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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010



Poets for Living Waters has included this writer's poem ,"Earth Poems and Oil Spills", in its online collection of poems that has been calling attention to the ecologically disastrous effects of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana.

(The "poetry action" project appears in as a continuing attempt to create a sustained telescoping of the ecological disaster which has already wreaked havoc on ecological systems surrounding the affected areas and threatening to spread to vast areas connected by water.) will link poets interested in adding their voice to the “call to action.” Amy King and Heidi Staples edit the collection tagged as “Coastal Poems.”

This kind of online poetry action was last seen in decrying the Maguindanao Massacre in the Southern Philippines (in the archipelago's island of Mindanao) where civilians and journalists were brutally mowed down by political partisans of warlords contesting the recent election for governor of Maguindanao. (See Rage Poems: Maguindanao Massacre, this blog.)

Literature has always been a measure of the significance of human acts and foibles, and this literary project continues with that tradition.

This is certainly putting the breadth and reach of the global net to more powerful use. Indeed, more meaningful than Facebook connections and social networking.

* * *
The following Statement accompanied the 3-part poem contributed by this writer and published by Poets for Living Waters June 28:

"The oil spills in New Mexico and Louisiana compound the ecological problems that our planet seems to be reacting to rather disturbingly. The poems Earth Poems and Oil Spills decry the abandon with which humans have exploited the earth's resources. The central image of Mother Earth slipping and falling from the oil spill (see last line in poem 3) achieves the poem's objective correlative of how she has suffered the human tantrums of war, man's inhumanity to man, his profligate ways, hence, the counterpoints in the first poem. Oil spills pale beside the inconvenient truth of our knowing only so well that oil lubricates wars, war machines that culminate in killing fields. All the more pity for those birds clipped from flight with sticky, toxic oil. Sad."

Link: Coastal Poems ---

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


There is nothing but trees for miles from where Allen and Margaret Berrington’s silver Chrysler Sebring was found on Wednesday afternoon. . . .A pair of dirtbikers found the Sebring, out of gas, and Margaret, 91, deceased, three kilometres down the road. . . .Mounties later found the body of Allen, 90, nearby, concealed by a small embankment. How they got there, and why, is a mystery. - - - Kevin Libin, National Post, Friday, June 4, 2010
(Click image of news item to zoom in on text.)

Something about the spring sun slicing through
Shadows of maple and birches cuddling the road,
Their branches creaking like stretched backs do
When pulled erect from a burden of stoop, load
Of the years fallen off as derelict leaves gone
With the lashing wind, roiled into an uproar
Of rain and foliage --- something about the sun
Caught in her ruddy blush and now gossamer hair
Has sprung a sprightly pull on his flaccid arms
And he was going to enfold her again, trolling
Their road song again: O leggy Peggy in my arms,
O lovely Peggy in my arms!
And hear her trilling
Again: Al of my dreams, I love you, honest I do;
Oh, what can I do, I love you so. I love you so.
But something about the spring sun on their faces
Was all he could recall, the sky, and empty spaces.
June 23, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


ON FATHER'S DAY, my daughter Nicole sent me a copy of her son's philosophy class essay. How acutely smart of her to send me this essay instead of the usual book-gift cards (Angeli and April) from Indigo or Coles book shops! Now, this is a present to best the others! (You still owe me one, nevertheless, Alardyce Nicole!)

Her siblings treated me to Japanese sushi (April for lunch and a book-gift card, and Alfie for another at the all you-can-eat Japanese Buffet) or sent me enough Sushi Teh Restaurant gift cards (Albert Beau) for another sumptuous smorgasbord. I celebrated Father's Day in two separate "grazing" days (eat your hearts out, peres all over this Mother-biased world!)
(Please Click on the Image to zoom in on the Essay's Text)

Daniel Anthony Casuga Dy’s “Knowing If You Know Me”, submitted May 17 in Mr. D. Simmon’s Grade 12 class in Philosophy, is of incalculable worth to this grandfather who has had other constant and random “surprise” gifts like a booklet of poems by Diana Dy, 20, (our eldest grandchild), another libretto of drawings and limericks from April’s Taylor and Sydney, a sheaf of drawings by Megan, my only son’s only daughter of a trio of talented go-soons, wilted dandelions pressed between the pages of my books from Alfie’s Chloe (4) and Louis (3) whenever they meet me down their cul de sac while completing my day’s constitutional walk, and interminable lectures from nietos Matthew (on the best moves in chess and those fearsome digital games) and Michael Albert’s endless instruction on how to construct paper planes so they’d fly higher and longer!

Daniel’s essay is so like Daniel.
Here is the little boy who used to protest , when doted upon by this grandpa: “I am not a sideshow, you know!” He was just a wee lad of two or three then (not even in kindergarten then). True to this erstwhile sentiment of a shy lad --- but oh, so voluble about things he thought he knew --- Daniel has developed this impressive thesis that one “will never truly know whomsoever we think we know.” (Or "one is forever lonely?")

It is the proud and independent man saying: “No, you don’t know me.” I am made of sterner stuff; finer thoughts; warmer and heartfelt feelings --- I am complex. I am human.
Throughout this essay that invokes reinforcing ideas from philosophers Hume, Locke, Berkeley, and Velasquez --- (he should have included Descartes (subjectivism), Bacon (realism), Kierkegaard (being and nothingness), Buber (Christian existentialism), Camus (humanism, existentialism). Russell, Hawkings, and the classical thinkers who might have provided a brief but clear view of how one could know one’s self through the fabrics of a Weltanschauung through positive, objective, palpable, and caused realities) --- Daniel posits that “being able to know one’s self is a difficult task to accomplish. So, being able to truly know someone else would likely be an even harder task.”

One can see the traces of “relativism” (subject to change), "empiricism" (perceived about a person...based on what one’s five senses dictate”), and "scepticism" (‘to the elaborate human mind”). One becomes apprehensive about how much influence the classroom teacher has (he,too, has his philosophical biases) injecting these to the young mind who might yet have to be informed (grounded) about the Catholic school’s patron saint philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas’ theses, to have a sturdy foundation of thought based on human faith and reason.

Mr. Simmons notes on the penultimate page of the submission: “Daniel, this is the best essay that you have written. Well done.”

I share this encomium, Daniel allowing. I like to think that this “apple of the second bearing season, has not fallen far from the tree.”

(Back in university, at the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas --- now University of Santo Tomas --- in Manila, I would get notes from Professors like Salvador Roxas Gonzalez, Pedro Gabriel, Ariston Estrada, Jose Espinosa, Jose Samson, Antonio Piñón, and Rev. Alfredo Panizo, that normally highlighted my “little learning being a dangerous thing --- specially in Philosophy; e.g., Cosmology, Medieval Philosophy, St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, Rational Psychology, Aesthetics, Theological Philosophy. I finished a major in Literature and a minor in Philosophy, magna cum laude, thanks to their caveats.)

Daniel, in one of those infrequent tète-a-tète with me, intimated that he will pursue a philosophy degree after he finishes an earlier skills course on culinary arts, and hope to work as a chef while he finishes his Humanities degree.

You want to be a chef? I asked him once, not without a sense of snotty dread. Of course, it is an art in itself, culinary art. I confess to being one of those who subscribe thoroughly to the idea that cooking is an art, a more salubrious kin to poetry and music.

My only dread is that when the chef starts earning handsome pecuniary reward and even fame, Philosophy and the Humanities might finally be cast aside as a bourgeois trapping in the hopelessly materialistic environment gripping mankind today, global markets withstanding.

