My photo
ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Saturday, December 31, 2011



That night will come, fully felt, indelible,
there will be no key to turn on the door:
it was always with me in my breastpocket
where it is easy enough to feel, the throbs
underneath it urging me to take the path
home where you said my stenciled footsteps
can still be traced even with the early snow
on the cobble stones. I shall retrace them.

—Albert B. Casuga


If leaving were easy and found myself
in a hereafter, I might find these words
for you (if thoughts and our pillow-talk
could still cut through the walls-on-walls
of dark nights and blank sheets stiffened
into cold knife-edged shields guarding
against our talking to each other again):

“Leave the window open, let the branch
grow close to it, you will find me there
scrambling among bridges of moonlight,
starlight, sunlight, even flickers from your
turned-down lamps, singing those little
songs I always sang to keep the fine rhythm
of my pats on your thighs, caresses to put
you to sleep on warm nights you thought
were not made for slumber or some such.”

---Albert B. Casuga  01-01-12

*Before Mayan Apocalypse

"Ardent Wish" is a response to Luisa Igloria's "Animus", and "Post Postscript", poems published in Dave Bonta's Via Negative on 12-31-11.

Friday, December 30, 2011



Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not:  for of such is the kingdom of God. --- St. Mark ch. 10 v. 14, the Holy Bible

1.  Los Ninos Inocentes

Heaven can wait. Hell cannot. Cut them
like flotsam and weed-traps wrapping
bloated carrion beelining toward the sea.
What controls cannot contain, infanticide
could quickly provide: terminate them,
abort before a trimester germinates more
burden, stop the plague of life on a dying
planet. When echoes of children’s laughter
could no longer be heard in a muted valley,
the elusive peace and quiet would be there,
no duties to rear, no grain shortages; wars
will cease from an attrition of warriors,
old soldiers wither in unstocked barracks,
the draftees will stop coming. They have all,
all perished, in abortion camps, in famine
camps, in evacuation camps, in flood camps,
in garbage dumps and landfills, God’s Act
stamped across records to avoid insurance
runs. The boys have been massacred before
in the hills of Bethlehem, and the pillage
written about in Gospel language as the day
of the innocents, now los ninos inocentes. 

Why can’t that be done again? No in vitros
will be possible, nor will it be allowed either.
Do not copulate, depopulate, depopulate!
Pill boxes will bear this mandate, absent
the plea for missing kids, more is better.
Hell will be heaven on earth, death is life,
and nothing will be everything. Zero sum.
Wrath descended, Apocalypse has come. 

2. Somalia’s Bethlehem

Sometime in the gloom of this dread, a hill
of burning sand replaces the stable manger,
and Somalia’s desert becomes a new world’s
Bethlehem. In its famine zones, a limp baby
struggles to stay alive. Minhaj Gedi Farah,
starves under a mosquito net in the world’s
largest refugee camp, “even his mother
has given up hope that her baby boy, Minhaj,
would survive,” reports the Associated Press. 

But magi and shepherds alike did not need a star
to lead them back to his tent. No gold, no myrrh,
nor incense gifted, just a mix of Plumpy’Nut,
AP calls a “cute name for vitamins and minerals
saving Minhaj. Three packets a day of the peanut-
based paste help a child gain up to two pounds
in a single week. It doesn’t require cooking or
refrigeration...Today, Baby Minhaj is thriving,
growing from seven lbs. in July to 18 pounds
in October, 2011.” And our world will not give up,
on all that is innocent. Not this boy, not all Earth’s
boys. No massacre will cut them down again,
nor troops to slay them in brutal Kenya camps.
There will be time enough for a Calvary, but not now,
nor Minhaj need be a redeemer. Mankind in his tent
will not be taxed for the sturdiest crucifying lumber,
all they need are 21 packets of Plumpy’Nut at $10,
and a deluge of epiphany: they are this brother’s keeper. 

--- Albert B. Casuga

Wednesday, December 28, 2011



But neither plaster, nor/ marble, nor stucco rooms/ end your search for/ the end of the rooms/ or a roomless door.---Hannah Stephenson, “Next Door”, The Storialist, 12-28-11 

There must be a little door
that will not end in a room.
Space is all. Is there an end
to these rooms? An exit
into a free space all my own? 

