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.

Monday, October 31, 2011



Chloe had an angel costume, and Louis was disguised as a hamburger. --- Halloween Night 

She was dressed like an angel.
She did not have to, and could
have gone trick or treating in
her pink pyjamas, sleep marks
all wrinkled up on her gentle
face, like the blanket creases
tightly wound over her head
to rid the night of bogeymen. 

Last year, he was Chewbacca,
why not a hamburger this time?
I said, any which way you go,
my boy, they will see your face,
and leave their Halloween
doors swearing they’ve seen
a King Burger angel wagging,
lettuce and bacon sagging,
cooing rather tremulously 

Trick or Treat, give me
something good to eat!  

Roaming the cul-de-sac, my
cherubic tandem would have
looked too good to anyone, but
they’d have to eat their hearts out.

--- Albert B. Casuga

*All Souls Night

Friday, October 28, 2011



Even harsh and disturbing sounds get transformed when anticipated mayhem fail to happen. A bright sky scuttles the first frost of winter, and from a distance, the gecko-rhythm of hammers pounding on surfaces that need mending for the season's turn, could echo Wagnerian cymbals; to these old ears, almost a tinkle from Duchin. All in spite of cold weather.

I would have felt immensely pleased sipping my tea, save for the trill from the kitchen: Clean the chimney, laddie. You don't want me to die coughing, do ya?

--- Albert B. Casuga

Prompt: The first frost fades under a white sky. I’m noticing how at a distance even a sound like the banging of a hammer becomes a sort of music. --- Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 10-28-11



Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant --- Tacitus*

Either way, distance finds me
looking up or down this cliff,
an unlikely sanctuary I escape
into aching for scarce solitude. 

How can one be alone among
the darting seagulls? Or silent
with lost memories jarred by
blasts of breaking waves below? 

Here, gods revel in their haven
of whistling winds and clouds,
down there fishermen cackle,
chewing sargasso, guzzling gin, 

while their thrown nets fill up
with flotsam floating around
moss-gowned boulders staring
at the sky like dark green eyes. 

Is it this vast and empty space
between that scares me now,
when I should be murmuring
secrets to messenger winds? 

I would scream unbearable
pain, holler down bitter anger;
I must share muffled grief,
loosen taut shackles of despair. 

Either way, I find wailing walls
in air, water, rocks, and wind;
like Job I weep for peace, hope
to gently fall in the cup of palms 

waiting to catch my carrion
now carved out of a shattered
world of faithlessness and fear,
unable to hold on to life or love. 

On this piece of jutting rock,
have I not found the little place
where I could reach His Hand
quickly were I to fall, either way?

---Albert B. Casuga

* (Where they create desolation, they call it peace)

(The quote from Tacitus was used earlier by Simeon Dumdum Jr., a Filipino barrister and a poet, in his Facebook post.  Poet and university professor Mila Aguilar posted the cliff picture in her Facebook entry.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

PLANNING FOR A TREEHOUSE (Voices From Three Generations)

(Voices from Three Generations)

(For my Grandchildren)

We will see so/ little of the world that it is/ important for you to see this/ tree, to envision rooms and/ stairs where there is only air/ and leaves, to place the first/ board against the bark. --- From “Treehouse for God” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 10-25-11

Come summer, we will build
another treehouse on an oak
overlooking the creek, there
is more of you now to gather
remnants we can put together. 

Nothing bigger, but higher,
maybe closer to the clouds,
nearer to the stars, away from
the giggling girls next door.
We will see less of the world. 

Or more of it below: yelping
dogs lining up for the lift-leg
tree astride our river bank,
are easy slingshot targets off
stouter, steadier branches. 

O, and there is soldier-boy
doing it with the wife round
the clock since he came back
wounded from Iraq, Libya,
and all on the eastern crack. 

Shush, buddyboy, that’s not
what treehouses are for. What
are they for, gramps? To espy
on sparrows, robins, jays, owls
talk to each other on sundowns. 

So, if we build it a bit higher,
we can also build a treehouse
for God, can we not, gramps?
Why ever for, laddie? He is
everywhere. But nowhere near? 

Cool. A treehouse for God on
the river bend. Then, maybe,
just maybe, we can visit him
anytime, gramps, ask for help
for starving kids in Somalia. 

Hook him up on a telephone
line, strings and cans and all,
and maybe Dad can provide
Him with a Bell Internet link,
alert Him on the Facebook! 

So he can stop all killings and all
and punish priests who molest
altar boys and girls, and...Whoa!
Whoa, boys, we are building a
treehouse, not His jailhouse. 

Could we build one for God,
anyway, gramps? We got boards
and plywood and shingles and
nails, and...borrow mom’s cross,
to protect Him in His treehouse. 

Winter is almost here, boys,
we need to firm things up here
so it would not fall off. We will
build another come summer
on that oak bent over the creek. 