My own Albert Junior wrote poetry in high school, then forsook the queen of literary arts for the father-of-a-family imperative of earning from the hefty remuneration of an IT (information technology) expert. Poetry’s loss, Internet’s gain. Eldest granchild Diana earned money early while in high school, and the poems of grade school vanished en toto. Will Megan, Taylor, Sydney prove faithful to their love for drawing, dance, and music ? Will Matthew and Michael convert their love for words into literary prowess someday? Will Chloe (dance, ballet) and Louis translate their love of beauty (flowers for you, abuelo!) into "finer things of the mind"?

This is, by no means, the only scribbling of Daniel --- he’s got his room walls papered with his “musings”, (What? Not pinups of voluptuous Muses via Penthouse et al? How gauche!) Now comes this essay.

About half a century ago, when I delivered my valedictory address at the La Union National High School (in the Northern Philippines), I was serendipitously positing the answer to Daniel’s questions of “not knowing one’s self” let alone others. (This, of course, is merely a facet of individualism that may mistake “standoffishness” from “the other” as “not knowing” anyone well enough. Hence, hand’s off. I stand alone. Omni soli semper. (All alone always).

In that speech, which I published subsequently in the graduation issue of the La Union TAB, the pioneer high school paper in the islands, (which I edited) I said:
I am what I am. I rest on the shoulders of giants before me. I can see further beyond horizons, because I am what I became when taller, stronger persons carried me.” (Or words to that effect, or of that sort. I forget a lot now, Daniel.)

In the days to come, my Danny Boy, when you have mastered the preparation of sushi, sashimi, tempura, and the like, visit me. In my study, while I munch on your art work, I shall talk to you about these friends I met in my little life: Plato, Aristotle, St. Thomas, Bacon, Spinoza, Voltaire, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Spencer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Croce, Russell, Santayana, James, Dewey, Husserl, Kierkegaard, Durant, and a lot of friends you will meet in your pursuit of knowing what you know. Bring sake.

In the meantime, thank you for the essay, D.A.D. (Hah, that makes you a father, too, Daniel). It gives me a keener sense of my immortality.

In response to Daniel's essay, I reprint the following poem for his ontological and epistemological adventures.
(You will find, Dan-Man, that talk of “small things” while drinking your cups of coffee is also shooting the breeze in Montparnasse. I wrote this in 1968, I think, after a philosophical session with a friend, Alejo Villanueva Jr., a philosophy professor and a Harvard alumnus. Both of us were teaching then at San Beda College, a Benedictine College in Manila.)

Small Talk at a Coffee Shop in Montparnasse

Io non mori, e non rimasi vivo.
-- Dante Alighieri, Divina Commedia

Black coffee, Alejo, has its way of distinguishing
anguish from angostura now that prattle
of Sartre, Camus, and Berdyaev has stopped
on a pin’s head: the blackness is proof of the battle
come as the gadfly disturbing the teacups
where they, unthinking, rattle; we, unfeeling, bleed.

“Me? I take mine with cream.” It is this need
makes one prefer a dash of milk to a dash of pity.
Fancy the hole on the doughnut where the hole
lasts only where the dough surrounds it. Fancy,
what makes you think you’re not a doughnut?
“Ontological dimensions of fear, I say.”
Fear of the bole whose business it is to stand tall?
Or of some blank wall?

With the hole there and the coffee black,
where begins the trembling for the clock?
Time in. Time out. Man becomes, then runs out.
What makes you think you’re not a man? Doubt?
“I suffer; therefore, I am alive.” But when life ran out,
one did not die, yet nothing of life remained!
One takes coffee with cream, an empirical scheme
of distinctions between man, doughnut, and dream.

A cup ennobles indignities; the fact is it empties
what makes itself itself into a hole not unlike the
doughnut’s, waiting to be filled, but filled with pain.
To be metaphysical, like the sky empties itself of rain!
Like it was afternoons and the coffee guests absent,
No prattle here of Heidegger nor even of Kierkegaard.
The tables have not remained silent
since then, Alejo. The cups have even trembled.

Once upon a time, I talked the "philosophical" talk. You might want to get a sense of this "urge" to know in one of these postings. (See April 9, 2009 Post, Philosopher or Poet?)
(I also mean to give this post to Daniel's father, Ignacio Dy, as a present for Father's Day. Belated because he has just got out of the hospital for a critical surgery. Happy to share Daniel with you, ID! )

Friday, June 18, 2010




Are you ready for your morning stroll, Mr. T? In a minute, he bristled unable to get his arm into his heavy cardigan.

It’s not that cold, you know, the Filipina caregiver reminded the harrumphing octogenarian.

He was in the process of making a 180-degree turn, trying to fix the pictures atop his credenza while he struggled with his sweater.

Did anybody move these pictures around, Luisa? Er, Maria, is it?

Dolly, Mr. T, she introduced herself as she does every morning now, her conches-like eyes widening in a bit of apprehension; he did not particularly like these pictures rearranged. That would ruin his day. He would have to be re-oriented to the east-west-north-south co-ordinates of his room. He was a “topgun” fighter pilot in WWII in the Pacific war, in Corregeedoor. You know, in your country. He never tires of reminding her or any of her Filipina compatriots who work at Erin Mills Lodge for Seniors.

I particularly like the picture of my late wife on this spot, Luisa, uh, Maria, or whatever you called yourself --- sorry --- It points me to where I get my underwear. You know -- undies? He tried to smile the scowl from his face away.

She’s just taken over. The nurse from Trinidad just upped and went complaining loudly that she’s sick and tired of being groped by demented perverts who should stop hoping they could still do it.

Dolly, Mr. T. And by the way, your walking partner, Mr. Alex, called while you were in the washroom. Said he will wait for you at the lobby. He said the sooner you get out today, the more sunshine you both would get. You’d have to get back quickly for a late breakfast.

Thanks for letting me know, Luisa. He must have something going for that name Luisa, she figured. But always a gentleman, he would say thanks for anything helpful coming his way. After a fashion, though. This is a community of civilized old farts, he would say.

Alex is always late anyway. His cane trips him up when I tell him to walk a bit faster. Between us we’ve got six feet, you know. Four crumbling ones and two wooden ones. Get it?

She laughed, relieved that he had been distracted away from the misplaced picture. She’s pretty, she remarked, by way of thanking him for not exploding. My son says, I use it to scare the mice away, he giggled.

At the lobby, that morning, his buddy and next door neighbour, and fellow three-legger, waited with a pained look on his face.

Got boils on your derriere while waiting, Alex? What’s with the face?

Don’t even go there, Teague, the bent, scowling man sprawled on the lobby steps snapped.

It can’t be that bad, old chap.

My son did not pop up again. He’s got this wife problem, my daughter says. It’s been two months now. He’s still in the Philippines, you know. Teaching at that protestant university in the southern Philippines. Dumaguete.

He could pronounce Philippine words better than his buddy --– he’s been there, too, in Corregidor, in Bataan, the last stand of General MacArthur. They were GI soldiers from Michigan. Both immigrated to Canada after WWII (so that their sons would not have to go to war -- Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and all that s...)

Yeah? I have a son there, too. Teaching fine arts, painting, you know.

Of course, he got my son in there, too. Reverse brain drain. Canadians teaching the little brown people. Remember? Oh, no, you don’t. It figures.

Let’s walk. Oh, wait. Here’s the slow mailman. Doesn’t he look like Robert De Niro?

