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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.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


New Poems


by Albert B. Casuga
I am collecting these poems written this past year, 2010, with a project in mind: respond to an invitation from the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House to contribute to the publication of 400 books written by the venerable university’s alumni to commemorate its 400th anniversary as an institution of higher education in the Philippines (The university was founded 1611 as the Royal and Pontifical University of Saint Thomas).

In February 2009, my Alma Mater’s publishing house published my A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems (a selection of poems from work published from 1968 to 2009) as part of this University project of publishing 400 books by the time it celebrates its 400 years in the island republic (2011). Recently retired (now professor emeritus) University of the Philippines professor Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, the publishing house’s new director and herself an alumna, was recruited back by the erstwhile Spanish Dominican Order-run university to complete the publication of the rest of the 400; hence, this invitation.

At this writing, I am preparing a collection of poems, stories, essays, and memoire written in my literary blog: or the issues blog from 2009 to 2010 and unpublished work written earlier, circa BTB (before the blog).

For this blog’s purpose, I am posting them according to their chronological creation---a convenient arrangement at this point---before I re-arrange them (thematically or stylistically, or in book-form publishing protocol etc.) for publication as a book.

Readers will trace either growth or detritus in style and language as one races against the vagaries of slipping into the proverbial lotus land of the old and weary. But that would be fodder for the fangs of critics who will not allow old poets to merely fade away onto dotage. Dead poets are better remembered.

Last January 30, 2010, I collected the poems I had written in the latter part of 2009 and labelled the collection of new poems “New Poems: An Early Harvest”. I thought it was an archival strategy that would make it easy for me to track my output. I find that it is more than a strategy; it has, in fact, goaded me to write poems as often as I could clear the cobwebs between my ears. It is an efficient way of collecting the poems when publishers send feelers for “new work.” Hence, this new set of poems that marks Earth events and the intractable habit of creating benchmarks out of the grand spurs that keep the mind awake when all it wants now is to slumber.




PORT-AU-PRINCE --- French rescuers pulled a teenage girl...very dehydrated, with a broken left leg and moments from death...from the rubble of a home near the destroyed St. Gerard University on Wednesday (January 27). a stunning recovery 15 days after an earthquake devastated the city...Darlene Etienne, 17, was rushed to a field hospital...groaning through an oxygen mask with her eyes open in a lost stare. ---The Toronto Star, January 28, 2009, Catastrophe in Haiti.



How will your story be told, Du-du chérie,
Without the Lazarus lore tacked on it,
Limbs now freed of crucifying rubble?
In the terrifying gloom of broken days
Or broken nights, whichever endless waking
Found a harbour from pain, wherever fear
Dragged you to a cliff where you could smell
The brine of the bay and hear the muffled
Urgency of a gecko's staccato counting time
Where time sits still between shadows seen
Through cracked spaces and ebbing groans,
Did you cry for a little more time, pray for
A little more light, sing childhood lullabies
Or whistle for the wind: Mon Dieu, a cri d'couer,
A lonely whisper echoing from walls fallen
In other rooms, other voices hushed in silent
Anger: O, St. Gerard, O, Mother of God,
Salve, salve, salve. Seigneur, Mon Dieu! Salve!


But you have become like your shattered country,
Darlene --- these wounds shall not hurt you,
Like La Belle Haiti endured the penury lashed deep
Upon the gnarled backs of peons singing creole
Songs in the wind-swept canefields verdant
With razor-edged leaves that hide their tears
From their carousing children who would one day
See a Haiti free, Le Isle de Hispaniola an isle
Shorn of the filthy gens d'armes, the rowdy Yanqui,
And Mon Dieu, from the ladrones of the Spanish
Galleon who harvested both garlic and gold,
Or traded peons young and old for pesetas to lick
The fetid hands of donnas, duennas, damas
Y caballeros sin caballos, sin verguenza, y
Todos barbaros de Francia, Espana, y America!
Basta ya, basta ya, las barbaridades!


The shackles of this temblor will not hurt you,
Darlene, but the garrottes of freedom will;
We know them now as dollars and cents, tourists
And tourism, just as your people paid back the Yanqui
Ransom that freed you from France, only to be yoked
By French-manqué Duvaliers, or defrocked friars
Like Aristide --- horsemen of your apocalypse
That straddles your country's hills and laves your
Haiti's beaches and shores. To be free is to be enslaved.


