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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, February 23, 2014


Things we do while we wait. Soon enough, we will have straightened those knotted threads. That done, we should be ready. Are we? 

There will be time, there will be time,/ To prepare a face to meet the face that you meet...T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
If we only had time on our side,
we would play hammock games.
Remember those balls of yarn
we gathered into knots while she
puttered in her little herb garden?

How she would tear at her hair
finding them strung like cobwebs
across her ornately carved chests
in the room that smelled of camphor.
A mesh of rainbow strings, abuela!

I would plead for them to remain
hanging trellis-like until sundown
when the setting sun’s rays break
through the window’s bamboo slats
and cast eerie shadows on her bed.

Was it worth all the time we rued
as lost kite-flying hours, while she
held her cane at a striking distance
and barked at every giggle spent
away from unravelling those knots?

Here I am, on my hammock hour,
untwisting those lost threads now
still knotted in my old cold heart,
where I know I can still hear her ask:
have you laid all your strings straight?

---Albert B. Casuga


Ashes in my mouth, like loves left unsaid. Nothing to take back, nothing to give.


 I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it/Since what is kept must be adulterated?—T.S. Eliot, Gerontion

Nothing could be taken back, nothing offered.
The passion I thought I had is an old saw—
it would not, could not cut through the years
that have turned into whorled cores in a tree
cut down in the harvest of logs, in a clearing
that will not grow again. Will not be here again.
Dry timber in a forest fire. Ashes in my mouth,
like loves left unsaid. Nothing to take back nor give.

---Albert B. Casuga


A line from Eliot would be a good epitaph: "Hurry up please it's Time./Now Albert is coming back,/ make yourself a bit smart."* 


Looking for a good time to stop,
is to stop looking, like slumping ...

on a fallen trunk or a trail rock
jagged and jutting out of the bluff.

Morning walks get longer along
empty spaces before familiar curbs
signal a turn to what we wait for:
the final bend. We are back home.

Now Albert is coming back,
make yourself a bit smart.”* Eliot,
of course, said it for me earlier.

How long ago was that, when I
read those Wasteland lines? How
long have I waited to use them?
Is this a good time yet? I waited.

Because we have seen the clues,
because we have seen them all
already, I feel it is time to stop
waiting, sum up the bill, and go.

What was I given to bear the pain
of knowing that I did not know?
Or build a home I could not live in?
What tools must I now return?

In summing up, I will discount this,
in the game of haggling for a place
back in the Garden. Our stay here
was overpaid. We waited too long

for that room with a better view,
that terrace with a canopy of roses,
and blue birds trilling on the sill.
O, for a touch of that distant sky!

Next time around, if there is one,
I will be smart. I will settle only for
a room where I could see the sky
and the sea conspire to eat the sun.

---Albert B. Casuga

* T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland, II. A Chess Game, T. S. Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014



It is what we do when we are in an open sea,
locked in roiled waters on uncertain weather:
you row like my life depended on it, I row
you away from your fears that somewhere,
sometime, in this abiding turbulence, I will
absently dive into the dark depths and stay
under, finding solace from not resurfacing,
when bobbing up for air means we have to row
into a shore of rocks, run aground, and dash
like the homing waves into a brackish boulder.

But I am rowing back with you to that sandbar
where I etched the letters framed in a pierced
heart that has yet to be erased by ebbing tide.
Will you find time then to write your promise?

---Albert B. Casuga


Tuesday, February 18, 2014



Keep your eyes wide open if you want to dream---Paolo Coelho

The ones we talk about or ache to recall
the morning after, we call nightmares.
A love-sick, maudlin, slobbering goodbye
in the tight-pillow-hug tearjerker dream?
It was not a dream. It is a stifled desire,
a constipation “devoutly to be wished”.

Shrinks shrank these into Freudian blots
on the balance sheets of love and hate:
You want to run as wildly far away as you
could, id permitting, haunches allowing.