I require a room-less door
to step out of when leaving
would finally mean being
unbound, no walls to fence me
in,  no house to shackle a home.  

For what would a sky be for?
Why would suns set over hills?
Suns rise from the edge of seas?
Why do springs expand to falls?
Why is beauty is own excuse? 

Whence come this splendour,
what does it mean for a flower
to bloom? When all questions
have been answered, where
ends he whose end is a question? 

Or are answers simply next door? 

--- Albert B. Casuga

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Photo by Bobby Wong Jr., Philippines


(For Mother on Christmas 2011)

At night, in sleep, my right/ hand cups my cheek; from habit I turn/ toward the window. Behind night’s/ lowering net, miles and miles of quiet. --- FromBecause it is Years since I Last Saw You, Mother…” Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 12-25-11

1. Her Noche Buena 

Did you wake up for Noche Buena?*
Lit the balled candle on the belen?* 

Do you still put those candles away
for another Pascua de los muertos?* 

I can almost see you cranking open
the heavy lid of that narra trunk 

at the foot of your bed where his
picture stands sentry while you sleep. 

How long did it take you this time
to rearrange the animals around  

the manger? Reposition, you’d say
but they’re always in the same place. 

The lamb snuggles closest to the box
you stuff with dried grass for hay, 

the ass farthest, the horse between.
Why? I would always ask while I, 

insolent tot, handed you the wrong
fauna at a time. You would laugh 

at how San Jose landed on your palm
when you asked for the donkey, an 

angel when you yelled for a shepherd,
a magus when you barked for a burro, 

and on and on until you’d pitch me
the hard-packed ball of saved candle 

drips from father’s grave on the one
other fiesta you’d get up from sick bed 

for---but Noche Buena is a rare treat:
you’d eat pan de sal, a whole banana.

2. Her Belen de Pascua

“Para mi fuerza, para mi belen de pascua,”*
you would sheepishly explain an appetite 

we plead for each day you’d remember
father building the manger with you long 

after he had the last laugh when, like me,
he would give the dingiest animal figure 

instead of a king, a shepherd, or an angel,
and simply did not get up from a crumple 

laughing at you when you threw him
back the make-believe cow dung, manure 

for the grand project of a straw stable
that father said was wrong: it was a hole 

in the city of Petra in that Bethlehem hill,
and there were no inns to take Him in. 

You buried him with that Belen de Pascua,*
Mother, and could not quite remake one 

you would delight describing to a devil’s
detail to polite and knowing neighbours, 

who would drop by to gawk at your porch
where the only clay image in its right place 

was the baby in the manger whose name
you kept on muttering was father’s name. 

On nights like this, I scare myself, Mother,
with the spectre of the quiet distance.

---Albert B. Casuga


*Noche Buena, Christmas Eve; belen,  Christmas manger; Pascua de los muertos, Feast of the Beloved Departed; Para me fuerza, para mi belen de Pascua, for my strength, to build my Christmas manger.

Photo by Bobby Wong Jr., Philippines

Thursday, December 22, 2011



Tendril wound through my hair; small whisk of breath: I love your ambiguous arrivals. Reminder of what might leap into flame, thicken into honey, should I rub my two hands, stone and flint, together.---From “Morning Song” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 12-21-11

Would the tendril creeping through my hair,
crawl down my face and touch my mouth
to draw this quivering breath, a gentle whisk
of air caught in a billowing web of gossamer,
an invitingly silken grope of fingers, drawing
me, enfolding me, burning with raw desire? 

Mornings are unbridled questions like these,
and will not find answers soon, until I leap
like a flame scorching your enfeebled loins
that they may dance again, quake or shiver
again and find me waiting feverishly there
where nothing moves but you amid my fire. 

Dare I follow you to places you have gone,
or run to? Must you salve your wounds alone?
I ache for your return, yet I never know when.
Like the tendril sprouting quietly in unknown
directions, will you crawl into what is warm?
Fill my eager arms? Crowd our empty room?