But was your lost stare a confused reckoning
Of new found puissance? These rubble shall not bury
You, chérie, for you will rise scarred but ramrod certain
That rancour nurtured well in your heart and soul
For this rapier from Reapers Unknown will invigorate you.
Though ripped and routed and retreating into some hell,
Your people will learn to rule a haven for Haitians,
As Haiti is for Haitians, and temblors be damned.

Mississauga, January 28, 2010



Shot dead for stealing mirrors.
---Headline, The Toronto Star, Catastrophe in Haiti, Jan 20, 2009, Pg. 19

While the temblor's carrion burn
in common graves unnamed,
you have a name to go by, and
will have confreres wail to mourn
your falling on brittle rubble,
mirror clutched as you would a rag doll
if you had a more innocent childhood,
if you even were a lass in pigtails
or braids or ribbons or princess veils,
and did not have to scrounge for food
or even think that a purloined mirror
is a prize too precious to die for.

O, Fabianne, would you have seen
a flushed reflection of the fairest face
this wounded city has haplessly hidden
in unforgiving debris of shattered grace?
Or would you have recoiled from scars
on scars that faces become inured to
seen through cracks of shattered mirrors?

Mississauga, January 21, 2010


It is a poet's constant dread. The poem will be stillborn; so, one plays for time, and wait for the surprise that creation is. One recalls the decapitated Orpheus nailed on the lyre, singing still. There must be a song arrested in his throat. The poet plays for time, a zeit schinden. Sometimes, the poem dies in the waiting.

If playing for time is idleness regained,
a game of dunking Orpheus’ head
in a pot of boiling water would indeed
buy us the song screaming to drown
silences that are midwives to poems.
Did not the head nailed to the lyre
sing still of the beauty that was Greece?
What does it matter that limbs are shorn
from limbs in prurient violence?
A paean in darkened rooms is still pain
that seeks its balm in threnodies
muted now as dirges for the final quiver
of the song arrested in his throat,
a stillborn sigh that could have been
the dying gurgle of our descending
into a sandbox of absent games
and players gone and quietness fallen.

Mississauga, February 20, 2010


(For my ballerinas: Chloe, Sydney, and Taylor)

“Adios, adios, abuelo. Te amo. Je T’aime! Mahal Kita! Luv ya!”
---- Chloe speaking in tongues.

A glimmer of a sylph on the gossamer bay,
She pirouettes and is gone into her chrysalis
Not unlike the sylvan truants that waylay
The wary wanderer among the trees,

Or the papillon flitting from blossom to bramble,
Hidden but always there, some surprise grace,
A magical fairy light to dispel the creeping pall
Coiled on the winter ennui of fallen days ---

O, she dandles dearly with her ragged ragdoll,
Caressingly delicate in a wistful pas de deux
Of her shadow Fonteyn caught in a sudden fall
By a prancing Baryshnikov vaulting off the shadow.

Was that his pas de chat to snatch her from disaster?
Quickly now, urgently now, hold the hapless Dame
As would a cat curl on the legs of its Master,
Dream now of a demure pas de bourree of fame,

While dreams still enthrall, while the dancing
Is still your language of love, of boundless courage,
While the arguments of your young body moving
To the beats of passion are still the true language

Of the good, the honest, and the beautiful:
Until then, mon amour, these decrepit hands cannot
Stop the deluge of fear, of hurt, and of the frightful
That would drown us all, before our windows are shut.

Even now, as you wave from your window,
I know you will be brave.

Mississauga, February 9, 2010


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!
--- Lullaby

Close your eyes and fairy lights will lead you
Away from the dark and gloom that scare you:

In your dreams, do you run through brackish snow?
Climb leafless trees or swing from a broken bough?

Where the river bends, do you gather rotting fish,
Glean carrion snagged in a summer’s fishing mesh?

Has the snowman’s head fallen off its melting body?
Its stick hands twisted like pretzels. Arrows really.

The carrot nose has become its stabbing tooth,
Where both eyes were, now Cyclops orb is left

On a conehead of dripping snow; a crushed face
Stares blankly at a mid-day sun whose lapping rays

Forebode another season for yet another reason
To accept that what lives is also ripe for destruction.

(O, my aching heart, it aches, it hurts,
It hurts badly, it hurts to the core.
Kindly spare me your gentle nurture,
For I dread death’s coming spectre.)*

Close your eyes and let the wind rip through
Tears and cracks and cranny and broken doors, too.

Grip the tightened string on your wayward kite,
No wind could wreck nor snap it loose from flight.

You will ride the wind, my boy, and touch the sun,
Though frightful prayers plead that you must run

From the dreams that have become nightmares,
From the fallen kites; run from the fearsome snares.