The ambling postie greeted the gentlemen with canes, and said he’s got only one letter for youse, gents. For you, Mr. Teague, sir. Urgent. Express Post. From the Philippines. The last syllable pronounced like “pines”. Paayns.

Teague knew it must have come from his son, the painter in the Silliman University school of fine arts. He cracked it open. He fell silent.

I’m going upstairs, he said.

What about our walk?

I’m going to my room.

Wait up, Teague. What’s wrong?

Dolly was still there when he got back. Please leave me alone, Luisa.

What’s wrong, Mr. T?

He sobbed into his pillow as his panting partner ambled into his room.

Did we have to take separate elevators, Teague?

He showed the half-crumpled letter.

God, no! Alex grimaced and fell silent. I’m going back to my room, Teague. You don’t need me here now.


Both men stayed up that night. They did not answer calls.

The following day, at the breakfast table, they exchanged envelopes.

Read it before your nap, they almost simultaneously prescribed.

When Alex opened his envelope, he read:

Mr. Teague of Siquijor

Teague’s sandbox at Lo-oc beach spills
over to the slopes of Siquijor –
a kind of walking out on infancy
or bright courage, the carcass marching
nude to humour a carrion God
astride Siquijor’s dark mountain loins.
“O, when will the lad get out of his sandbox
to walk towards the mountain slopes?”

By the way, Dad. This is goodbye. I wanted to end the poem this way, but what the hell. I did not want to end things this way, either. But what the hell. Again.

“By the way, Teague’s body was fished out
of Lo-oc the other day, near Siquijor.”

But just read the news from the PI. I am a bit of an art celebrity here. Am friends with the likes of Imelda, art patron, and Sionil Jose, National Artist. Yes, my obituary will be full of their praising shit.

Little Teague

It is a poem from my son. Teague signed his single-sentence note.

In his room, Teague used a magnifying glass to read Alex’s note. A former CanLit professor, his partner wrote:

The Habit of Mountains: A Dirge

It was his grief pursued the habit of mountains:
It moved the world with quietness. Quietness moved them.
No dearer madness there is than which he died for:
A will to perish in time and manner he chose.
It could not have been any kinder than this falling,
A manner of bargaining one’s way
Into a choice between a kind of dying and feeling dead---–
No option for us who learn, too early perhaps,
That death prorogues a dream of fancy
Or a prayer of willing our pain stay
The ramrod poised to rend out days descending
Foglike upon us decreeing silence for our bed.

* * *

Earlier that day, Alex received a call from his son in the Philippines, a colleague of Teague’s son at the Silliman University. Dad, Teague Junior committed suicide the other day.

Why? Asked his buddy that evening. There was just the two of them like crumpled shadows beneath the dining room light.

He could not abide his being different. He went away, as far away as he could from me. He was gay, Alex. He promised he was going to see me here before accepting that teaching job in Mexico. He said he will exhibit his paintings here at the Lodge.


He fell in love with one of his male students. There was a case filed against him. Corruption of a minor. Not one of his big friends wanted to be around him since then.

They don’t have same sex marriages in the Philippines, do they?



Alex postponed taking his painkillers that night. It made him drowsy quickly. He fished out his Reminder Note from his hip pocket: Write Junior. Check his e-mail address. Last time he wrote was eons ago, I don’t know if I saved it. I hope Mary has them just in case. He mumbled to himself. He started whacking away on the keyboard, and even imagined he was still desking at the United Press International newsroom in Manila.

Dear Junior,
Teague was a wreck today. Could not even complete our walk. Little Teague killed himself over another guy? Was he gay, too? The guy? Hey, there’s talk here that Teague himself is like that. Now, I get a lot of ribbing because he is my best buddy. I wrote you about our routine here. You did not write me back. Mary visits me every time she could escape from his over-sexed husband. He is still trying to get her pregnant. No grand kid here. Which reminds me. How’s Chloe? How tall has she become? Is she in high school yet?

I will be off my rocker if I lose Teague over this. Nobody visits him. He is 83, you know. I know that he is doesn’t have all his marbles in his nut. But I can talk to him. About poetry even. The last time I lost a friend was when Cao Tran left the lodge to live with a daughter on Robin Drive. Nguyen Bao died; you know his little wife; just snored aloud one night and died in her sleep. 75. I wrote a poem for Cao Tran, you know. Got it published in Walrus last year. Did you read that? Here it is anyway, just in case it will be worth big money some day. Dad is going to be famous yet, eh wot? Nuts, Chloe thought I had so many big words, and your wife thought they were million-dollar words worth a pittance. How is she anyway? What’s this I hear that you are splitting up. About a man? About a woman? What? Been there, done that. Not good for Chloe, son. I never ever want to see tears in those lindisima eyes. Oh yeah, the poem.


“Favorite spot,” Nguyen Cao Tran pointed
To the bench on Lincoln Green before
He waved me bonjour the Montreal way.

“Favorite spot for wife and me…drink
Tim Horton Coffee from across,” he winked,
Now unafraid his accent might betray

A Viet Minh rasp from Saigon days,
A shrapnel buried on his nape: “Still smoke
Camel sticks from GI Joe friend in Frisco.”

He looked away when I remembered to ask
About Nguyen Bao. “Isn’t she walking
With you this morning? It’s spring, mon vieux!

He mumbled: “She gone…far away now,”
And shuffled away, his knapsack slung
Like a rifle crooked on his flaccid hand.

A single cup of Roll-up-the-Rim teetered
On the bench the next day while I waited.
No cups on the ground, the bench was naked.

I miss Chloe. When are you folks going to visit me here at the Lodge? You know, I am part of the socials committee here. I have Friday readings. Poetry and fiction. I don’t know if these zombies here understand what the heck I am intoning ala Dylan Thomas or even Richard Burton (remember Nono in The Night of the Iguana?) There was that poem I wrote last week which got Teague and some of our old fart residents here crying. Want it? Could be another winner, you know. Here it is. (By the way, and I refuse to write BTW), do you still read anything literary? What do you teach there? Oh, yeah, the poem:


Sitting on her Florentine chair
Atop the red-tiled stairs, the sirocco
Breeze playing with her ivory hair,
She awaits her turn to say hello:
A caudillo-like half-raised wave
And a schoolmarm’s smile on her
Waxen face, a smirk at times to save
Her some chagrin falling off a chair
While she wags childlike to say:
Blow a kiss to your window-waving
Girl, say au revoir for now, and pray
That as they grow, won’t stop loving,
And they do grow and go away,
And you’d be left sitting on a chair
Wondering why they have flown
Like swallows, and hope would care
To come back and perch at sundown.

I wrote it to remember a girlfriend by. She was 90 when I would pass by her house on Robin Drive on my 30-minute constitutionals. I also knew a little girl who would wave at me whenever I pass by before noontime. Then my nonagenarian babushka (my daughter told me she was Ukrainian) would await her turn to say hello. Just smiles. Didn’t even know her name. But she told me how old she was. Did not want to be seen like I was lusting after her, you know. Boy, at 77, I am still all right. What about you? You must never be too busy to do it, and do not forget the pillow talk. Mary says you seem to be getting older, and your wife getting younger. What gives?

Dang! I am suddenly sleepy. Must be the wine. Teague brought out his 300-dollar bottle finally. He got really drunk tonight. It’s Father’s Day this Sunday, and it makes me furious how it has been commercialized. It’s all what Dads want today from Walmart and Marks and Spencers. Nothing is sacred anymore. I remember Father. He would write those Spanish poems. I love to recite them to entertain guests. He wrote a poem for his Mother whom he had not seen for the longest time, because she did not want to migrate to Barcelona. He missed her. You know, just like your Mom did not want to live in the PI when you asked her to go back there while you taught at that Southern Philippines university. It is just as well. Your wife might not have liked her around. Oh yeah, the poem. You translate it yourself. Don’t write me for one. You remember the language still, eh?