One needy life is enough torment; free
yourself then from this strangled trellis,
where hanging like a wanton leaf is not
the twin of hanging on but dangling still
until hurts can no longer wound you,
nor gentle caress save you. You are a stone.

No fall can sever you from tangled vines
that summer burns, nor frost cripple you;
you would not even pray for the spring
to bring sunrises and sunsets to heal you.

Open your eyes and dream that loneliness
becomes you; you are strong and alone,
omni soli, semper. Will courage redeem
you then from the stupidity of being brave
and alone? And when you sleep, will you
remember to open your eyes and dream?

--- Albert B. Casuga

Monday, February 17, 2014



The day does what it always does:/ goes away... /We need time to keep starting over. --- From “Counting Chicken” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 09-28-11

That day will come when another
will not, and there is no starting over.
Where will I find myself? How will I
strike it out of my calendar? Why?

Swinging on my hammock. Waiting.
No one arranged my empty schedule.
I would have to be grand and civil
then to uninvited guests? No choice.

I did not have to be born. No choice,
some hired help pulled me to an exit.
From darkness, I found light, and I
wailed till I could have turned blue:

“No, there must be some mistake!”
My scream was not that articulate.
All attendants at my beginning said:
“He breathes. He cries. He is alive.”

When that random day comes, I
will be generous with my Domecq.
Shall we have brandy, then, Monsieur?
How might I help you with your burden?

Ever the gallant host honed in niceties
now long gone from a trashy world,
I invite the closer of the deal to a toast:
“Long live days with no starting over.”

Sunday, February 16, 2014



Tiny holes riddle the leaves of a heal-all plant, turning it to orange-tinged lace. What small creature requires so much medicine? --- Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 09-28-11

There are holes and there are holes: these are almost delicate patterns
seen against the punctures on her face—wellsprings of warranty, bliss,
solace, trinkets, pecking order symbols, insignias of heft on Wall Street
greed, vanity of vanities. What picayune creature needs this panacea,
this balm for irreducible ennui?

The caterpillar crawling on the leaf, gives back a mariposa’s glorious
colours, a leitmotif of magical dabs, to show for those holes. Maggots
on the fallen leaves become fruit flies, dump flies bound by ordained
duties in this woods’ give-and-take. Green fodder from those holes
are miracles of growth and beauty.

But those holes on the side of hills, entrails of ruptured caverns, geysers
dug offshore and spring caves, mines-quarries-tar-sands-reefs-fossils,
abandoned common graves in gold and coal mines moistened by blood
and congealed sweat—are diadem vaults of stones, silver, myrrh, gems,
uranium, plutonium, plosive grit— all, all molten nosegays to crown
the smallest creature of them all, fig-leaf-covered man and woman
still in bad need of blandishments of comfort, power, and lust to cure
his inchoate, eternal smallness. Pity.





Saturday, February 15, 2014



Come hither, anyway, hide your pain in the cup/ of my hands, find that reprieve from a judgment / of endlessly inchoate loving, and let your heart/ rest from its ceaseless running. Escape stops here. ---From "Go Then, So You Can Come Back"


My errands get simpler now: cut marks
On trees, branches, rocks, leaves, walls,
wherever I know you will wind your way
coming home. It is a long route back.

But you will find them like those prints
of fallen leaves mottling the lake girdling
bluffs we run to when we retrieve lost
memories that somehow remain clear:

we smell them, we touch them, we feel
them like waning fevers that stay warm
on our flushed faces. We will not forget.
We are condemned to remember. Always.

Would the cup of my palms nestle you?
Give you a nestling’s echoing chamber,
where you could trill all you want or can?

That wind behind the trees, would it pick
your notes up and let your song be whole
again, your refrains brave and true again?

Through these woods, troll like a stout
heart whose one crescendo is of gladness
that the day’s night must bring a sunrise

as bright as it is gentle when it presses
your cold back to a warm hug of home,
where you will fearlessly sing your song:

Fly with me to the swaying tree tops!
Reach out for me. I am back. I am home.