(He wipes clammy sweat off his
forehead, winces at a strange jab
of pain on his chest, tingling on
his arms.) Time to climb down,
boys, before we nail Him down,

--- Albert B. Casuga

Tuesday, October 25, 2011



That dead oak leaning on the towering pinetree
is a postcard image for the season’s turn. Dead
things are cradled still in the limbs of the living.

There is not much of this anymore, anyway, in the woods
or in the occupied streets of New York, where the withering
would rather take down what stays green. Green as money.

This is the way things end: crash crack crawl curse or cry,
no one will open the windows for you. You might just be
the ghetto prowler robbed of his savings, body and soul,

his mortgaged house foreclosed, his drugs in mob market,
his kids in foster homes, his wife back on striptease poles,
his fingers itching to squeeze a trigger, to put some holes

into the temples of “others” who revel at dinner tables
over glazed Thanksgiving ham and turkey, bright homes
heated cozily on winters, instead of his throbbing temple.

The mumbled dread of class wars in the city is not yet here
in the woods where dead oak trunks still lean on limbs
of towering pinetrees whose leaves remain green as money.

On my porch, while I sip my tea, I feel it is too late to pray. 

— Albert B. Casuga

Cool air, bright sun and silence, save for the rustling of cattails and the creaking of one dead oak cradled in the limbs of its neighbor.--- Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 10-25-11



Something, somehow, has gone away
from a place we call home: windows,
doors to open to collect homing kin
at sundown, like perching birdlings,
have more bolts added, some boarded
up, children hectored into staying away
from doors. Keep those doors shut!
Some n—hs (racial epithet) have guns
blazing. It does not take much these days.
It does not even take a country’s revolt
to crack those pistols of thieving thugs;
here, they might as well be toothbrushes.
So, stay indoors, lock your doors, you
don’t have to plead like Khaddafi: Don’t!
No, don’t even think about Occupy! Don’t!

--- Albert B. Casuga

Reports are mixed— Drug bust, car chase; one caught, one still on the loose; or all of them now in jail. Your wild agitation diminishes, but never really the fear; and the sorrow as well for a world where no one opens windows to let in the night air anymore.--- Luisa A. Igloria on a home invasion near her home in Norfolk, Virginia, posted in Via Negativa, 10-23-11

Monday, October 24, 2011



Throw it away, / we say, but where/ does this directive/ lead. Where is/ away. We know it/ suggests distance/ and removal, that/ the thrown thing/is no longer visible/ or retrievable. --- From “Away” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 1—20-11

1. Away

It does haunt one’s reverie
like an old melody’s refrain,
it is a way but not away. But
where is away? A memory,
perchance a lingering pain? 

Distance-given right to know
erases world’s away, rebuilds
them only as far as a pebble
skips and skims over eddies
on roiled water: See old faces? 

Etched on beach sand, away
is a heart pierced through
by an arrant arrow called Luv
and a spray of trickling angst
named Will or blood bubbles. 

Or a nodding gran chanting
on her beads wishing shadows
on her walls at sundown might
jump out where they grow tall
and call out: Granny, I’m back! 

Maybe an unreachable land,
then, endlessly dark, no sun
creating rainbows, no showers
lads and lasses run through
naked and free, cold but happy.

2. Monologues

When are you coming back
from the front, son? Sometime
soon, before mom fades away?
Where is this Viet Nam? Iraq?
Afghanistan, Pakistan? Somalia? 

Will you take the midnight train,
Betty, and be home Christmas?
Me and the gang, we will throw
a party at the Metro, wait for you,
gulp suds for every train whistle. 

I guess he will not be around
for my umpteenth birthday, mom.
You invited him, did you not, he
and that woman in Denver? I
just have to wait by the window. 

Is grandpa going fishing with me?
Like last summer, he will drive in
on his old Studebaker, clanking
with a loose tail pipe over cobbles
on our street. Will he? Won’t he? 

I will not be away for a long time,
not too long. Before you know it,
some 10,000 sleeps from now, we
will be bowling again in St. Peter’s
Alley, cracking lightning and thunder.

3. Overture

Come away then, come away, while
we can, let’s run through valleys,
swim the rivers with the catfish,
slalom down those snowbound hills.
Come away, Love, to some place away.

--- Albert B. Casuga

A Photo by Bobby Wong Jr.

Sunday, October 23, 2011



(Poems for my Father)

(For Francisco F. Casuga+)

O, Father. Time overtakes us, and/ We cower in our darkened rooms.  


“Will courage Redeem stupidity?” -- Nick Joaquin

There is a manner of returning to the root
that explains the virtue of a hole,
its quietness the petering circle:
the canon of the cipher indicts us all. 

And you, rocking yourself to an eddy,
drown the death wish: O that grief
on sons’ faces could tell you all.
“Will courage be visited upon my children?” 

It is this cut whittles the tree down,
not of consumption but of fright
that bereaving is one’s splintering
of children’s bones. Death is our betrayal. 