(Para mi Madre)

Los pajaritos están dejando su nido;
el invierno de su vida ha venido
tan muy temprano!

Mira! Mira! Madre mía.

Tan fuerte ahora, sus pájaros
están volando a puertas desconocidas;
están volando tan lejos para que
nunca jamás devolver y quedar en la casa
de corazón triste, ahora casa abandonada,
nida desolada, madre mía.

O mi madre querida!

Do you think he was better in these darn things, poetry, than I? If you think so, I will concede that. That will be my Father’s Day gift for him. Wherever he has landed. Do you think St. Peter will want to drink a pint with me when I kick the bucket?

Write me, Junior. Off to sleep. Missing your Mother. Omni Soli Semper. (Enrol Chloe in some Latin classes, will you?)

Con amor duradero,
DAD, Papa, Pops, Dada, Old Man, Mon Vieux, or whatever you want to call me these days. Kiss Chloe for me. Lots.


Teague roused Alex, the next day.

I owe you a stroll, old chap.

How are you feeling, Teague?

Okey-dokey, I think.

Who’s sending Little Teague’s body here? No relatives in the Philippines to take care of that, are there?

What body? What relatives? What’s the story, this time, yarn spinner?

Oh, Teague.

Alex sat on the foyer bench, fumbled through his pocket, and fished out a poem for the Saturday Review.

Here. Read it later.

Who’s Lucy, Alex? Why does it say: “Lucy Does Not Live Here Anymore?”

Nobody you know, Teague. Let’s walk.

Alex kicked an empty Tim Horton coffee cup on their way out of the Lodge.

June 18, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


....And these few precious days, I'll spend with you...these golden days, I'll spend with you. --- September Song

(From the author's portfolio of sketches, 1985)


Ah, to be old and a mariner come upon that restful cove,
Where the final weapon is a chair not love;
To be old, cher ami, is a gallant slouching on that chair
Some porch of the heart grown insensitive to care ---
--- Houses are Better Off Without Porches Here, From A Theory of Echoes (Selected Poems)


“Favorite spot,” Nguyen Cao Tran pointed
To the bench on Lincoln Green before
He waved me bonjour the Montreal way.

“Favorite spot for wife and me…drink
Tim Horton Coffee from across,” he winked,
Now unafraid his accent might betray

A Viet Minh rasp from Saigon days,
A shrapnel buried on his nape: “Still smoke
Camel sticks from GI Joe friend in Frisco.”

He looked away when I remembered to ask
About Nguyen Bao. “Isn’t she walking
With you this morning? It’s spring, mon vieux!

He mumbled: “She gone…far away now,”
And shuffled away, his knapsack slung
Like a rifle crooked on his flaccid hand.

A single cup of Roll-up-the-Rim teetered
On the bench the next day while I waited.
No cups on the ground, the bench was naked.


Caminnare. 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.


Sitting on her Florentine chair
Atop the red-tiled stairs, the sirocco
Breeze playing with her ivory hair,
She awaits her turn to say hello:
A caudillo-like half-raised wave
And a schoolmarm’s smile on her
Waxen face, a smirk at times to save
Her some chagrin falling off a chair
While she wags childlike to say:
Blow a kiss to your window-waving
Girl, say au revoir for now, and pray
That as they grow, won’t stop loving,
And they do grow and go away,
And you’d be left sitting on a chair
Wondering why they have flown
Like swallows, and hope would care
To come back and perch at sundown.


(Para mi Madre)

Los pajaritos están dejando su nido;
el invierno de su vida ha venido
tan muy temprano!

Mira! Mira! Madre mía.

Tan fuerte ahora, sus pájaros
están volando a puertas desconocidas;
están volando tan lejos para que
nunca jamás devolver y quedar en la casa
de corazón triste, ahora casa abandonada,
nida desolada, madre mía.

O mi madre querida!


I just wish your Father would come and take me soon. I am tired,” Mother said and closed her eyes. --- From a Visit to Poro Point, Writer’s Notebook, 2009

The flannel blanket was an armour:
it shielded me through nights I needed you
to defend me against the onslaught of day
when I had to rise to know
that the children were all in bed last night
dreaming their dreams or fleeing nightmares
where flailing they fall from precipices
and you were no longer there to catch them
nor were they there to fall in your arms.

Even the sunrise assails me.

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

When will you come to take me home?

The flannels have shrunk and, threadbare,
They could no longer keep the intruding light away.

*All alone, always

June 16, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Hoping to survive the "The Long Decline" of Criticism and the death of "book review sections" in Canadian newspapers and journals, this blog includes the following poetry books in its list of poetry books to review.

We will not allow Andre Alexis' (The Walrus, July-August, 2010, pg. 72) prognostication to stand unchallenged.

He said in his Walrus essay: "There is another aspect of this decline.

"These days, Canadian literary reviewers are so woefully incompetent, it makes you wonder if there's something in our culture that poisons critics in their cradles...

"The problem is, rather, in the approach. Our reviews have become at their worst, about the revelation of the reviewer's opinion, not about a consideration of the book or an account of the small world that briefly held writer and reviewer in the orbit of a book. Reviews have turned into a species of autobiography, with the book under review being a pretext for personal revelation. . . .

"The discussion is rarely helpful in building a shareable aesthetic. ..."

Here's a list we will work on to restore book reviewing as a literary art.

1. traje de boda, Poems by Aileen Ibardaloza, the Filipino-American poet's debut book of poems. Meritage Press founder Eileen Tabios announced the release of the book in 2010. Ibardaloza lives in the San Francisco (USA) bay area, and Meritage Press, a multidisciplinary literary and arts press, is based in St. Helena, California.

2. The 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology edited by Michael Redhill (includes the finalists of the prestigious poetry prize: Kevin Connoly, Jeramy Dodds, Mick Imlah, Derek Mahn, A.F. Moritz, C.D. Wright, and Dean Young).

3. Priscilla Uppal, poet and fiction writer, edited and introduced 20 Canadian Poets Take On the World (a collection of poetry by 20 international poets translated by 20 of Canada's "most accomplished poets, Exile Editions). Dr. Uppal is an English Professor at the York University in Toronto.

4. Kate Hall's The Certainty Dream, a poetry collection shortlisted in this year's Griffin Poetry Prize. She now lives in Montreal where she teaches.

5. Karen Solie's Pigeon, winner of the 2010 Griffin Poetry Prize, Canada's richest poetry award at $75,000 . Solie is from Saskatchewan and now lives in Toronto.

The blog's reviews will follow.

Thursday, June 10, 2010



The small presses and valiantly heroic (quixotic, cynics would have it) publishers of poetry have not given up on Canadian poetry, --- for that matter, poets who would not be touched by publishers with the proverbial 10-foot pole. They have cranked out the slim volumes with dogged regularity, year-in, year-out --- they have even gone on-line to snag those poems from poets who have little patience for publishers and editors; they suffer grumpy authors averse to buyer-pumping booksale sorties wherever there are bookshops who would accept consignments of poetry books which invariably gather dust or cobwebs in the least conspicuous corners of the bookstore; they lobby for grants from arts sponsors (e.g., Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council); they even pray in their sleep that somehow, sometime, their published poets would win a Griffin Poetry Award, a Governor-General poetry prize, a CBS Poetry Award, the Giller Prize, a Pulitzer, or even (believe it or not) Friends of Dog Watch Open Poetry competition in Warlingham, Surrey, England.