Life is a trap, much like the burlap waiting downstream,
When you get there, you are enmeshed -- do not scream.

It is too late to scream. Close your eyes, shut them tight.
Life is not a waking dream. You have just begun to fight.

(O, my aching heart, it aches, it hurts,
It hurts badly, it hurts to the core.
Kindly spare me your gentle nurture,
For I dread death’s coming spectre.)*

* Annnay, pusok, annay, annay,
Nasaem, naut-ut la unay.
Itdem kaniak ta pannaranay
Ta kaasiak a maidasay.
--- Duay-ya: Dungdungwen Kanto (A Lullaby of Love), Ilocano Lullaby Refrain

Mississauga, March 3, 2010


She held on to the shorter side of her skirt,
a Creole form of rainbow radiance raw on rays,
and took the proffered hand with a shy smile.

Her descent is uneventful save for all the eyes
riveted on her, the sole fare from an island shore
where fishermen glean enmeshed smelt
on day-long-heaved nets hitched to catamarans
docking light with empty baskets from a sea
that is now without fish or even fishermen.

To banter from ferry passengers tendered
ashore from cruising ocean liners, she mutters:
En Français, s’il vous plait. Non parle Anglais.

The boatswain gently cautions her to mind
the gangplank shuffle: Regardez ca!
On parle de vous, Madame.
Amused, she responds : Pourquoi pas ?
En fin, a quatre-vingts, gens remarquez!

They saw her looking away into that vast sea,
a half-smile cancelling a frown on her face,
quite like wishing away an unwanted memory.

Parlez-moi de votre voyage, mon chérie,
the proffered hand asks past the gangplank.
En Anglais, mon ami: Et ees a long journée,
she says, pointing her cane rapier-like
to some lost horizon. Un voyage solitaire.

She laughs weakly, whispering:
Alors, Monsieur, a la prochaine. Bon chance!
She pulls her wind-blown skirt down and giggles.

Mississauga, April 10, 2010 (From a St. Lucia vacation)


It rained at the Grand Anse beach in Grenada.
--- Writer’s Notebook on the Cruise

Hurriedly, furtively putting on her top piece,
she looked triumphantly nubile coming out
of the make-do change nook of towels held
by her Umberto to hide her from sparse beach
traffic gaze --- gauche stares from a hawker
of fun would have been de rigueur in Rio
when they were young, but she must now
twist and turn to cover a sag-here a bag-there:

El triumfo de vejez! Nuestra juventud perdida!
Aiee, que lastima! Aiee, hermosura perdida!
She would have wept, but the Viejo beside her,
is once again her swain, coaxing her: Venga!
is all she needed to rush into the lapping waves.
Venga! Queridisima mia! A lass again, halloing
again at the water’s bite: Come, Umberto! Come!

But the mountain cloud bringing the first rain
after a searing summer has overtaken her glee:
Lluvia! Lluvia! She cried, bewailing the sudden
leeward burst. Bolting out of the roiled sea,
no longer Venus-like, she scampered --- her
caballero in tow --- to the thatched shed,
pell-mell shelter from an abrupt summer rain.

Was it the surprise of a wayward downpour
stopped her from her frolic in the sea?
Or was it the intruding pall ruined her mark
of the sun, gone from the sky, gone from the sea?
Lluvia! Lluvia! She warned anyone who cared
to listen --- the beach frolic rolled unabated.

Under the windblown shelter, she asked him:
Por que? Dime, amor mio, por que hace llover
cuando estamos contento con poquito alegre?
Con poquito de luz del Sol? Con tiempo poquito?

He shrugged as he shook the water off his ears.
Put your clothes on, Edo. The rain won’t stop
might have been what he wanted to say when
she asked: Why must it rain when all we need
is a little sunshine? In such a short short while?

Mississauga, Ontario, April 13, 2010 (From a trip to Grenada)

(During the first week of April, diluvial floods have wrecked communities in Rio, Brazil, where Umberto and Edo must have gone back to after the cruise. The killer floods and landslides were caused by torrential rains. Edo’s Lluvia! Lluvia! warning is worth heeding.

In the Philippines, a recent situs for killer floods, (now ironically widespread drought throughout the archipelago) schoolchildren have been taught to chant the English ditty once again: “Rain rain, go away! Come again another day. Little children want to play.” You know, just in case Yahweh understands English only.