By the time I fill up to the brim,
I‘d have coughed up sediments
of crushed stones, jagged pebbles
and the craw-sticking bone chips
that remain from downstream
sieving for the one golden nugget
that was never there. I thirst still.

But the summers of our pine city
refuge have come and gone, too,
with our windy spaces, now left
as frozen wind tunnels when you
abandoned the cone-strewn trails
for your will-o’-the-wisp: a full
bowl of nectar laced with laughter.



Thursday, February 13, 2014



“…Wither is fled the visionary gleam?/ Where is it now, the glory and the dream?/ Though nothing can bring back the hour/ of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower,/ we will grieve not, rather find/  strength in what remains behind.” William Wordsworth, Ode to Intimations of Immortality.

Here you are asking if something is left behind
from those days and nights of heat and splendor.
The nest under the springhouse eave, the errands
to bring the birdling feed to gaping hungry beaks,
is this all that remains? What will bring back glory
to this arid field of clay? But it has never left you,
not when you still cup your ears to the murmur
of ebbtide, the trill of children running after kites
blown wayward in the hills, or feel the quick flush
on your face when you recall the warmth of nights
we lay on our backs counting our canopy of stars
knowing we could not but dared to recount them
from inconstant starts and lost our count anyway.
But that was once upon a time. It won’t come back.



Sunday, February 9, 2014



(For Marisa Keiko, aka Sofia)

1. Coming to the Water

Wriggling and wailing as hard as she could,
our wee one had to have a say in this dousing.
The water on her head cleanses her of sin
she did not commit yet visited upon innocents
who are now enlisted in a continuing holy war
waged against serpents unknown---tall orders
bruited to spread the much deferred coming
of the warrior who will trample all the wicked
with his terrible swift sword, truth and wrath
his tandem of a battle cry that may yet be lost
before the struggle is over, staying alive a chore
of the weak and the lonely who have conceded
early in this hunt that one is not the hunter
anymore than the befuddled hunted in woods
fencing in what pretends to be the lost garden.
Her soulful cry is promising: she will not be coy.

2. Devoutly Wished

Have you made your wish yet?
She said it was the thing to do
Upon setting foot on a church
One has not visited nor prayed in.
He complied, kneeling at an altar
Peopled by images known to him
When he was a happy lad praying:
Please make them live forever,
To catch me when I fall, to love me
When loving has gone out of style.

3.  An Offering

To leave an extra plate for one not there:
Mother perfected that ritual when he left.
There was no returning, but what of it?

He will be here at sundown. "Your father
Is always prompt. The raw dinakdakan
Will spoil if he did not come on time."

She waited, but it took so long. She slept.
Wrapped in her flannel blanket, she knew
She’d have enough warmth for both of them.