Rather than bemoan this state of penury for poets and their publishers, I thought reviewing poetry publications or even on-line poetic effort would help. A poet reviewing other poets would be frowned upon as a "conflict of interest", or even worse, some pitiable literary onanism --- but whining about "lack of poetry market" is infinitely more abominable.

(FYI: Poet's Market, an annual directory of F&W Publications lists more than two thousand places "to publish your poetry"; of course, this directory sells better than any book of poems --- in 1999, the book sold over 300,000 copies. After all, it cited 400 new publishing opportunities, 1,100 journals and magazines, 200 chapbook publishers, 500 poetry book publishers, 200 contests and awards, 1,200 phone numbers of potential poetry publishers and publications, and more than 300 e-mail addresses and websites for on-line poetry.)

Is this reviewer needed then? If I had just one reader-reviewer reading my poems who would spend precious lifetime looking for achieved art in my work, I would be happy. That would increase my readership by one "perspicacious" reader in addition to my wife, my children, and grandchildren if any of them would even bother to read the "funny big words of gramps, and those million-dollar words that earn quite a pittance, indeed, eh wot?"
If these valiant poetry publishers could take the blistering ignorance of poetry snubbers, why can't I go back to what I used to do when I would lose my voice and sleep as a Lit and Creative Writing academic convincing students of poetry's value by even trying to dramatically read poetry in class a la-Basil Rathbone or Dylan Thomas!

Hence, this undertaking with Tightrope Books, and other poetry publishers to do "my bit for country and culture." Or die trying.
(See Part 2 in following Post on Tightrope Books)


Tightrope Books sent me the first three books to review as soon as I indicated my interest. Using "Expedited" Canada Post, it took them merely a day to send the following poetry books after I sent them an e-mail reply accepting my "share of the burden" of restoring poetry to its place of literary eminence.

My pledge is to review them with the patience and appreciation for this literary art which Whitman, Ginsberg, e.e.cummings, et alia almost killed with their "howling." Rappers continue
to assault the art. I pledge to offer any shield I could muster to stop the onslaught of the neo-barbarians.

The reviews will follow. To introduce my "assignment", I quote from Tightrope's Website to warn any takers.

The Days You’ve Spent
Suzanne Bowness

ISBN-13: 978-1-926639-10-9
ISBN-10: 1-926639-10-3
Poems that reflect the individual’s experience in the urban jungle, combining observation and insight that every city dweller will recognize.

The city, at once benevolent and indifferent to its residents, is the inspiration for this debut collection of poetry by Suzanne Bowness. In the first poem, a young woman arrives in the big city, where “in the beginning, anonymity is everywhere,” and wonders what her life there will bring. Using this new arrival as her starting point, Bowness moves on to develop urban themes of anonymity and collectivity alongside individualist themes of freedom, loneliness, and growing self identity. Part private reflection, part love letter to the metropolis, The Days You’ve Spent pulls back the curtain on city life, finding beauty in neon signs and profundity in laundromats. In these poems, the individual and the city interweave, and urban immersion becomes an essential element in personal growth.

Suzanne (Sue) Bowness is a writer and editor whose poems have appeared in the Literary Review of Canada and Pagitica. Her play The Reading Circle won first place in the 2006 Ottawa Little-Theatre One-Act Playwriting Competition. She is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Ottawa with a focus on nineteenth-century Canadian magazines.

The Grammar of Distance
Ian Burgham

ISBN-13: 978-1-926639-09-3
ISBN-10: 1-926639-09-X
Ian Burgham once again presents poems of compassion that celebrate all manner of the heartland’s hazards and risks.

In his third collection of poetry, The Grammar of Distance, Ian Burgham writes from his gut and his heart. His imagery is, by turns, sensuous and rough-hewn, soft and hard. The poems crackle with sonic energy; they whinny and stamp. They whistle in the dark. His poetic landscapes frequent the windswept coasts of Scotland; but in this collection, we also find him doing terribly Canadian things like snowshoeing, surveying, chopping wood. Sometimes Al Purdy can be heard in Burgham’s voice and, occasionally, Patrick Lane. His penchant for storytelling and Celtic elegiac moods makes him a solid candidate for the position of poetic counterpart to Alistair MacLeod. Like all strong poets, Burgham’s imagination breaks past borders. Tribal and intense, his poems are conversations with loved ones, lost ones, and all the poets with storms in their bones. They are feisty. They rant. They grieve. They celebrate. Burgham is a thinker, a philosophical poet, a restless soul who asks big questions.

Ian Burgham is an associate of the League of Canadian Poets. Born in New Zealand, raised in Canada, he has lived and worked for extended periods of time in both New Zealand and Scotland. He studied literature at Queen’s University and at the University of Edinburgh. He worked as an editor for Canongate Publishing and later became publisher of Macdonald Publishing in Edinburgh. He has previously published two collections of poetry, A Confession of Birds, a chapbook published in the UK in 2004, and The Stone Skippers, published in 2007 by Tightrope Books and nominated for the 2008 Relit Award. He currently divides his time between Toronto and Kingston. In 2004-5 Burgham won the Queen’s University “Well-Versed” Poetry Award. His work has been published in many Canadian literary journals including Prairie Fire, Contemporary Verse 2 (CV2), The New Quarterly, The Literary Review of Canada, Queen’s Quarterly, dANDelion, Harpweaver, Precipice, Jones Avenue, and Ascent Aspirations.
Praise for The Stone Skippers:
“… a voice you don’t want to miss.” —Di Brandt
“ … concision, leanness and directness …”—A.F. Moritz
“rare and remarkable … the work of one who has the ear for the possibilities of language …”—Alexander McCall Smith

The Nights Also
Anna Swanson

ISBN-13: 978-1-926639-13-0
ISBN-10: 1-926639-13-8
Fearless and insightful poems that illuminate one woman’s experience of chronic illness, relationships and gender identity, and solitude.

Anna Swanson’s poetry leads you through a life that tries to deal with a misunderstood illness, a gradual acceptance of one’s sexuality, and a sometimes onerous relationship with nature. Her writing is as honest as it is complex, and it attempts to reconcile an identity that has been distorted by illness through a profound analysis of memory and individual meaning. With poems that run the gamut from fearful to the absurd, that are at once deep and pithy, Anna Swanson proves in The Nights Also that she is a brave new voice in Canadian poetry.

Anna Swanson studied creative writing at the University of Victoria and the Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her poetry has appeared in PRISM International, The Antigonish Review, The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008, and numerous other literary journals. She has paid the rent by planning festivals, selling books, serving drinks, making maps, walking on stilts, bowling with teenagers, writing press releases, and watching for forest fires. She now lives in Vancouver, BC, and works as a children’s librarian.

The Best Canadian Poetry in English: 2009
Edited by A.F. Moritz, Series Editor: Molly Peacock

In this anthology, this year’s guest editor, award winning poet A. F. Moritz, has selected 50 of the best Canadian poems published in 2008 from the long list of 100 poems drawn from Canadian literary journals and magazines.
A. F. Moritz has written more than 10 books of poetry, has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Award, and has won the Award in Literature of the American Academy of the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He recently won Poetry magazine’s Bess Hoskin Prize for 2004. Moritz was honoured for his poem “The Sentinel”, published in January 2004. His latest book The Sentinel was short listed for the Governor General’s Award and is shortlisted for the 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize. He lives in Toronto and teaches at Victoria University.

