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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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011



(For all the old friends. Pearl, Udet, Cesar, Paco, Bayani, Isagani...)

Why is growing old gracefully the measure
of what we look forward to when we write
each other these days? How old can we get? 

Will our little rose gardens occupy our days
like we always did,  lancing out thorns from
their trembling hands as they grew away? 

Why can’t we have them snivelling around
instead of listening to our mumbled curses
as the thorny branches whip our wrinkles? 

Where is the grace in pining at sundowns
for those shadowy remembrances when lads
were boys and lasses were screaming girls? 

When will those album pictures, grown faint
now on brittle pages, jump out of the plastic
binders racing to kiss our hands at angelus? 

Where, what sunlit places, would I see them
frolicking free from fears, writing love notes
on some clean sand before tides take them? 

Who will bring that cold glass of lemon tea
while we rock our tired backs on chairs
perched on porches made for these sunsets? 

What grace, what balm is left, growing old
and feeling gray, shall be our final measure
for how gracefully we have received the end 

of days, of answers to whispered questions
of why, when, where, and how have hearts
turned cold in old houses no longer home. 

---Albert B. Casuga

Tuesday, August 30, 2011



It will outdo them yet. The quarry diggers
are no match to the mole who has been there
before they were, their backhoes and drills
disturbing the smaller caves with bigger ones.

A small hole is big enough when all one wants
really is a shield against thumping diggers
who remain unaware of their macabre dreams
of ripping the side of mountains to prepare
unmarked tombs for their yet unborn children.

The mole will be there in its hole, taking over
with a colony of small cave diggers when quarries
close down at the siren of a final day when days
are done, and there is little hope beyond sundown.
From porches we will holler: In moles we trust.

—Albert B. Casuga

Prompt: The rhythmic thumping of a monstrous digger at the quarry two miles away. My father hollers from his front porch to come look at a mole.---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 08-29-11

Monday, August 29, 2011



Always the uninvited guest, the wind
pushes through the porch into the house,
and scatters leaves collected in its wake,
like a shower of crackling seeds freed
from pods that do not come from here.

Strange, how it barrels through rooms
disturbing spiders spinning webs busily
before the storm ebbs, safety nets strung
among sepia-tinted pictures on the wall.

What did it miss along the way? Winds
as interlopers are blind levellers–the rich
run for supplies as quickly as the poor do.

In New York, as in Virginia, the howler
brought in the flood, and left laughing.

—Albert B. Casuga

Prompt: A restless wind turns over leaves and passes through the house, as if searching for something it can’t find so far from the tropics.---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 08-28-11

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Photo by Bobby Wong Jr.


So we reverberate to each other’s calling: /silence is a desert hung with midnight stars, /the thrum of quiet waking. Somewhere a wing, /rippling air that the other breathes. --- From “Charms” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 8-27-11 

It is what we have absently forgotten,
that we still abide in a strange gyroscope
of happenstance of giving and taking,
of coming and going, visions and revisions. 

Or there simply is nothing to remember
from the darkness whence we came except
the pain of pushing or pulling out of a hole
into a yet more fearsome cave of struggle. 

Is it dread then that is left in our satchels?
This journey has neither maps nor diviners
to guard against a free fall into an abyss
of irreducible gloom and cold desert silence. 

Is this dome of midnight stars also a strum
for a quiet waking into a space of loneliness?
Or are these spaces our own echo chambers
where ripples of our calls are heard by others? 

Somewhere a wing roils the air that the other
breathes. Somewhere the tremulous murmur
of a prayer is answered. Somewhere an old
question is asked: Am I my brother’s keeper? 

---Albert B. Casuga

Friday, August 26, 2011



There is stillness /only when we drop to the ground, /pulling our legs in beneath us/like fingers clasping a palm /in order to become a fist. ---From “Light Year” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 08-24-11

It is the one place we learn too soon perhaps
to find that still point, early enough to know
stillness is easily within our grasp: grovelling. 

East of Eden, could there have been any other
way to accept an edict of eviction? Hind legs
are the postulant’s crutch to stand tall again. 

Was not the burning bush accepted in terror,
in quite the same suppliant surrender to rules
enslaved people must learn to struggle by? 

Even a troth to die for a sovereign is still taken
on knees propped by legs beneath, like fingers
clasping a palm. Where lies the stillness there? 