The rain becomes a bloody plot. --- ABC)


Yobo of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada

“In ascending steep climbs, the Himalayan Sherpas hold each other on the shoulder in a single file; you know, it somehow energizes them.” – Yobo while climbing the Georgetown Fort in Grenada

“Sich falsche Hoffnungen machen,” he muttered absently,
looking for an excuse to be on top of a hill housing a dungeon.

Remnants of a lookout point, the Fort stands now for an illusion:
safe from the marauders, safe from the ogres of conquest,
here remains a craven rock of futile defence from the claws
of Empires that came to save settlers from voodoo and disease
in the name of God and country, hope for the hoffnungsvoll,
a new world where the old is a detritus of violence and greed.

“I am a castaway child of the Holocaust, and I remember:
no dungeons or chambers shall cut us down wherever we go,
our best revenge is to thrive at any time in any clime in any place
where we find ourselves derided, denied, and defeated;
it is only the hoffnunglos, who must inherit the wind,
my people will always build the lighthouse on the knoll.
Like the Sherpas on the Everest, we hold each other‘s back
ascending, we lend each other strength until the very end.”

Muttering, Yobo of Sarnia, man of means, absently
looked down the cliff and claimed: “Ich auch eigen der Welt unter.
No one will take it away from me. Ever. Pardon my Deutsch,
Monsieur, but habits die hard and tongues get twisted."

Mississauga, April 16, 2010


Yobo of Sarnia

“In ascending steep climbs, the Himalayan Sherpas hold each other on the shoulder in a single file; you know, it somehow energizes them.” – Yobo, while climbing the Georgetown Fort in Grenada

“Sich falsche Hoffnungen machen,”
he muttered absently,
looking for an excuse to be on top
of a hill housing a dungeon.

Remnants of a lookout point,
the Fort stands now for an illusion:
safe from the marauders,
safe from the ogres of conquest,
here remains a craven rock
of futile defence from the claws
of Empires that came to save settlers
from voodoo and disease
in the name of God and country,
hope for the hoffnungsvoll,
a new world where the old
is a detritus of violence and greed.

“I am a castaway child
of the Holocaust, and I remember:
no dungeons or chambers
shall cut us down wherever we go;
our best revenge is to thrive
at any time in any clime in any place
where we find ourselves
derided, denied, and defeated;
it is only the hoffnunglos
who must inherit the wind;
my people will always build
the lighthouse on the knoll;
like the Sherpas on the Everest,
we hold each other‘s back
ascending, we lend each other
strength until the very end.”

Muttering, Yobo of Sarnia, man of means,
absently looked down the cliff and claimed:
“Ich auch eigen der Welt unter.
No one will take it away from me. Ever.
Pardon my Deutsch, Monsieur,
but habits die hard and tongues get twisted."

(Rewritten from its first version Cruise Fares 3: Holocaust in my Mind, the version above cuts the lines shorter to objectify the rhythm of the ascent on Fort George which remains on a cliff overlooking the capital city of Grenada in the Caribbean. It should suggest the breathing of the climbers as they strain to reach the top of the hill. Is this a better version?)


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? With Obama on the rise,
they will 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?
The man crucified on Golgotha preached love,
And he got killed.
Free the enslaved black man, he cried in Gettysburg,
And he got killed.
The loincloth-clad man asked for non-violent resistance,
And he got killed.
Another Gandhi later, the distaff side, asked for peace,
And she got killed.
The man got his people to the moon, and said:
Ask not what your country can do for you;
Ask what you can do for your country.
And he got killed.
I have a dream. He said that equality of races will ring true,
And he got killed.
Exiled and returning to forge a conscience for his people,
He said the “Filipino is worth dying for”.
And he got killed.


Has it gone any better? Love on this piece of terra incognita?
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.


Guam gets rattled with its strongest quake yet, sunken atolls
in the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand become sea again.
Landslide carnavals in Brazil? Uganda, too? Chile quakes 8.2.
Russia’s galloping inferno will reach Chernobyl in no time.
Radioactive fallouts imminent; its reach unimaginable.
What’s 14 million homeless like in Pakistan’s deluge?
Wait till China registers its numbers after floods, forest fires,
mud and muck will roll out its carrion in denuded hills
like stuck-up slaloms sloshing down where snow will soon
cover all – not grass on knolls – just searing deserts. Gobi.

“An earthquake is expected on the fault lines between Israel
and Palestine”, the breaking news announces another temblor.
Nazareth shrines will be closed to pilgrims. And Jerusalem?
Closed. Gaza? Construction abandoned. Problems solved.
Like the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo drove the Ugly American
from the Philippine’s Clark Air Base where the legions
of armed rebels, limp politicos, and clap-infected whores
could not. Did not.