Molly Peacock is the author of five volumes of poetry, including The Second Blush published by W.W. Norton in the U.S. and UK and M&S in Canada, Cornucopia: New & Selected Poems published by Penguin Canada. She is also the Poetry Editor of the Literary Review of Canada. Before she emigrated to Canada in 1992, she was one of the creators of Poetry in Motion on the buses and subways in New York City, and she served as an early advisor to Poetry On The Way. Her reviews and essays have appeared in the Globe and Mail, and her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The paris Review, and the TLS. She lives in Toronto with her husband, Michale Groden, an English Professor at the University of Western Ontario.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Readers vs. Critics

THE ISSUE: Is it time to democratize literary criticism? Is it time to finally remove the distinction between Literature and literature, High Culture and Low Culture, Literary Masterpieces and Airport Paperbacks? The majority may not always be right, but surely they must know something the minority (that's us!) may not know. (Dr. Isagani Cruz, “Readers vs. Critics,” Posted in his LOL Literature in Other Languages Blog, June 8, 2010)

OUR POSITION: Democratize literary criticism in the sense that this discipline must accept that the readers know best? Certainly, the ultimate arbiter of what gets read is the reader. No amount of scholarly literary criticism will trump this reader's prerogative.

Nevertheless, literary criticism is one of the teacher's tools to guide the reader toward a productive and fruitful reading. Note that I am not using shibboleths like "intelligent reading." That would ultimately be a presumptuous standard.

Good and bad literature, high and low culture, masterpieces and airport pulp are useful as distinctions only in so far as "literary appreciation" could be taught to those who might wish to squeeze the best aesthetic experience (including epistemological, ontological, moral etc.) out of a piece of literature.

As in a political democracy, citizens who are readers are generally more effective practitioners of the democratic processes if they were "informed" and "capable of educated response" as well as relatively correct choices for the wherewithal of living comfortably in a dignified human and humane community.

Of course, the freedom to be dumb in a democracy can only go so far. Literary criticism provides guidelines for "educated" reading. Like most education toward a higher human purpose, one can only choose that which is consistent to the exercise of being a homo sapiens.

Education is not democratic in the sense that one could choose any which way to "know" or to "learn" regardless of goals. If it were, it would have ceased as an offering in learning institutions. Learning (thank Heavens) has not yet metamorphosed into a dumbing-down free-fall to ignorant anarchy.

The dictatorship of teaching "taste", thinking and appreciation processes, is not ripe for toppling by brutish people power.

Literary criticism as an art form is just one of its facets. It's been that since the formalists' "regime". Literary criticism remains as the teacher's "GPS" (Global Positioning System) to lead the lazy reader to find the road he is running through --- before reading becomes a collision alley of meaningless, benumbing, sleep-inducing grazing of a little-idea-there-and-a-TV-Ad-sound-bite-there resulting into a community of couch-potatoes finally blinded by the blue rays of the boob tube (Then known as the idiot box. Remember?)

In literary appreciation, the majority could always profit from the critic's coaching, provided the former has not petrified in his calcified toilet-bowl of gobble-de-gooky hermeneutics and snobbish invention of terminology that has lost sight of the ultimate purpose of helping readers learn how to love reading for its sake.

Literary criticism and the literary artist both aim to celebrate the "splendour of a thing" and not miss it for a manic preoccupation with "traditions, conventions, and genres" where form and substance no longer matter or even meld.

The problem really is that literary criticism has forgotten to abide by its primordial aim of "counselling, positioning" the reader to recognize between the piece of literature worth spending precious lifetime on and the drivel that money-grubbing publishers have flooded airports with. And yes, a welter of literary criticism has also become drivel, and a lot of them come from academics who cannot write artistically so they "criticise" to justify their tenure.

When literary criticism gets recognized as an art form, the literary critic must a fortiori be a literary artist first. That way, he knows whereof he speaks, or "pontificates," lest he be treated like celibate clergymen who preach about the sanctity and joy of marriage or the sublime function of sex and sexuality.

Monday, June 7, 2010


(Photo courtesy of Bobby Wong)

I rarely hear from old friends in the old country; but when I do, it’s about someone dying, an intractable signal that the twilight of our years is upon us.
We invariably make a checklist of things we have yet to do before we kick the bucket, a “bucket list”, really. Certainly in my list is to be able to say Voila! to this bereaved friend and celebrate the root of his poetic prowess --- to say: “the apple certainly did not fall far from the tree!” That might soothe anguish, somehow.

But the news of someone’s demise could ironically come in with a balm --- some palpable solace --- to soften the anguish of bereavement.

Last week, a brother in spirit and abiding friend, Rev. Francisco R. Albano, a seminary rector in Isabela, Northern Philippines, and one of that country’s important poets, wrote to inform me about his dear Mother’s (Mama Ising) demise at 89, and the uncannily happy discovery of an old poem written for her in 1948 by her husband, Francisco B. Albano, Jr. (Papa Paco), stashed neatly in her “baul” (ancestral treasure chest).

The love poem from the late Don Paco, a university professor and erstwhile politician from one of Isabela’s oldest political dynasties, came as a surprise to his son, Fr. Albano, who graciously sent me a copy of the poem written in 1948 while his father was in the United States of America on some assignment.*

There are purely personal and heartfelt reasons for publishing the poem in this literary blog, but most importantly, this poem represents a period in Philippine literary history where Filipino writers flaunted their mastery of the Spanish colonizer’s language, “colonized it themselves”, and wrote literary work that was certainly even better than those being written in Spain at that time.

It is also a proof of his translator son's mastery of both languages learned from the Spanish and American colonizers who had lost the wars of independence, but were triumphant in supplanting an indigenous national language with their own. Both translations were done by Fr. Albano who grew up with the language in Don Paco's household and mastered English as an English and Literature professor at San Beda College in Mendiola, Manila.

While he concedes that his late father's Spanish poem expresses the romantic fervor and deep anguish of separation better, his first translation was made to let the bereaved clan "in" on the treasured poem kept by his mother all these years.

His second translation is the poet's effort to render the original in a form that approximates Don Paco's emotions in a language akin to those writing in John Donne's or even Garcia Lorca's time. The linguistic conceits therein are the closest he could get at "capturing" the linguistic floridity of the Spanish poem. The metaphysical/confessional tradition embedded in the original poem requires the translator's superlatives in another language that tends to "tone" down such "effusive" (because sometimes maudlin) renditions of feelings urgently felt at the moment of creation. **

When Philippine sovereignty was recognized by the Americans in 1946, most Filipino writers were multilingual artists in a clime where Philippine diplomat (United Nations Secretary General) and scholar Carlos P. Romulo would be declared a Pulitzer Prize winner in literature. Before that, writers like Jose P. Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, and the younger Manuel Bernabe were awarded sobresaliente recognitions for their work in Spanish journalism and literature.

Don Paco’s poem, therefore, illustrates the genius of the Filipino writer in “owning” a borrowed language and excelling in its use. It is reminiscent of work done in Spanish by the late Philippine Senator Claro M. Recto in his A Bajo de los Cocoteros, the floridity of its linguistic equipment, and certainly even bears more metrical integrity than those of contemporary poet Pablo Neruda who likewise writes about themes like those celebrated by Don Paco in this poem.