Did not the jubilant brave receive his infant
hunter on warm buckskin in the same position
as the homeless tramp accepting a tossed coin? 

In wars waged for God and Country, a bereaved
wife, mother, father, or son are the orphaned
who -- kneeling -- must accept a hero’s carrion. 

Where is the still point there? Does the lover
still offer his promise and fealty to his beloved
in that humbled, prayerful, drop to the ground? 

One scours this place overcome by great wrath
descending from the skies, the oceans, the air,
fire below and fire above, fathers killing sons. 

A buried miner scrounging through the bowels
of the earth for fossil to light cities and lift
warplanes off the ground, does he not crouch? 

Is there any other manner, a decent mien,
to receive these wages of rebellion, a paradise
lost, not with legs curled beneath like fingers 

clasping a palm to clench a fist against the sky?
Where is the stillness there? In a stilled anger,
deep in his heart where feelings are the hardest? 

---Albert B. Casuga

Prompt: Is it age /that prods what we /want forward, offering /it as easily as small /talk. Is there any need /to mention the clouds /or cloudlessness when /we can speak about death /and love with strangers. /... Feelings are /the hardest part...--- From “Old Fashioned” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 08-23-11

Thursday, August 25, 2011



The rain-drenched soapwort petals are showing a faint wash of pink. Is that any way to age? Evening primrose leaves have turned barn-red.---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 08-25-11

Why can’t  a man be like a tree? In smaller terms,
why can’t a man be like a leaf, or maybe a flower? 

If he were this maple, watch how its green foliage
quickly turns to a rainbow wall, a magic of fall. 

If he were that dissembling leaf turned barn-red
from its primrose green fencing golden footpaths 

with petals tied like yellow ribbons on a welcome
road, would he not make growing old a big party? 

Why not a wash of pink on these fey petals then,
before they crinkle into the wrinkles of autumn? 

There must be a celebration of virginal spring
that in the heat of summer reaches a crescendo 

of blooming, of a flirting dance with the wind,
a delicate fandango to the rhythm of castanets! 

Is that any way to age? It must be the only way.
It begins with the breaking of shoot from seed, 

the lusty towering into that árbol de fuego, a bole
of flames, firetrees fencing out the drab cobbles 

of a one-way street meandering through dread,
a fool’s boulevard of discarded days and dreams. 

---Albert B. Casuga

Wednesday, August 24, 2011



We’re all going /somewhere, aren’t we?/… All I can think of is you,/and where you are at this moment.... The man/in the blue-and-white seersucker suit/presses buttons for all our floors:/nine, eight, seven, six; five,/four, three, two, one.---From “Acompa├▒amiento” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 08-24-11 

It is familiar hallo, a hail-fellow-well-met nod
we cannot stifle or swallow when we come
across a paisan aimlessly window-shopping
at an endless mall: Where are you going?  

A donde vas, mi amor?* Same query, another
tone, or yet another lilt, if it were not a plea.
Why is it anyone’s business to ask where
indeed,  anyone is going? Whither blows 

the wind? Am I my brother’s keeper? Like boats,
we find ourselves sailing without coordinates,
no grids plotted or shackling charters. Free,
we are free to walk the planks, on or maybe off. 

Where are we going with all these memories?
Down, all the way down. We cannot fly back up.

---Albert B. Casuga

*Where are you going, my love?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011



…may a hand reaching for something to dip/into a cup of coffee come across the half-moon/floating like an abandoned biscuit in the sky.---From “Noon Prayer” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 08-22-11

Wish this upon that wasted waif
reaching for a cob of corn on a cold
night among the lean-to shelters.

Pray for this as hard as you can
before the scorching desert claims
his little body back among debris

of sticks, stones, and bones dimly lit
by fluttering fire from stoked ember,
frying the flies gleaned from holes

hiding them in the crannies of boxes
left by a howling army of thieves
absconding with the relief supply.

A border guard sips freshly brewed
coffee from his tin cup, cocks his
rifle at its ready-to-fire 45-degree,

sneers at the child’s shaking body
in the arms of a tremblingly bony
hand of its mother begging for tea

or a tad of coffee, a balm for a cold
night at the gobi, where a half-moon
floats like a half-eaten biscuit in the sky.