Tomorrow, then, the Ring of Fire.
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


The oil spills in New Mexico and Louisiana compound the ecological problems that our planet seems to be reacting to rather disturbingly. The poems 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 6) 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.


She lost her rubber slippers in the mud when
Crackling mayhem scuttled their march to town
Ripping through their roaring revelry riding
East of the searing sun: Ibagsak si Ampatuan!
Alive and raucous in their raspy throats, the raw
Mantra of venceremos quickly turned to wailing:

“She was on her way to the village school,
Carrying a new pair of shoes from her mother,
Rosa, who is an OFW in the States! Pobresita,
Eleanor, she needed clean shoes for the prom;
And, O, she laughed about our ragtag band
Marching to a funeral tune, its sole anthem beat.”

She will not find Simeon where she has gone,
Cut down, head cracked, and curled like a limp
Rag doll that could have been whipped away
Even from the tightest hold of a pining swain
Anxious and waiting in the now unlit schoolyard
Marking their first embrace in a lost last dance.

Mississauga, April 29, 2010

* This poem is in collaborative response to the invitation to express rage over the Maguindanao Massacre, that took place in the Southern Philippines in November 2009. It is part of a collection of over a hundred poems collected online under the working title An Anthology of Rage.



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

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.

Mississauga, June 23, 2010

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


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”, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems (2009)


“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 they 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.

Mississauga, July 1, 2010

*All alone, always


1. Impressions Dyed in Red

Swatting flies off the sahib's table,
Slapping bloodsuckers off the soft skin
Of money changers in the Dhaka alleys,
Dumping discarded foetuses in rivers
Curdled with carcasses and dung:
All in a day’s work of a boy in Bangladesh.

Beating dread into brittle skeletal backs
Of scampering beggars, howling slumdogs
Praying for mercy while batons are rained
On loins to supplant the eked out alms
That could have bought this lad’s repast
Coming out of sweatshops drenched
With dye that reeked with bodes of dying:
All in a day’s work for the Rajah’s riot police.

Impressions swathed on mud-splattered
Garments strung in shanty town washlines
Wound tightly on gnarled branches of trees
That will not grow beyond this lad’s height
When he creeps out in the night toward
The hills these armed bastards have driven
Him to, and he will come down a grown man
Of wraith-like limbs and dark sunken eyes
Burning with wrath and towering anger.

2. Looking Back in Anger

Decapitating the governor and his paramour,
He lisps: All in a day’s work for the child-slave
Who prayed for them to stop dumping batons
On his mother’s back: “Hit me! Beat me instead!”
They spared the splayed old woman grovelling
Atop a mound of scavenged used diapers
But did not think the better of him that time,
This waif, this little boy, running through
The streets begging for a little more rupiah,
A little more dried squid or corn for siblings
Around his table. The riot police jeered:
Eat shit, you little shit. Eat this rattan stick!

All in a day’s work for police and lads in Dhaka,
The proud city of Bangladesh, where label
Shirts of Tommy Hilfiger, Grenadier, Chaps,
Yves St. Laurent and Ralph Lauren are made.

July 3, 2010, Mississauga


(For Alain and Anik)


Know by all these present: that after leafing through the folds of the Earth, l’ monde de joie et crainte, wherever their hearts saw them against the imperatives of the Law, La Loi, et Le Droit and its claim on their lives, minds, hopes and dreams, that --- enfin --- M. Roussy et Mlle. Lalonde, Barristers, have found what they have always been searching for: l’amour pur, the purest of them all, that man can ever find or offer: une belle bébé, Annabelle, for whom they will cease their exploration because they have by noble covenant found the root of the rainbow, their l’amour pur, Annabelle Jeanne, the beginning of their days, the sundown of their eves, now the life of their lives.

Bienvenue, Annabelle, chérie.
However fearful or fearsome
You will find this old old place
Amidst its temblors, fiery blazes,
Cloying floods, endless disasters,
Deceits and wounding betrayals,
This is still l’monde de amour,
Et vraiment la place unique,
The only place for love.


There is a scampering of grace/In the dry woods/ And a pulse upon some soliloquy: / It is the rain come as a lace/ Smooth and forbidding upon the cup/ Of the dead and dying weather!
--- “Fugue in Narra’s Rain”, Narra Poems and Others, 1968

Something about running naked in the rain
recalls some lost decades withered now in
a fading trail hallooing with surprised laughter
tickled out of our backs by sudden pellets of rain.