Before ruining the sheer sincerity of the poem by unnecessary hermeneutics, let me reprint Don Paco’s poem, the "rough" translation for the bereaved clan, and an unearthing and filial literary translation by his son, Rev. Albano:


Ya van un ano y medio que ya te deje allá solita,
Oh dulce mujer que el santo Dios me dio y consagro.
Como fiel esposa mia, devota compañera en la vida,
Madre amantísima de mis hijos y Ángel que me inspira,
Para realizar acá en la tierra lo que es mi vida.

O mujer, fiel esposa mia, de puro y santo amor,
Tus dulces arrullos con que me solías acariciar
Con todo cariño y ternura de tu corazon lleno de fervor,
Anhelo cada vez más con afán y hambriento de tu candor;
Me muero si sigo sin ti a mi lado en este mundo engañador.

Compañera mia en la vida, aguantar más, ya no puedo,
Deprivandome de estarme a tu tiernísimo y dulce lado;
Y loco ya estoy sin ti, fiel amor mio, a consolarme,
Cuando cansado y harto estoy de esta trágica vida,
Sin aliento, sin solaz, ni alivio de tanta anhelarte.

Madre amantísima de mis tiernos y buenos hijitos,
Penas sin igual me da, de no verte noche y día
Con aquellos cuidados llenos de amor y paciencia
Con que acaricias a nuestros dulces pequeñuelos
A fin de que crezcan con amor y temor de Dios.

Esposa mia, madre amantísima y Ángel que me inspira,
Tantas veces necesito la luz de tu amor que me guía
Cuando en penosa tribulación fatalmente me engolfara,
Y nadie encuentro a mi lado que me fortalece y alienta
A tomar la cruz y decidir todo lo que hacer debiera.

Si, lejos de ti, O mujer pía, fiel sagrado amor mio,
Esta separación es sin duda y muy crucial sin par,
Y sino por la fe santa que me dice y consuela:
La separación es triste, pero el destino de Dios es dulce,
A la tumba fatal y fría, irme preferiría...

-- Por un marido que piensa y suena
siempre por su dulce mujer. . .



Already have a year and a half gone by since I left you there alone,
Oh sweet woman whom the holy God consecrated and gave me
As my faithful spouse, a devoted companion in life,
A most loving mother of my children and an Angel who inspires me
To realize here on earth that which is my life.

O woman, my faithful spouse of pure and holy love,
Your sweet cooings with which you were accustomed to caress me
With all the love and tenderness of your heart full of devotion,
I long for each time with greater eagerness and hungry for your candor,
I die if I continue without you by my side in this tricky world.

My companion in life, I can no longer endure
Depriving myself of being by your most tender and gentle side;
And I am already crazy without you, my faithful love, to console me
When I am tired and fed up with this tragic life,
Without encouragement, without solace, nor relief from such longing for you.

Most loving Mother of my young and happy children,
You give me hardship without equal, of not seeing you night and day,
With those cares full of love and patience
With which you caress our sweet little ones
So that they grow with love and the fear of God.

My wife, most loving Mother and Angel who inspires me
Often do I need the light of your love which guides me
When I am terribly engulfed in painful tribulation
And I find no one at my side who strengthens encourages me
To carry the cross and to decide all what I ought to do.

Yes, far from you, O kind woman, my faithful sacred love,
This separation is doubtless most critical without par,
And but for holy faith that speaks to me and comforts --
Separation is sad, but the plan of God is sweet –
To a tomb, fatal and cold, I would prefer to go. . .

-- By a husband who always thinks
and dreams of his sweet woman. . .
[Francisco B. Albano, Jr.]


2nd Translation by Rev. Francisco R. (Dave) Albano (III)


A year and a half have gone by since I left you there alone,
O sweet lady, by the Holy One consecrated and given to me
As my faithful spouse, a devoted companion in life,
As most loving mother of my children and an Angel of inspiration
To realize here on earth that which is my life.

O lady, my faithful spouse of love pure and holy,
Your sweet nothings with which you used to caress me
With much love and tenderness of your caring heart,
Ever do I eagerly yearn for, hungry for your candor,
I die if I continue without you by my side in this tricky world.

My companion in life, no longer can I endure
Depriving myself of being by your dear most tender side;
And I am crazed without you, to console me, my faithful love,
When I am tired and drained by this anguished life,
Without spirit and solace, nor relief from missing you.

Most loving Mother of my young and happy children,
You cause me untold hardship, in not seeing you
Night and day, with those cares filled with love and patience
With which you indulge our darling little ones
So that they grow with love and the fear of God.

My wife, most loving Mother and Angel of inspiration
Often do I need the light of your love to guide me
When I am terribly engulfed in painful tribulation
And I find no one at my side to strengthen and encourage me
To carry the cross and to decide all what I ought to do.

Yes, far from you, O kind lady, my faithful sacred love,
This separation is doubtless most critical without par,
But for holy faith that speaks to me and comforts ---
Separation is sad, but the plan of God is gracious ---
To a tomb, cold and final, I would prefer to go. . .

-- By a husband who always thinks
and dreams of his sweet woman. . .
[Francisco B. Albano, Jr.]

*Emails from Rev. Albano to this writer:
I went home to visit, May 24. My brother, too, from the USA. The next day, in the evening, the family/clan (celebrated) the birthday of an apo, 24. Mama died in bed while we were celebrating. I was privileged to have anointed her twice in the past six months. She was 89. She got to see and hold the latest 2-mo old addition to the clan, great-grand child baby girl Louise. Mama was cremated on May 29, at 7:00a.a.m. RIP.

NOTE: Family and friends brought the ashes of Mama Ising, 89, in beautiful urn to my brother Cris’ home – where mama had long been cared for -- on Saturday, May 29, 2010. My sisters rummaged through Mama’s things and, lo!, discovered a love poem of Papa Paco, written sometime in 1948 when Papa Paco was in the US and Mama Ising in Cabagan, Isabela: “Por un marido que piensa y suena siempre por su dulce mujer . . .” Sadness gave way to amazement, joy, laughter as I translated for the family/clan.

--- On Sat, 6/5/10, ALBERT CASUGA wrote:
Subject: Your Mama's demise and Papa's poesia
To: "francisco albano"
Date: Saturday, June 5, 2010, 8:41 AM
Dearest Father Dave,
I am so sorry to learn of your Mama's demise. We will pray for her eternal rest in Our Lord's warm embrace.

I am happy that you gained solace from the love poem of Don Paco. I read it aloud to get the flavour of the recited Spanish verse, and I assure you the original is much more romantic than the translations (not for lack of competence in translating it, but the anguish is best expressed by the sound energies that harden the central image of pain from absence and distance.)

The apple did not fall far from the tree, hermano. It is good to know that your father was himself a poet. But, of course, the culture in those days includes expressions of ardour and profound emotions in terms of poetry. Those days are probably no longer pronounced after our generation, but I am happy and deeply touched to read of your father's love for your mother.

I would like to publish this poem with your translation in my litblog, with your permission.

I will include a brief critique of "what's added or lost in translation."

Para el fallecimiento de su Mama, hermano, lo siento mucho. Para su discubrimiento de una poesia ha escribido por su Papa, estoy feliz.

Much affection,

ALBERT, NICKY, and family.

(Dave Replied)

Dear Albert, Nicky and the clan,

Thank you for condolences and prayers. Sadness shared lightens the heart. We affirm the largeness and good of life. And new life for Mama and all our loved ones summoned from this world. Death shall have no dominion.

You may blog the poem. Definitely the clan liked the poem in the language of angels, better than my translation. The old romantic mode still contains/bestows a gift.


** In a subsequent e-mail after the first posting of this blog, (June 8, 2010), Fr. Albano pointed out that both translations were his. This writer erroneously identified the first translation as that of Don Paco.

