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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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


(For Luisa A. Igloria)

It alights on the most unlikely places
when it is ready to unload its augury:
a herald that answers to no postmaster. 

Did it touch your face before perching
on your head preening like a silken bow?
Fear not, but beware its noblesse oblige: 

Whom the gods want to destroy, they
first caress, a beau geste for its fondest,
most innocent, most willing sacrifice. 

Like the heart that knows no rest,
the mourning papillon flits from leaf
to welcoming petals ready with nectar. 

Though it comes bearing sweetness
for its bounden message, it drops its
wings to let the doleful colour show 

and flies out of reach and rancour, out
now into the cusp of wind and fire, out
of grace, out into the world of Tiresias 

blinded but must prophesy what passes
from this life, all loves and lovers, gone
but never let loose, ever, not now, not yet. 

For any day now, the heart that bent
to the swallowtail’s random dance,
would find its elusive life full of radiance.

---Albert B. Casuga

Poetic Prompts: 
I hold my hand over my heart/ because I know it knows no rest:/ it does not want to mourn what/ passes from this life, just yet.---From  “Trauermantel” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 05-28-11

Any day now a god /might unfurl its wings to rend the canopy;/any day now, that radiant and elusive life.---From “Foretelling” by  Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 05-29-11


A papillon with the mourning cloak
bodes grief; leave it free to flit from
whence it came to where it goes.

Capture it, and you become a gaoler
of the ghost it carries from unknown
gardens, uncharted lanes, lost zones:

Mark how it circled you thrice before
alighting on your chair not your tea cup
where it is moist and comfortable.
Let it leave its yet undelivered
message: a brew of auguries and omens
from the cocoons of the netherworld.

Do I scare you with this ghoulish rant?
Or shall I leave you to scare yourself
with your own disembodied yearnings? 

Ah, but beware my morning porch friend,
beauty, wherever you find it, is an omen.

—Albert B. Casuga

Poetic Prompt:  A mourning cloak butterfly circles the porch and yard three times, going behind my chair, including me in whatever it means to outline. Dave Bonta, Morning Porch, 05-28-11

Monday, May 30, 2011

MORNING TEA BANTER (Conversations with Stick Series #5)

…what /do they know of warnings and misfortune?/ Leaf of the cherry, red heart, organ of fire: /…I name you as if I could thread your bones;/ I name you not knowing your mystery.---From “Night-leaf Tarot” by Luisa A. Igloria
That dream of some rain in the dead of night,
what do you make of it, Stick? I ask my errant
escort leaning on the porch wall at tea time.
“Huh? What rain? Who is in pain?” It blustered.
More riddles than secrets fly with the wind:
the mystique lurks in strewn cherry blossoms.
Like tea leaves in divining cups at the temple,
the petals now pell-mell on the pavement beg
for a name to pin her will-o’-the-wisp down.
Where, in what undiscovered country, would
she find the luring shadow of her vision?
Or is it a yearning these leaves could not see?
“A tea-leaf? Did you see the absconding thief?”
A roused Stick, rocked from wooden stupor,
growled. I swirled the tea leaves down the pot,
and poured a steaming spot into my empty cup,
straining to see through its roiled and rippled
surface if the redheart leaf bodes fortune or grief.
—Albert B. Casuga

Poem Prompt: "Night-leaf Tarot" by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 05-27-11,

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A SCENT IN THE DARK (Conversations with Stick Series #4)

The last time we bantered about smells or scents,
Stick, I gave up on scents, the smell of knowing.
Everything I have loved and lost come back to me
like haunting odours, like those scented mothballs
under clothes Father left that I could not, would not,
move from attic chests I am wont to open when lost
between worlds of the child who would pipe down
from fearsome anxieties and the man-child’s anger:
“I know you hear me, Father, when familiar scents
break out of drawers, and I am your little boy again:
I run through the hills in pursuit of the wayward
kites you shaped for me from those bamboo slats
cut from groves of shoots we would gather and boil,
and oh, how the aroma bridges our unwanted space,
your scent pulling me into arms I know I’ve missed,
into rhythms of lullabies on the mountain hammocks!
I cherish these as urgently as that boy who runs to you
at sundown for a quick toss in the air only fathers can do.”
I know and keep these memories as long as I could,
Stick. I know them, hoard them, mostly from their smell.
—Albert B. Casuga

Poem Prompt: “Redolence” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 05-25-11,

Saturday, May 28, 2011

POEMS ARE MADE OF THESE (Conversations with Stick Series #3)

Summer light, /thick as honey, pooling in squares at our feet:/ we ask to be touched, before being taken.---Luisa A. Igloria
Take a look at this strophe, Stick, and weep.
If that’s not a tease, I know it is poetry. How so?
Summer light in squares thick as honey catches
us aquiver with blends of what eyes can see
that tongues can lick, a mélange of what rooms
can become when—as palaces of leaves—they
transform into sylvan hideaways engulfing
all who are bewitched by redolent fragrance
come like warm palms caressing cold backs
that must be touched. Poems are made of these,
Stick, like a strange amalgam of brew salving
the hurt and the lonesome before they sleep.
I need that brew tonight, Stick, before I sleep.
—Albert B. Casuga
Poem Prompt: "Letter to Myself, Reading a Letter" by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 05-26-11