The river! The river! Chanted my little lass

Skipping to the tempo of scampering rain:
Let’s swim there, abuelo! Let’s dance in the river!
Brown and slithering over scraped-clean rocks,
the river meanders sans snails, eels, or crayfish,

Now emptied of carp, catfish, small-mouth bass.

O, how we could have raucously scared the wren
with catcalls while mounting a wading caribou,
but those were noises of our lost years when
naked lads swam with dung and water buffalo.

We can’t swim here, hija mia, City Hall says clean
rivers are for clean table fish. We do have our rain.

August 22, 2010, Mississauga


The World According to Louie Martin, 3

He would not take a proffered hand to cross the street:
"I'm not a baby anymore, abuelo. Oh yes, I will wait."

But he will not wait.

No, he cannot wait for the world to pass him by:
no cars nor wars, landlslides nor fires, floods of blood,
no trembling babies wetting sheet will stop him.

Across the street is a pizza parlour. He will not wait.

August 24, 2010


The stool stood sentry to a darkened room where
she said she would wait if it took forever and it did.

The stool will outlast the stonewalls, rotting doors,
loosened bricks, dust, and bramble. It will be there.


August 19, 2010



(For Mikey)

Mikey bested his cousins in the game of balancing on the lily pads (mock pontoons) while crossing the pool without falling into the water before he gets to the last pontoon. This ancient mariner, bedazzled by his grandchildren’s confidence and derring-do, failed to even get past the first pontoon despite their egging him on: Come on, ‘lolo! You can do it! Just do it! --- Writer's Notebook on a Family Break at Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara

He leap-frogged lithely
with tentative grace
from one drifting lily pad
to the other, an uncertain smile
creased on his elfin face:
quite like relishing
the exquisite danger
of leaping from one life
moment to another
shorn of anxiety or fear
a fall could end it all.

Would the pontoons hold
while he teeters on them
grasping for absent branches?

His final leap was also
this old heart’s leap of faith
that this lad’s leap-frogging
will end in a crash of pool
where ripples are his balm
and sinking is his baptism
of fire in a game called living
where bridges crumble
with the tottering pontoons.

Mississauga, September 15, 2010


Why do we exist? Why is there something rather than nothing?
--- The question of the ages.

Someone, something, put one over the graffiti Pollocks today:
there’s paint all over the cobbled boulevard, a chiaroscuro
of foliage, a mayhem of hue cutting through dreary treetops,
an assault on the bleakness of a clean well-lighted street,
a rampage of glee gone berserk on a roiled canvas of forest
awash with windswept strokes running riot along walls
of maples and birches and whimpering willows, a cul de sac’s
Sistine vault, Klee’s templegarten, Monet’s pond. Aieee.

This fullness of surprise is still our constant wonderment:
what does this arboreal splendour, this arbour’s magic,
change sylvan verdance for? Why the circus of colours
before autumn’s chill crinkles leaves to brittle brown, black,
or even nothing? What temples rise from the deluge of shades,
what language of grandeur echoes in these ancient retreats?
Or what language of absence befuddles before this death
that crumples something to nothing? This fall, we ask again:
Why is there something rather than nothing?

Something, someone, did one over the city’s graffiti lads today:
someone has painted the rainbow on small palms of leaves.

Mississauga, September 21, 2010

Writer’s Notebook: Nobel Laureate and Physicist Stephen Hawking, an emeritus professor visiting Canada's University of Waterloo, came out recently with an obiter dictum that God was not necessary to create the universe. The Pope, speaking to a group of religious leaders in England during his state visit, stepped into the debate and conceded that the human and natural sciences "provide us with an invaluable understanding of aspects of our existence...but the disciplines cannot satisfy the fundamental question about why we exist...nor indeed can they provide us with an exhaustive answer to the question 'Why is there something rather than nothing.' "

The question became the ligne donee of the poem "Autumn's Question" which this writer wrote to welcome the fall with. All the colours of autumn become the central image of the poem that revels in the graffiti-like riot of hues. Is this nature's graffiti? Who is going around painting the arbours with the colours of the rainbow? Why the bravura before the leaves fall and die?

Why is there something rather than nothing? And why must there be nothing before something?