---Albert B. Casuga

Monday, August 22, 2011



Summer turns its coat/…sleeves out, and makes a promise the way you do:/no vows, no witnesses but for a few letters/in the sand. But I row, you row; we both do.---From “Turning” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 08-21-11 

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

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

---Albert B. Casuga

Sunday, August 21, 2011


The Poet on the Ridge


Poet on the Ridge, hermana Maestra,
pray for me, as I would you, that the dusk
catches us still swearing by the rhyme,
perishing on the rhyme, convulsing
on the sudden quiver that comes on a stealth
when rhyme and rhythm become the sound
of the sea, the pulsing river, cupping you
in time for that peremptory dive off your perch
into that devouring sea, betting life, love, limb,
and surfacing again to offer God your nakedness,
basking under Lo-oc’s sky, waves laving now brittle
haunches because you were always gentle and pure.

Paalam, maestra. 

---Albert B. Casuga 

(Revised 08-21-11, From the author’s last strofe in Houses are Better Off Without Porches Here, a poem dedicated to Dr. Edith Tiempo)


Reprinted from Dateline Philippines, 08-21-11 Post

National Artist for Literature (Poetry) Dr. Edith L. Tiempo passed away this afternoon at 5:30 her hometown of Dumaguete City, where she and her (late) husband, world-renowned novelist Dr. Edilberto K. Tiempo had founded the Siliman University Writer’s Workshop to nurture and hone the talents of Filipino writers over the last five decades.

Born Edith Lopez on April 22, 1919 in Bayombong, Nueva Ecija, she became the first International Fellow from the Philippines for poetry at the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop in the United States in 1947. Tiempo’s entry into the Iowa workshop as a fellow for poetry was groundbreaking, as Paul Engle, then the Iowa University workshop director, had thought it too early for a poetic tradition in English to have taken root. It was Tiempo who blazed the path that many Filipino poets in English later trod to the Iowa workshop and which they continue to tread to this day.

Prior to being named a National Artist, Edith was conferred the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas in 1988.

She leaves the nation with an inheritance of letters, from her novels “A Blade of Fern (1978),” “His Native Coast (1979),” “One, Tilting Leaves,” “The Alien Corn (1992),” “The Builder (2004),” “The Jumong (2006)” and the short story collection “Abide, Joshua and Other Stories,” to the intricate, image-rich and multi-layered poetry she finally received National Artist honors for in 1999: “The Tracks of Babylon and Other Poems (1966),” “The Charmer’s Box and other Poems (1993),” “Beyond, Extensions (1994),” “Marginal Annotations and Other Poems,” “Bibliophile” and “The Return.”

The legacy she has left does not end with her beautifully-crafted works, though those are treasures in and of themselves. To quote the words of University of the Philippines professor emeritus Dr. Gemino Abad about Tiempo in the book “Beyond, Extensions”: “It can justly be claimed that over the years, through her literary and critical works, her writing classes and the Siliman Writer’s Workshop, [Tiempo] established a tradition in writing that to the present invigorates Philippine letters in English.”

Fondly called “Mom Edith,” this woman’s legacy lives and breathes in all the richness of a literary tradition in English that has nurtured many of the nation’s finest writers, whose works continue to reap honors for the nation.

Reposted from my April 23, 2009 post: 

Remembering Edith Tiempo

EDITH L. TIEMPO, poet and teacher, turned 90 yesterday, April 22. Honoured by her country as one of its National Artists, she continues to devote her life to the Literary Arts -- looking after the development of writers through her internationally acclaimed Silliman University Writer’s Workshop in Dumaguete City, in the southern Philippines.

If the yardstick of a useful artistic life is the crop of writers she has nurtured throughout the island republic, she has lived a sterling life, indeed. I was one of those she selected to go through her Workshop in the 70’s. To this day, being awarded a fellowship at that writers workshop remains to be a recognition of talent and artistic achievement.

Edith Tiempo leaves an indelible stamp of excellence on the SUWW. To her, a hearty toast: Viva, Maestra!

One Tiempo poem I treasure is her What Distance Gives (from her Tracks of Babylon)


When you reach for me in that obscure
World where like ashes of the air
Your eyes and hands and voice batter
With a stark and ghostly urgency
The transparent doors of my closed lids,
I struggle to confine the precarious grace,
The force, the impulse of this fantasy;
Yes, I grieve. But in its sure
Wise way it is this grief that bids
The ghost to go.
This is the reality we stand to lose:
That the push of muscle strength
Is also the dear enfolding brute embrace
Of reason shocking all our length,
The loss is gain for the will to choose
The distance-given right to know.