02/09/14 Las Pinas City

Saturday, February 8, 2014


It did not happen in 2012 as the Mayans were said to  have predicted. 2013 came in without the signs and went out with all the signs: polar vortex, global warming, ice storms where they did not happen before, melting down of the ice caps in both poles, volcanic eruptions along the Ring of Fire, storm surges, earthquakes, droughts, famine, wars in all corners of the Earth, random rapes of men/women/little children, mass murders, parents killing children, children killing parents, hue and cry decrying corruption among leaders and citizens, mayhem from above and below, human trafficking, economic strife among nations, economic debacles all over the earth, general man’s inhumanity to man where he is no longer his brother’s keeper, the Seven Gates of Hell described in the Bible’s Revelations all articulated world-wide through even the comeuppance of cyber and digital numbers fraud wrecking the banking and insurance business, all palpable results of the ultimate evil of 666 stirring, anarchy rife through dying democracies, base effrontery and indifference in slander and defamation in media including the Internet’s social media. But haven’t all these disasters been with us before? Superstition? Omens? Ah, but even hints of Armageddon have surfaced: gassing of Syrians (children slain like the Holy Innocents), threat of nuclear wars in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Libya, Israel, Palestine, even the holiest of places in the birthplace of Christ in Bethlehem (Petra) is not spared human greed and bickering, and the plea for Peace come from the Pope and the United Nations Organization but they remain as voices in the wilderness hoping for a salving Second Coming.  Are these merely “shade of His Hand outstretched caressingly?” Is this Wrath descending/ascending the wrath of a dying planet that has seen its forests burned to the ground, its water sources polluted by toxic substances produced by mining fossilized fuel in the Earth’s core, natural and man-made disaster ad nauseam where we finally see that for every new thing made by man for his comfort, an opposite dismal effect is produced to his disadvantage? Why has man finally put himself into a estoppel where an otherwise finer evolution has been interrupted, thus making him the proverbial homo interruptus? At the risk of being blasphemous and trivial, I offer humor and irony as my defence in an act of quixotic self-defense. Is the sky finally falling? Or have we simply turned into Chicken Little because resistance is futile? We have triggered the Apocalypse prematurely? Is there an antidote to this galloping end that promises both a bang and whimper? Paraphrasing Omar Khayyam, “Ah, Love! Could you and I with Him conspire to make this sorry scheme of things entire, would we not shatter it to bits, and then remold it to our hearts’ desire?”


Sun through a skim of clouds. A nuthatch and a downy woodpecker trade anxious, nasal notes between the faint shadows of the trees. ---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 12-13-11, Via Negativa

N:    Think this winter will be our last? Mayan 2012, remember?
W:   Nah, might just be a peep at the God Particle by a savant.
N:    What’s with the peppy, sunshiny, head-in-the-clouds cant?
W:   Been pecking on wood all my life! What’s with the dander?
N:    Not enough nuts or weevils as it is. Why end it all? It’s futile.
W:   Boredom. Renewal. Occupy. He’s hinted these for a while.
N:    Occupy. Uh-oh. Come back to reclaim this neck of the woods?
W:   Final Coming. Like Advent. Last trip, like. He’s tired. Pissed.
N:    Like driving scruffy tenants out for punching holes on walls?
W:   More like ozone layer holes. Global warming, oil spills, Nuts.
N:    They’re already murdering each other. Wars, famine, Woods.
W:   He’s got to have the last say. He wants them to say: We repent!

N:    What’s the point? Couldn’t he consider his love well spent?
W:   Don’t know about you. I would like to bore a few more holes.



Tuesday, February 4, 2014



The lass on my lap
Said: I won’t play with snow
Today, abuelo.

Even snowmen
Will freeze, will crack in two.
Can’t play tomorrow.

On the frozen pond,
Dead frogs and birds on icy
Snow are broken, too.

Use paper for fire,
Abuelo, the lass offered.
Nodding approval

I muttered wryly:
The snow is my newspaper,
Your eyes my fireplace.

---Albert B. Casuga


A nook without a fireplace
Remains cold, the books
Are not for reading here.
Haunting crackle of pages
Are just that: old ghosts
Grown tired of waylaying
Restless hearts into paths
And parts still unknown
To them, lovers at twilight,
Missing her---wondering,
If  she might have called
Out on the darkest hour:
“Mam-ma, Da-da, come!”

Eventides are quietly stark
When even door hinges
Are dreadfully silent, still
As the shadows slithering
Through half-cracked slats
Of  blinds that do just that---
Blinding her with a night
They could not be there,
Who are half a world away,
Missing her as much as she
Now needs to sleep on her
Abuela’s breasts like a ‘roo
In its mother’s warm pouch.
“Close your eyes, wee one, go
To slumber land, we’ll meet
You, there, by-the-by when we,
Too, are rocked into open-eyed
Calm hugging soft pillows like
You were there smiling as you
Gently droop into a sleep you
Will wake up from finding us
There where we always wait
When you call, raising blinds.”