(For Jason Montana)

What temples rise from the deluge of shades,/ what language of grandeur echo in these ancient retreats?/ Or what language of absence befuddles before this death/ that crumples something to nothing?/ Why is there something rather than nothing?--- From Autumn's Question

Cold and rough hewn pews align the red clay floor
where rifles had lain at stock and inert most dawns
when bloodcurdling screams of combat gave way
to hard-earned slumber and crackle of campfire
in tempo with the rhythm of breath heard where life
might still have lingered among the beds carved
from crevices where crag flowers have bloomed
before nightmares came with the fall of sparrows:
this night’s sleep would be tomorrow’s horror.

But daybreak brought instead a temple’s prayer:
Upon this cave, our people will build their church.

Mississauga, September 25, 2010

*Somewhere in the Sierras of Cagayan Valley, Penablanca, Cagayan, Northern Philippines

Writer's Notebook: Why an "unfinished poem"? There is a "cathedral" of images left unlimned in the caverns of this place of worship. Borrowing from the practice of "ekphrasis", this composition links the image to "echoes" beyond the picture. These may proceed from the picture's history or from the poet's extension of the images that could exude from the image that vibrates with layers of mnemonic associations.

This blog invites poets to finish the poem's narrative with related images to create a "harder" gestalt, a poetic plenitude, as it were. Feel free to send in collateral tropes or other poems "induced" from the pregnant picture.

A blog (Poet's Picturebox) maintained by Filipino poet Marnie Kilates solicits this type of poetry from pictures. While it is an inverse version of poems that create pictures from words, "ekphrasis" is an old technique of using an existing visual image as the ligne donne (given line) or springboard of poetic creation. It has always been a resourceful tool for poets, particularly Oriental.



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 and Other Poems (Selected Poems)


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 they 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.


The stool stood sentry to a darkened room where
she said she would wait if it took forever, and it did.

The stool will outlast the stonewalls, rotting doors,
loosened bricks, dust, and bramble. It will be there.



....who would fardels bear, / To grunt and sweat under a weary life, / But that the dread of something after death, / The undiscovered country from whose bourn/ No traveller returns, puzzles the will/ And makes us rather bear those ills we have/ Than fly to others that we know not of? --- Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, William Shakespeare


Flowers for the dead
Rot: the garbage man collects
Dumpster mementos.

Thus, songs for the dead
Become evening echoes drowned
In trash bin clangour.

Remembrances die
With spent candles snuffed
Over silent tombstones.

Flores para los muertos
Are dead flowers in the wind
Though wild winds tow them.

We are fallen twigs
That will not be back on trees
Though wild winds lift us.

Mississauga, October 31, 2010



All accidents save for Acts of God shall be deemed covered by this insurance policy. ---- Insurance coverage provision.

I  lift my eyes to the mountains, from where shall come my help? / Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. --- Church hymn based on Ps. 121

Mario Gomez, 63, delivered on his promise:
“Querida mia, donde esta mi beso? Donde esta mi amor?”
Her lips quivering, she flirted on the inserted camera
Snaking through the pit, a cavern of refuge now,
A mansion no less for the indentured thirty-three,
“Ven aqui, Mario mio, si quieres beso, abrazo, y mas!
Ven aca! Venga, venga, viejo. Te quiero! Te quiero!”
Sobs arrested in her throat betrayed her when she bade
Him to stay puissant; she needs her virile man strong.

Those daily papelitos between lovers saw them
Renewing their nuptial vows: When you come out,
Not if you come out, we will get married once again
At the Iglesia on the hill, and offer our four children,
Our shrivelled skins, our shack, our mortgages, our debts,
Our dwindling years in grateful celebration to El Señor,
Y todos los santos, Who is our help, our true salvation.

Daybreak brought to its amazing plenitude the skills,
The survival tacks, the fattening of starved psyche,
The miracles of man and his science:

They’re out! Lazarus manqué!

They’ve surfaced the heroic thirty three! Sterling silver
Not unlike those Judas ransom, they ascended one
By quivering one, all clutching rusty crucifixes in praise
Of a God who was not in the sealed cavern even as they
Prayed: Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven
And the temblors of this earth.

What does it matter that Seguridad de Oro considers
his entombment non-coverable by mining insurance
Because it was an Act of God? After all, the caving in
Was in great pursuit of gold and silver, metals to shore up
The sinkholes of cities calcified in the manners of greed
That will not serve His greater glory, wherever He has gone
In the caverns of this empty, now liberated cave.
Mario Gomez will have his kiss, hugs, and more.

Mississauga, October 18, 2010


Autumn ---/ even the birds/ and clouds look old.
--- Basho


Autumn leaves leave twigs
When wild fall winds shear branches
Of their brittle foliage.


