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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, December 6, 2011



Toys and stuffed animals feed/ our first experiments in truth/ and desire--the dolls of our youth/ are pets, children. We call/ to our toys, and they all/ leap up, paw at our jackets/and faces. The racket/ of our own loneliness is loud. / We crave a friendly crowd. ---From “Toys Are Us” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 12-05-11

My first toy was a pistol whittled from a branch,
and from the windows of abuelo’s grand house,
I must have aimed and shot at as many cousins
who would yell for me to put on a pair of pants,
and come down to play with boys not dolls. Pistol,
I would yell back, I will shoot you, kill you all!
It had the shape of a Tom Mix shooter, a whittled
branch, really, cut and shaped by a drunk uncle
who said he would make me one if I quietly stole
the gin from father’s drawer so he could share
the ten-cent coke bottle with me when the gun
is done, and I could ride away on the banana stalk
horses with a gun to cut down all the little injuns
across the road who have been crowing all day long
for me to come down and shoot it out, their bows
ready to sling their arrows and pebble bullets
with their slingshots. Be sure you have pants on,
it will protect us from your gas-bombs, ass bombs! 

From those windows, I raised hell and rat-ta-tat;
I did not know it was only a quiet “bang” or “ping”
for a pistol the size of a pretzel. When I came down
to finally play with them, mother said my asthma
was gone, thank god I was ready to attend school,
learn to read and write, recite poems for abuelo
or sing old Spanish songs I barely understand
so he would get up from his rocking chair and
shout down the boys to leave me alone with dolls
or pistols before some stupid presidente would
consider me old enough to join the guerrillas
and like a pea-sized idiot get myself quartered
by Japanese bombs. My first toy was a pistol,
but now on my dotage not unlike my abuelo’s , I
have nothing but contempt for guns and wars
even to defend a homeland; all I want and  pray
for is be able to play with my live dolls who coo
and smile, and giggle, and before long say abuelo.
Before long, I am sure, they, too, will be pistols.

--- Albert B. Casuga

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