--- Albert B. Casuga

Wednesday, December 21, 2011



Use it as/ a cup from which to drink today / like a woman who isn’t a mother: / just a woman, just a girl who wants/ to sit in this chair with no need / to get up real soon, who wants warm/ light to love all of her back, who/ wants a sip of cold clear water. ---From “Song Without Strings” by Luisa Igloria, Via Negativa, 12-20-11

Warm light on the back are familiar fingers
but they will not be back as caresses again.
They can only unravel bandages of wounds
that will not heal but will not feel any pain.
I am done with them. All feelings betray us
before they become clear: they sap courage,
and quickly turn into skeletons of passion.

I want to be a woman, not a chair to catch
torn and tired bodies that need mending.
I, too, hanker for strength from the strong,
unquenchable hunger I could eagerly satisfy
when it finds its harbor and home in a place
I, and only I, can shape or rearrange or own,
or drink like a glass of cold water to cool me
down when I have no more need for loving. 

---Albert B. Casuga


Monday, December 19, 2011



No light shines that is not itself a road/ No other door opens except in dreams.---From “In Dreams” by Simeon Dumdum, Jr. 

This fire must burn fiercely to build the road
that ends at the foundling’s darkened cavern. 

Blind eyes will discover how only hearts can
find where the flame has been lit to crackle 

through endless nights of endless dreaming
for an advent that is also the final leaving: 

How long will this journey take to open doors
that will take him in? Why are they all closed? 

A peasant woman and her bewildered lover,
huddle around a trough of dampened feed, 

and cannot hear their fears drowned by hope
that their wildest nightmare of an unborn 

child would be a prince of peace whose light
is all he could offer the wounded and the poor. 

For these afflicted, the light will all be roads,
to his kingdom where dreams are also doors 

to a bountiful garden carved from twin hills
of birth and crucifixion. Bethlehem is Calvary. 

---Albert B. Casuga



A pair of Carolina wrens—one in the lilac, the other in the dead cherry—flit from branch to branch, tasting the new-fallen snow.---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 12-18-11 

Snow on those branches, lilac or cherry,
will not mask the taste of autumn chill.

Frozen twigs are just as brittle as dead
vines on the mottled lattices blown off

from their rotten moorings. Will nails
hold them down at next riveting? How

firm will their hold be on these trellises?
Even this abandonment will not last.

That bush will bloom again, the tree rises
again to restore those spattered perches.

They cannot die those who have sprung
from the earth when living is still in style.

— Albert B. Casuga

Sunday, December 18, 2011


A Christmas Message delivered at the Sampaguita Senior Citizens Club 2011 Christmas Celebration, December 17, 2011, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

My friends, fellow seniors, ladies and gentlemen. 

My wife and I are delighted to have been graciously invited to your annual Christmas celebration. Sometime, or the other, we were here with you, happy to remember a holy and happy day. I remember, too, that I was likewise asked to give an “inspirational” talk before I sit down for a sumptuous dinner. (If I have learned any lessons in public speaking, it is never a good idea to delay dinner on one’s account; particularly a speech.) I am doing the same thing, today---not the same presentation I had last year, thank God---but I will not disturb your digestive systems this time by reciting some of the poems I write to keep my mind working. However, should it stop working in the middle of my talk, please remember to throw some leftover bread in my direction to remind me I am addressing a live audience and that I am not talking to myself in public. 

Such, alas, is the misfortune of growing old. But that is a harsh term, isn’t it? Growing old. In my old country, nobody grows “old”---“kalabaw lang ang tumatanda---only carabaos grow old,” the old proverb quoted by seniors more often than not reminds us urgently. Therefore, I will not use that term again. It is more poetic, indeed, to use the disguised endearment: “in the twilight of our years.” 

Whose twilight, though? We are not done yet with this Earth that God has given his beloved Son, Jesus, to save and to die for. We may be at a stage where we can say with the poet William Wordsworth, “Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower, we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.” 

Bring back the hour of splendour? Glory in the flower? Why, we have not stopped falling in love ardently, nor loving fiercely. We have merely toned it down by living and loving wisely. 

At the risk of sounding like a Don Quixote attacking the windmills, let me repeat what surveys keep on saying: 1. Seniors remain as the most capable buyers of goods and services---from croissants to coffins; 2. By 2016, 60 % of Canada will be seniors; 3. The most influential voting block is the senior sector—no Prime Minister nor the smallest politician has yet dared to ignore this; 4. The leader is wise, indeed, who would nourish the undiminished influence and aspirations of the nation’s seniors, because they are the natural repositories of the wisdom, ambition, and conscience of the human race.  