In my Aesthetics of Literature (1972), I cited Edith Tiempo’s use of figures (of thought, speech, and language) in the course of discussing what makes a figure appropriate, necessary, and effective.

“A figure is appropriate when it earns the meaning by making it assume an exact, concrete, and clear picture. It suits the idea in that its use does not steal away attention from the meaning. For example: Like ashes in the eyes, the memory of the one being addressed intrudes: the eyes, sensing, become doors forced open by the memory, by the ashes.”

A student’s affection and gratitude are further expressed in this last part of Houses Are Better Off Without Porches Here, a group of poems I dedicated to Edith Tiempo, National Artist. The poem is included in my A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems (2009, UST Publishing House, Manila):

For Edith Tiempo, Teacher, National Artist

I guess it is "a distance-given right to know” as Edith Tiempo described it once in a poem. How is she?

 “Edith now lives on a ridge about half an hour from the city…the house is long, low, and airy – a single bedroom, a kitchen, and a huge space in the center for parties and conferences. The wall overlooking the sea is all glass…” -- E-mail from Lakambini Sitoy


Poet on the Ridge, hermana Maestra, pray for me,
as I would you, that the dusk catches us still swearing
by the rhyme, perishing on the rhyme, convulsing
on the sudden quiver that comes on a stealth
when rhyme and rhythm become the sound of the sea,
the pulsing river, cupping you in time for that
peremptory dive off your perch into that devouring sea,
betting life, love, and limb, surfacing again
to challenge Him with your nakedness,
(because you were always gentle and pure),
basking under Lo-oc’s sky, waves laving now brittle
haunches and God your sole voyeur.


Saturday, August 20, 2011



Goats can get by, I swear, / on the notes no one else sings. --- From “The Fretless Banjo” by Dave Bonta, Via Negativa, 08-19-11


Notes no one else sings are melodies
everyone should sing: a prescription
like this must come from the bowels
of hell, like decreeing the decapitation
of one,  Salman Rushdie, writer, who
has written about the verses of  one,
Satan, and not unlike a loyal Lucifer,
sang his own version of Allah Akbar,
sealed his sentence from angry imams,
decried the descended jihad’s wrath,
and the world of revolted men cried: 

Let him live! He is not even an infidel!
Let him perish, and he will live forever,
like that proud and fallen archangel,
who sat brightly as a burning minion
of the Almighty at last count, and still
wreaking murderous mayhem where
places are still hovels of madmen who
praise merciful Allah as they slit throats
of kinsmen who get by on notes no one
else sings, like goats, and angry poets. 

---Albert B. Casuga

Friday, August 19, 2011



Too many times like passing ships, at both ends of missed/opportunities. Why can’t we touch at the center, in silence?---From “Ghazal of Unattainable Silence” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 08-17-11

Her stony silence was her bullwhip,
she did not have to raise her raspy
voice to make us fall in line and freeze
if that were what hell was made of.

Her eyes fixed at a shadowy distance,
she would not bother to look our way.
We always knew she had absconded
once again to a place we will not find.

There are low zarguelas trees there,
their fruit are within your easy reach.
Just stretch your hands as high as
you could toward the sky. Zarguelas!

We would hide in the farm for days,
and you would cook rice cakes for us,
and pick green mangoes from the tallest
tree, and cut off pineapple eyes for me!

I would look at you in silence for hours
and whisper how much I would lose
if you had gone away and not come home.
O, how my whole world would crumble!

If she could lisp those words she wrote
him when he rushed off to that war none
of us would wish even on the slit-eyed
enemy, she would be singing them now.

Abuela, tell us about that place where you
found him chopping wood for the vats
you brought to cook the sweetest rice cakes
to last you two a lifetime. Abuela, tell us.

We fall silent at the hint of a smile on her
quivering lips that would have formed
his name who might have just passed by
on a cold breeze like a silent passing ship,

to touch her back, her hair, her face---
but she looked away into that dark, distant
place uttering perhaps her fondest rebuke:
You are home! What took you so long?

O, if only her silence were just the stillness
of a quiet memory. Not ceaseless mourning.

---Albert B. Casuga