Twigs cast thin shadows---
Like trembling fingers, clutch air
For their treetop tuck.


They cannot hold on---
Twigs must break away like sons
Preening as oak trees.


Twigs cracked by wild wind
Fall pell-mell on bristly grass,
Burn as quickly too

When fierce sunrays turn
Valleys to tittering flame:
A covenant with spring.


When twigs break away,
Shorn saplings do not take them
Back as prodigal branches

Like shadows swallowed
By sunsets gone past mountains
Lost to murky nights.


O, we are fallen twigs
And will not be back this way again
Though wild winds lift us.

Mississauga, October 12, 2010


(For Julian Ashley+, October 2, 1984-January 30, 1885. Con amor duradero, hijo mio.)

It is the Sea eats limb so life (so love)/ may not to its eternal wanting finish/ what it late started must soon deny:/ a clown’s journey through a circle’s shadow. . .

Another fishing season would have gone
by sundown, but I have stopped counting
and stopped fishing, too; think of all the bass
that got away and the crayfish dried brittle
on rocks laved clean of seaweed and brine,
ebb tide marking rhythm and time when
breaking waves drown the homeward hallos
of fishermen pulling empty nets and ruined
mesh dragged off by catamarans whose relics
now jag brackish breakwater rocks when
low tide retrieves stray shells wrapped in flotsam.

It is my hammock hour. Come swing yourself
on this final refuge. Don’t take too long, hijo.
We have groupers to grill, oysters to chuck!

Echoes of your shrill shrieks and laughter startle
me still when I cock my ear to catch them
filling rooms and spaces that I would have shared
with you if you had only given me the chance
to teach you how to fish. But you left without
saying goodbye. At sundown, though,
on my hammock hour, I still hum your lullaby.

October 2, 2010, Mississauga

Writer’s Notebook: On October 2, Julian Ashley Casuga-Dela Rosa, my first grandchild, would have been 26, but he succumbed to sudden infant death syndrome four months after his birth.


Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta, Poet (1932 – 2010+)


...I regret to inform you that our dear Ophie Dimalanta passed away shortly before dinnertime in her Navotas home due to hypertension-related illness....she got out of the house, returned promptly because she was not feeling well. She died in her sleep. --- Nov. 4, 2010 E-mail from Wendell Capili, poet and University of the Philippines professor:

To die, to sleep; / To sleep? Perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,/ For in that sleep of death what dreams may come/ When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, /Must give us pause.
--- Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, William Shakespeare

The dreams must include a salon of jesters
Belting throaty ululations announcing her coming
To the party of outpouring angst and crippling blocks.

Are you all poets here? Yarn spinners maybe? Ah,
Sparrows wounded in flight bogged down by fear
Of rejection slips and rancid rancorous reviews!

She will touch them ever so lightly, giggling a little,
Having been there, flying, dying, having done that,
All figures waylaid on her poems’ wake bleeding.

Why write at all when raucously rabid living
Is raunchy enough for the sad and unfulfilled
Who find themselves eunuched by etudes and song?

The salon erupts into muffled moans and laughter,
Crowning its homecoming poet and doyenne,
Proclaiming life and love will trump poetry this time.

Are you all poets here? What rhymes tie you down
When verse and breath and beat must go on flowing,
Or perish with them entangled in death and dying?

A gaping satyr perched on a rock, waits and wails:
Monarch of dreams, lover of lust and life, Ophelia,
You have come home where poems have no dominion.

Mississauga, Nov. 4, 2010


Scampering rodents cast long shadows
On snow fallen from shorn branches.
Night falls quickly and twigs dragged into
Crevices cut eerie lines on the ground
That will not be there in the morning ---

Quite like absconding lovers brushing
Off dirt from their backs before walking
Off to shelters unknown after sundown
Trysts cut short by the solstice chill.
Scampering, they lose their shadows.

Mississauga, December 21, 2010

January 9, 2011, Mississauga
I dedicate this collection to the memory of my late father, Francisco Flores Casuga, who would have turned 90 today, and to my mother, Nenita Buenaventura vda. de Casuga who would be 88 on January 11.

Napno ti carayo ken ayat, inak ken amak --- adayo-ak man ken mananglipat, awan ti kanito nga saanko kayo  nga mapampanunot; mailiwak man wenno naled-daang, saan ko nga maig-ganan ken  ma-agkan dagiti imayo tapno maipadarepdepko ti panagayat nga saanko nga naipakita ti kanayun idi ad-daakpay kadakayo.

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