So, my friends, “in the twilight of our years,” what remains behind? Our collective strength is preserved. Each “grandpa, grandma, abuelo, abuela, nonno, nonna, grandpere, grandmere, mami, papi, apo lakay, apo baket, Baak, Impo, Nanang, Tatang--whatever or however we are now addressed by children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren---bear the insignia of  caring, rearing, raising, shaping, enriching (yes, with RESPs, too for the grandchildren), and above all loving the inheritors of this Earth that we are stewards of. We have the strength and abiding courage to hand down this planet to our children, their children, and their children’s children in its most progressive, peaceful, and productive state yet. With heads held high, we will keep this promise.  

But have our leaders been supportive of this promise? Have they proven faithful to this pledge? Unfortunately, we are still witnesses to wars, famines, discrimination, abuse of natural resources, corruption, and rank indifference to the duties and responsibilities of being human. Man’s inhumanity to man is still rampant. I submit, my fellow seniors, that these are things we can still correct.  

Paulo Coelho, a Portuguese poet and novelist, and recently a Facebook friend, wrote in one of his posts: Keep your eyes wide open, if you want to dream.  We do dream---each day that this great Gift of life, this Earth, this Paradise regained will be there nourishing our human specie until the consummation of the world when we all  go back to our beginning who is God and know him only for the first time. 

We see what neglect can do to our borrowed home, this wounded Earth. Because we dream with our eyes open, we will still adorn this home with the beauty and peace that it deserves. We will not dream of days gone by, we will dream of the wonders that are yet to come.  

In the meantime, do we still realize what dream comes true all the days of our lives? That we still receive the greatest gift of all from God, his Son who died for us that death itself will no longer have dominion? So that we can dream still with our eyes open, of a Happy Christmas---(Never mind a White Christmas---no snow please---we seniors have thrown our shovels but an evergreen Christmas to mark the everlasting freshness of the Christmas of our Youth)---when we visited Christ’s manger in our hearts, and kept him warm, like we were two babies warming each other up in that cold, cold manger.  

Do you remember that story of the boy in a German orphanage sometime in 1994 who drew two babies in the manger? When asked by his American Peace Corps teachers, why? He said: “I told baby Jesus, I have no Mama nor Papa, so I don’t have a place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t because I did not have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a gift. Jesus told me: “If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.” So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him...for always. Little Misha found someone who will never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him---FOR ALWAYS.”* 

If we dream with our eyes open this Christmas, will we dream of one with Jesus Christ back in the manger with us? 

My friends, thank you for this opportunity to address you, and we wish you all a Holy and Happy Christmas!

Dec. 17, 2011

*Courtesy of Rev. Fraqncisco R. Albano who forwarded this from the Secretariat of the National Clergy Discernment, 12-17-2011 (Author Anonymous)

Click Image to zoom in to the Text

Friday, December 16, 2011


Photo by Reuters/Beck Diefenback


(For Steve Jobs+) 

Dance a digital dream, and spin a web
around this globe where everyone knows
if you floss your teeth, or pick your nose,
if you still venture out of your craven cave. 

Did you earn enough to buy a paperbook
that made you a little prince of a pauper,
when learning meant to read or to hunger
for that leftover burger, or die in a nook, 

coupling with a book, ranting of a stable
boy, romping in hay, dung, and cackling
hen with the Lady of the Manor, stripping
bare all that is noble, her drawers on a table? 

Dance the jig of the devil astride the tombs
of the slovenly, slothful, and obtuse writers,
who bartered their dreams with publishers
stuffed with ducats, scribblers with crumbs. 

Dare you now liberate these dumb brothers
who dream with closed eyes, sing rhymes
like drooling mutes, or untinkling chimes?
Internet, iPad, Kodo, Kindle, their druthers, 

you dreamt them with open eyes and saw
that nightmares are only for the blind,
all who dream with closed eyes, the kind
who cannot see behind walls grass also grow. 

--- Albert B. Casuga

Thursday, December 15, 2011



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