Fr. Albano said while his father was proficient in English, his first language was Spanish which he grew up with in the household of his father, Dave's abuelo Lolo Kikoy (Francisco I). Grandfather Kikoy was Ilocano, but Spanish and Ibanag (Isabela dialect) were frequently spoken in his home --- an illustration of how the colonizer's language became also the language of the Philippine "ilustrado" .

Friday, June 4, 2010


(Click on the Image to zoom in on Text)
Toronto Star’s Poetry columnist Barbara Carey reviewed Karen Solie’s Pigeon in her May 30 column prior to the announcement of the awards today. Carey said:

Karen Solie, who hails from rural Saskatchewan and now lives in Toronto, covers an impressive swath of geographic and metaphysical territory with lyric sharpness in Pigeon (Anansi, 102 pages, $18.95), her third collection.

Broadly speaking, Solie’s subject is the way we use (or squander) resources, whether she’s considering the natural world or the human capacity for love and hope, set against the caprices of fate, which she likens to the volatility of a storm whose “indeterminate forces are set in motion/ toward coincidence” or “cycle outward.”

Solie quietly charts the “heart’s/ repetitive stress fractures” and out tendency to long for things that don’t last. She’s often wryly humorous too, as in “Tractor: “In times of doubt, we cast our eyes/ upon he Buhler Versatile 2360/ and are comforted. And when it breaks down, or thinks/ itself in gear and won’t for our own good, start/ it takes a guy out from the city at 60 bucks an hour/ plus travel and parts, to fix it.”

(“Tractor” was included by last year’s Griffin awardee, Canadian poet A. F. Moritz, in The Best Canadian Poetry in English: 2009, Tightrope Books.)

Carey provides a peek into International Poetry winner Irish poet Eilean Ni Chuilleanain’s The Sun-fish (Gallery Books, 62 pages):

“...her 10th collection seems almost outwardly, whether she’s writing of Irish history, her ancestors, or a village church. The title poem, partly a meditation on the disappearance of the fishing stocks, is also about glimpsing what was once lost or concealed in a wider, metaphysical sense – and it’s indicative of Chuilleanain’s approach. In the same way that the sun-fish suddenly rise from the deep to “press up against the glassy screed,” so there are tantalizing glimpses of a mystic dimension to ordinary life. Even the mundane setting of a railway station’s platform becomes numinous: “Then they all shouted goodbye, the train began to tug and slide, / Joyfully they called while the railways pulled them apart/ And the door discreetly closed and turned from a celestial arch/ Into merely a door, leaving us cold on the outside.”

The Star’s publishing reporter Vit Wagner reported June 4 that: “The cash award was increased (from $50,000 t0 $75,000) as part of the 10th anniversary of the prize, one of the world’s most lucrative for a single volume of verse.

“Speaking about the impact of his prize earlier this year, (Scott) Griffin told the Star, “The purpose of the prize was to bring some profile to poets, who were virtually at the back of the bus --- and maybe not even on the bus. And I think it has done that.’ “

Bravo, Griffin.

Now, let’s look at these poems. Whether or not they are deserving of the Griffin Poetry Prize, the patronage can only increase the number of poets where their tribe in Canada is decidedly quiet, if not decreasing.

But will it increase the number of readers?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010



It’s when I’m weary of considerations,/ And life is too much like a pathless wood.../ I’d like to get away from earth a while/ And then come back to it and begin over.../...Earth’s the right place for love:/ I don’t know where it’s likely to go better. --- Robert Frost, Birches


If you marvelled at the dance of the Northern Lights
Counterpointing the smouldering plumes of ashen smoke
Billowing out of an Eyjafjallajokull cradled by melting glacier,

Or quietly scanned the opal horizons of Banda Aceh swathed
In a glorious sunset chiaroscuro before the waves claimed
Atolls and infants back into the rip tide roar of that tsunami;

If you were ambushed by an unforgiving temblor that rocked
Haiti out of its romping in reggae regaled beaches turned
Into common graveyards of carrion crushed under rubble;

If you have walked through cherry-blossom-strewn streets
And smiled at strangers’ hallooing: How about this spring?
Before rampaging twister funnels crushed hearths and homes;

If you have strolled and danced ragtime beat on Orleans’
Roadhouses rocking rampant with rap and razzmatazz
Before Katrina’s wrath wreaked hell’s hurricane havoc;

If you still marvel at forest flowers as God’s fingers
And espy sandpipers bolt through thicket cramping marsh
Before infernal flames crackle through Santa Barbara’s hills;

If you have stolen kisses and felt purloined embraces
In the limpid ripples of Cancun’s caressingly undulant seas
Before the onset of the curdling spill on the playa negra;

If you braved the stygian stink of Ilog Pasig and sang songs
While harvesting floating tulips, debris, or stray crayfish
For some foregone repast before it turned into River Styx;

If you have lived through these and now blow fanfare
For Earth’s being the right place for love or maybe care,
You might yet begin to accept that Mother’s lullabies were
Also her gnashing of teeth when you wailed through nights
When slumber would have allowed her love not tantrums
Of infants grown now and “quartered in the hands of war”:


How else explain the wrath of days descending
not into quietness but pain? Has she not kept her anger
in check for all the tantrums of the Ages: Thermopylae,
Masada, Ilium, Pompeii? Hiroshima, Auschwitz, Nagasaki?
Stalin’s pogroms? The death chambers and Holocaust trains?
Polpot’s killing fields in Kampuchea? Rwanda’s genocide?

Before it lured tourist trekkers, the verboten Walls of China?
The Berlin Wall? The Gaza Wall? Fences of n.i.m.b.y.
neighbours: India and Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, splintered
Korea, the Irelands shorn of the emerald isles, the fractured
United Kingdom where the sun has finally set on its Empire,
the still haemorrhaging American southern states crippled
and still unyoked from black history but seething now
from the African-American’s irascible entitlement ---

With Zimbabwe’s apartheid, Congo’s rapes, Ethiopia’s
hunger, Sudan’s ceaseless putsch tango, Somalia’s piracy
trade, tribal wars in Uganda, Namibia, Botswana, Kenya,
will blacks overcome someday, soon? Only if they, too,
would get munitions from Venezuela’s bottomless vaults
gurgling with black gold, aceite y petroleo, and Oil of Ages.
Lubricator of the war and killing machines, in Oil we Trust.


Has it gone any better? Love on this piece of terra infirma?
That’s when Mother shushed you back to sleep,
An impatient rhythm clipping away what should have been
A gently lulling melody from the Song of Ages:
Rock-a-bye, baby on the treetop; when the wind blows,
The cradle will rock. When the bough breaks, the cradle
Will fall; and down will come baby, cradle, and all.

The bough breaks, and you scream. Too late for that.
This is not a dream. The freefall is Mother’s little slip
When she could no longer hold you still, somnolence
Finally taking over, and your cri d’couer, a scream,
For help, for caress, for all the love gone from an empty room.
The cradle falls, she can’t pick it up. Exhausted and utterly
Spent, she mutters in her sleep: Spare the rod, spoil the child.

Tomorrow, if it comes, Mother will prop up --- backaches
Assault her waking days now --- will step into her plimsoll
As she would her dancing pumps, oil-soaked slippers.
She will slip and fall before anyone else wakes up.
She will yell: “Damn it, who spilled oil on the floor this time?”

Mississauga, June 1, 2010
* Rewritten for submission to the Poets for Living Waters online anthology of poems on the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana oil spills.