They are sons gaping as grandfathers die
shapes the gloom of the breaking circle.
They who knew the frenzy of the bloodcry
must never return to find sons become spittle. 


There is a scampering of grace in the dry woods
and a pulse upon some soliloquy:
it is the rain come as a smooth and forbidding lace
upon the cup of the dead and dying weather.

It is past the season of the grub.

The flirt of the monsoon upon the arid lap of Nara
is caked on the thick napes of children
dancing naked in the mire of the fields,
gaping to catch the fingers of the rain,
slithering like parched serpents guzzling raindrops
cupped in the hollow of gnarled father’s palms.

There will be no songs, for the ritual is not of birth
but of death as summer dies in Nara
and with it every titter bursting from a child’s mouth.

The rain becomes a bloody plot.


Tanqui’s supreme conceit is its dread
of withering grass in the month of the frogs
when rain, like fingers in the night, tread
the lesions gangrened on a hillock’s carrion,
carcass of a season mourned
as the briefest of them all.

“The rain is on the hill, the dry pond
is red with clay, the gods are back!
And so must I --- shadow of a past long gone ---
weeping, running through these deserted streets,
crouching now in mud pools of childhood fun
when songs were chanted as songs for the dance.
A dance for the grass! My limbs for the grass!
I must dance for Tanqui’s singed grass!”

He dances hard, his body clean and gleaming,
but Tanqui’s rain is on the ashen hill.
Neither his dancing nor his lusty screaming
will stop this dreaded withering.
Tanqui’s conceit is stranger still
when songs are sung not for her lads and lasses
but for this stranger who, dying, has come back
to dance for black grass, dance naked
for Tanqui’s withered pantheon grass.



Halfway, between this river stone and many rocks
after, Nara shall have gone from our echoes-call.
We have wandered into a sunken mangrove

and wonder: Is it as silent there? Are there crabs there?
What quiet mood is pinching bloodless our spleens?
This is another pool –-- navel upon the earth.
Always, always, we cannot be grown men here.

After the white rocks, after the riverbend,
Nara becomes the dreaded dream.
We have put off many plans of soulful revisiting ---
we will go on re-stepping beyond the white stones,
each step becoming the startled rising
into a darkened city farther downstream
where we once resolved never to die in.


Do we wake up then afraid of Nara?
But rising here is the nightmare come so soon,
treason in the daytime, maelstrom at night: 

The nightmare was of cackling frogs
and serpents rending skulls and cerebrae
of kitemakers who sing while termite logs
burn and children, chanting the Dies Irae,
mush brainmatter, pulling out allegory
like unwanted white hair, stuffing black grass
where brain was, casting tired similes
into dirty tin cans where earthworm wastage was: 

River swells drown us where, surfacing,
we wake up knowing our days have become
termite nights and decaying metaphors. 

Revised and reposted October 22, 2011, Mississauga

Saturday, October 22, 2011



The shirt I’m wearing/ is made in Bangladesh, Turkey, or the Philippines,/ where clotheslines crisscross sky: sleeves and bodices/flail in salt-laced wind— weft of signatures whose/ facing edges I’ll button and wear against my skin.--- From “Shirtwaist Elegy” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 10-22-11

Two of her ten children drowned in that river
retrieving rolls of cloth grabbed by current
swollen by monsoon rains; rescuers found
them upstream near the Bay wrapped snugly
in the newly coloured sheets as if they simply
stole sleep and took a nap when they could. 

When the Giant Tiger supplier from the city
asked for his stained raw materials that day,
he found the old woman starting to colour some
new rolls all over again. He said he would not
wait, and paid another gaunt stainer, bundled
his purchase, and threw it hurriedly into his truck. 

Laundry day today. The shirt I am throwing into
the hamper, could it be from that roll in Bangladesh?

--- Albert B. Casuga

Friday, October 21, 2011



Now that the birch closest to the porch is bare, I notice a large hornets’ nest: a ghost town, a wino’s abandoned bottle in a paper sack. --- Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 10-19-11 

The last ghost town was the one I left
when I grew up—strange requirement
to abscond when one is no longer needed,

like that bare birch tree, shorn of its foliage,
is no longer the sanctuary for that dotard
who left his empty rum bottle under the tree.

Cheek-by-jowl with the porch, it was the Ritz
with free coffee or tea doled out by a host
who talked funny with his metaphors: Hornets.

They, too, create ghost towns of hives on trees.
No point staying when leafless trees no longer
need them, no flowers to touch, no bees to kill.

I have outlived my usefulness, haven’t I? I asked.
She said: Verily. How else respond to this curt
snort, when all I really had or have is only a pack —

not even of beer, nor cheer, not even care? Zero.
Nada. End of the line. Really, all I had was a pack
of wornout metaphors, lost love, lost coin wallet.

and a wayward heart too needy to want to betray
its anguish, its plea, to come home soon where
there is nothing but a ghost house in a ghost town.

— Albert B. Casuga