ruptured refuge?
In your nightmare, there is no water in the closet.

3. Holding On

This cool stillness on a bare porch jolts me
from a somber thought: hanging by a thread,
this fluffy piece of thistledown tells us all
about how tenuously we cling to a place we
never really owned. Like that wind tossed
seed-carrier, when we dance our final twirl
and all the dancers off the floor, we hold on
to a lingering melody that keeps us swaying,
alas, to an absent band---an invisible yarn
binding us to a story's end. We barely tremble.

4. Picking up Lost Shells

Here I am, picking up abandoned
shells. Could their quondam settlers
have required more wiggle space,
find ease where there is nothing
left of free and unbridle growing?
I, too, have bartered for lost dreams
but, like Orpheus, I looked too closely.

Have I turned around to size up my
trophy coming out of struggles
to recast quotidian days into happy
residues of life and love? Did I lose
what I endlessly return to, where
coming back is also coming home?
I look back for shells that I had lost.

5. In Our Exile, a Condition of Stillness

A condition of stillness pursues you,
wherever you find your exile, at sea
or in any exploration. You will be there.
It is your image on the mirror: an old
longing for the simplicity long lost
in the shuffle of life, loves, and losses.

Every wave that beats on the ballast
asks: Are you happy at last? Will this
outlast the lingering left-over dread?
Out there where waves break at the edge
of the firmament of quiet stars on stars
you can see through moving darkness.

Where have all the pains remained?
On what shores did you neglect to load
them, overstaying albatross of gloom?
Your heart leaps with the bobbing bow
and stern, and you whisper a prayer
drowned quickly by the sea. You laugh.

They cannot haunt you anymore than
dead memories can bear you down.
You have built a mansion of dreams.
You have been here before, haven’t you?
Exploring the depths of what happiness
you could grab, you will hold them.

You will never let them slip away; you
have earned them. In this brief exile
on the sea, would you hold on to this
sudden grace of simple stillness?
Will this still simplicity pursue you
wherever you roam? Come home then.

6. Knowing Home for the First Time

Stand still. Find your still point.
You will find a sanctuary there.

All the wind you can whistle for
will run through you like spirits
hovering,  pulling you through
all the small boxes keeping you
your own unshackled prisoner,
moored to fears fencing you in
like the pages of a book bound
to a rind, like a caged sparrow
perched on a bar will hop down
rather than fly in narrow air.

When you get there, that place
will not be there till you find it.
Build it from fondest dreams,
house them in open chambers.
Let the winds of everywhere
and everything rifle through
its corridors to find you free,
unafraid to roam elsewhere
because you know there is always
this still point to go home to.


07-14-13,  Mississauga



Hannah Stephenson said...

You do such a nice job of bringing together all of these different elements--I admire that.


Thanks, Hannah. I yoke them when I find a common vein among them. It's one other way to revise older poems. Eh, voila, another poem to boot. Sounds new, but old. Like me.