Friday, May 27, 2011

THE SMELL OF KNOWING (Conversations with Stick Series #2)

There are smells, and there are scents. Which is it?
When the smell of heat thickens in the morning,
that would be your scent of toil, the smell of work.
That will not be smelled in Joplin when it wakes up
to the potpourri of cracked-open trunks, blown off
branches, debris dust, and wafted septic tank odours.
There will be the scent of fear that crumpled houses
have crumpled bodies that could no longer smell
this scent of anger cloyed into helpless disbelief.
How does fury smell when it descends on the fearful?
The funnels that have twisted flaccid limbs into braids
of half-extended embraces, empty arms flailing in air,
did they bring with them the redolence of apocalyptic
stench, or the stygian miasma of inexorable defilement
promised on the Day of Rapture, now a ruptured tale?
What scent do we assign the sweat and drivel dripping
from the agape and limp body of a mother’s barricade
to shelter her suckling infant, alive and puling at sunrise?
Will the smell of a sunlit palace of leaves at a greenhouse
that was spared provoke the promise of a better day?
The oriole’s song, is that the dread left by the scent of death?
Talk to me, Stick. I cannot understand the smell of knowing.
—Albert B. Casuga

Poetic Prompt: Morning Porch, by Dave Bonta, 05-26-11. The early-morning air is already thick with the smell of heat. Sunlit rooms in a palace of leaves. The oriole’s glossy song.

Thursday, May 26, 2011



It is not a pretty sight. I pointed to the stained cobblestones.
What isn’t? My walking stick, constant companion now, asked.

Carcass strewn on the pavement, Stick! A birdling’s carrion,
one with an uningested wriggler between its broken beak,

stared back at me between eyes half-chucked out of sockets
that must have slid down its tiny breast when the wind came.

Story of our lives, I said. Stick perked up: What is? What is?
You know, just when we would have had a bellyfull of chow,

we get cut down, even before coffee and doughnuts and love.
That’s it, Stick! I will not take this anymore. Endurance, nil,

Act of God, the full enchilada. It will always be uneven, Stick.
Violence on the birdwing, that is the daily axiom. Patience?

Love? Endure this carnage anyway you want, Stick. I quit.
Let me just behead these dandelions, and skies be damned.

—Albert B. Casuga

Poem Prompt: "Letter to What Must be Bourne" by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 05-24-11

Monday, May 23, 2011



“You have your paintbrush and colors. Paint Paradise, and in you go.”---Nikos Kazantzakis

It would have to be a clear canvas, and all the walls a limitless
expanse of nothing. Yet.  My easel could turn or slide in all
possible directions, my palette a saucer of rainbows. 

These are my terms before I end up in a heaven or hell
not of my own making: that I would be a child again,
wild again, unbridled in conjuring my own quaint realities 

where realities match quicksilver dreams that shape
and reshape themselves however I fancy them; that I
would be free of the shackles of meaning or the ghosts 

of language as their intolerable gaolers in dungeons
where there are no keys nor clanging cell doors to open;
that I would have all the sunrises and all the sunsets 

under my control, and all the days of my life kept neatly
folded in drawers I could open and reopen for change
when I itch from sticky underwear and not have to curse 

the padlocked building laundromat; that I would be free
at last to work at a burgeoning poem or a canvas whenever
I start one and not be constipated to leave it unfinished 

because days would not be long enough, word processors
not fast enough for my careening thoughts that must see
their tail and catch it while running to fill all empty vases 

of lives and loves as meaning of what meanings would
have been if my life meant anything at all. But does it?
Paint your paradise, I am told, and in you go. But I can’t.

---Albert B. Casuga

Painting by Gustave Corbet

Sunday, May 22, 2011



…the air is full of questions. Sometimes/ I cannot bear to think past them, to pry them/ loose from their trellis of hope and doubt and fear.---From "Balm" by Luisa A. Igloria

Do you still keep the bladed questions
in your closet’s little fragrance drawer?

When you bolted them last, they were
struggling to break out as a conspiracy

of fearsome pain that could break you.
Why test your fearful heart once again?

Gather them like twigs, kindling sticks,
and burn them with the brittle promises.

Past days have no way of turning back,
they travel through dark one-way streets.

Only those bladed questions will return.
Will their cutting edge be blunted then?

Spare your balsam for the dead and dry
days: when they descend, you will need

your balm to salve the hurts that have
yet to come. Leave settings hammered.

