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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, November 1, 2011


Poems for All Souls Day 


A day for our beloved departed, we will be happy to include them in our book of prayers for All Soul’s Day. ---St. Francis of Assisi Pastor, Rev. Joseph Grima


Whose souls would be around
soliciting prayers for their repose? 

If they came as shadows on my wall,
would I even recognize them at all? 

Would the tug of a long and sturdy
tether still be there? A vinculum? 

Would they linger long enough
this time for those missed goodbyes? 

Will I be lavish this time with my
promise to love and never forget? 


For Father (Francisco F. Casuga+) 

How much of those happy times
would you bring back, like the waves
ebb but must always rush back? 

It is the sea that returns you intact
into my now empty days, windy days,
your laughter always a raw memory. 

You threw me into those restless
waves, cried out a challenge: Swim!
Kick hard, swing your arms! Swim! 

And I never stopped, not for hurts,
not for lost dreams, nor for losses.
You warned me never ever to cry. 


For Grandfather (Don Alejandro F. Casuga+) 

Calling it a day at the old Mercado,
do you remember me running to you
snivelling at the tail end of every race? 

Kin of all sizes and wile would beat me
to all the coins in your trouser pockets
where you kept them as gold for the best, 

really, the most agile and the fastest
hands, the greedy and the needy, but you
said you knew I was simply the slowest. 

So you had the small pesetas for them,
but you always saved the peso de plata
for me near your heart: your chestpockets.  


For Grandmother (Dona Teodora Flores Casuga+) 

All, all of those shadows that people
my stories, abuela, have their home
in your sundown tales. My poetry sings 

still with the rhythm of your voice, images
have been shaped before in the pictures
you etched with your face and fingers. 

They will not be blurred by old minds
fumbling with remembrances, recuerdos,
abuela, of all that you left to sprout 

in the moist and porous soil of our hearts
and the wild moss peats of our minds,
and every word from my pen is your word. 


For Grandmother (Dona Sotera Martinez-Buenaventura+) 

If you were here, I would know where you
are: you would be by the gaping window
where the statue of the Sagrada Familia 

would be, lighting candle stubs, striking
matchsticks endlessly until all are lit,
and only the sound of struck flint remained. 

Soon, you would be wandering among empty
rooms, calling out for me to put on my church
clothes for a walk to the Iglesia and pray. 

However hollow those vaults were, or inert
those icons looked, the walls would vibrate
with your intoned oracion, and I’d feel safe. 


For Grandfather (Don Jose Buenaventura+) 

I would look at your fingers, abuelo, if you
were here crouched by my easel, my paint,
my oil, my bastidores. They are my fingers. 

We hardly knew you, save that illustrados
from the city would look for you if they
needed the latest design in haberdashery. 

Don Jose, make my shoulders look broad,
Don Jose, I need to appear commanding;
Don Jose, please look away from my wife. 

Swarthy as your Basque roots, your eyes
blaze beyond your gaze; an artisan by day,
an artist and lover, abuelo de mis sueños. 


For my Dear Sister (Brenda Casuga-Maglaya+) 

How do I best remember you, hermanita?
That father would call you princesita mia
after a swig of Domecq and sarsaparilla? 

You were not one to get excited by these,
nor would you bat an eyelash; you’d jump
off his lap and call out to me: “ ‘Manong! 

That was always my cue for another game
of patintero under the lone lamp on our
camino; your sad eyes lit up, you’d smile. 

The smile you bravely left me when you
hugged me from your sick bed, was your
own smile, nobody else’s. I will not forget. 


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