---Albert B. Casuga

Poem Prompt: "Balm" by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 05-21-11,

Saturday, May 21, 2011


If each of those fat beads of rain rolled off those leaves,
what would the bleeding-heart offer for weary eyes
in the morning when sunlit dewdrops sparkle? Leaves.
Each foliate sprout should be reason enough for being.
Each leaf will, in the height of seasons before a late fall,
be spun-over refuge of spiders stalking cocoons
erupting into preening papillons, or fountainheads
for termite and weevils, slalom pads for ants, ladybugs,
and sieves for trickling sap: a whole universe of use.
O, how quickly the magic of spring turns into dry days,
when we wonder where the wood thrushes have gone,
their trill drowned by the banshee wail of rustling foliage.
—Albert B. Casuga

Poetic Prompt:  "Each glaucous leaf of the bleeding-heart has rolled its rain in one ft bead. I'm wondering: where have all the wood thrushes gone?" ---Dave Bonta, Morning Porch, 05-20-11


Words in their primary or immediate signification stand for nothing, but the ideas in the mind of him that uses them. ---John Locke

Are you talking to me? Are you writing to me?
Answers to questions you pitch into the dark
are meanings I assign to the questions you ask. 

Always, you and I, will be at opposite ends
of a half-lit hallway where echoes are as urgent
as the tremulous confessions we burden ourselves 

with each time we look into our reflections
on the one-way mirrors we look into when hiding
hurts hurled like hunting knives at target trees. 

When I call you, I mean to quickly hold you down,
to find your voice, to shape your feelings, to own
your thoughts, to mould you as I want to have you. 

I interpret you through my own lenses and mirror
you as you would me and have our confluence
in this reflection, a dragging into a cold dungeon  

of thought constructing meaning instead of finding
it, and the “You” becomes the “I” held in bondage.
Except that in this conquest, I lose everything. 

Questions and answers become elusive phantoms
of meaning, configurations of troth to the other
turn into fantasy, dreams and desire but delusions.

---Albert B. Casuga

Poem Prompt: “You” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 05-18-11,

Friday, May 20, 2011


…what is it about labor/that burnishes the surfaces it works/ over or levels down?...Change me,/I begged my beloved…


That mute pebble rolled hither and thither
when the river current rushes downstream
after a thunderstorm, will it sit in the pond,
remain where it is lodged, stay unchanged?
In yet another rush, a stone crusher would
remake it into jagged edged crystal shaped
perhaps to a gem capping a band wrapped
around a fragile finger: an artisan’s manner
of altering the commonplace into a diadem.
But how will I change you? Into what shall
I change you? Would I were your Pygmalion,
maybe then, I could find my Galatea in you.

---Albert B. Casuga

Prompt Poem: “Song of Work” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa,

What is it about cleared land that turns a lilting refrain into a burden, a shrill work song?


When the gleaners return from potato patches at sundown,
they trudge back to their homes to the beat of a quiet refrain: 

“This land will be clear again, this crop will be good again.
We leave the roots to sprout at night, the leaves in the morning.
This land will be good again, this home will be fed again.
We leave the fires beneath cauldrons burning until morning.” 

What is it about cleared land that turns a lilting refrain
into a burden, a shrill work song?  What is it about the song
that lifts the load brought back into homes in the evening?
Is not the rhythm of work the rhythm of life? A song’s refrain?

---Albert B. Casuga

Poetic Prompt: “What is it about cleared cland that turns a lilting refrain into a burden, a shrill work song?” ---Morning Porch, 05-19-11, Dave Bonta,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

TWO POEMS: RETURN MAIL (After a Letter to Nostalgia) and RETURN MAIL (After a Letter to Duty)

RETURN MAIL (After Letter to Nostalgia)
City I once wore like a shawl/on my shoulders.

You left that shawl on a pine tree branch
where I etched your name so you will return
to see it grow with the tree. But you did not. 

It does not matter. You wear that old city
on your shoulders like that green shawl
I still keep in a wooden chest carved in Ifugao. 

Its ridges, its sunsets, its clay soil, the rocks
shrouded now by sunflowers jutting through
cracks and crevices lining the zigzag roads, 

the halloo of the terrace gleaners bursting
into song at sundown: all sounds echoing
through those mountain rims and alleys 

in the city, the Indian bazaars, the roadside
bars, the cathedral overlooking the city like
a muezzin singing from his minaret, its belfry 

our lighthouse, a beacon from the lowland
refuge of white beaches and emerald seas,
the redolent smell of pine at the city limit. 

I know you keep them now in the eyes
of your children, in their laughter, and sighs
when you draw the city’s face over your heart. 

---Albert B. Casuga

Poem Prompt: "Letter to Nostalgia" by Luisa A. Igloria posted in Via Negativa, 05-17-11

RETURN MAIL (After Letter to Duty) 

Is this all that remains/ of desire’s candle that burned, its two seared/ ends meeting in the middle?

Here you are asking if something is left behind
from those days and nights of heat and splendor.
The nest under the springhouse eave, the errands
to bring the birdling feed to gaping hungry beaks---
is this all that remains? What will bring back
the glory in the flower? But it has never left you;
not when you still cup your ears to the murmurs
of ebbtides and  the trill of children running after kites
blown wayward in the hills, or feel the quick flush
on your face when you recall the warmth
of nights we lay on our backs counting the stars
knowing we could not but recounted them
from inconstant starts and lost count anyway.

 ---Albert B. Casuga

Poem Prompt: "Letter to Duty" by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 05-16-11