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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.

Sunday, February 26, 2012



Maligned silence, milky as the swirl / at the bottom of a cup, toward which/ the face bends to drink, wanting more.---From “To Silence” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa,. 02-20-12

Silencio! Por Dios! Dionisia, drive the children away,
Father must get his rest on his rocking chair before
Doctor Querol sees him today. Rapido, hora mismo! 

She had those sewing glasses on, tumbling on her
Indio nose. (They were not mestiza-nariz). Senora
Dona, Patron, however they called her. She was strong.

Como esta, Dora?  Bien, gracias! Y usted, Antonio?
If the ailing padre de familia, somnolent on his chair,
heard her greet the family doctor with a bit of alacrity 

he would grip her now bony fingers, los dedos finos
of those schooled in the conquistador’s Cartilla, and
would have rasped: Hija, mia! Con poquito verguenza! 

He did not stir when the Madrid-trained physician
placed an unwarmed stethoscope on his rib-cage,
first on the right, then on the left, then quickly back. 

He held his pulse, he grabbed a warm lavacara
ready in the mayordoma’s hands, wiped the old
man’s face, grabbed a vial of streptomycin…Oooh. 

When he looked at her, he with the aquiline nose,
he with the manners of the caballero of olden days
before the kempetai  razed mansions like theirs 

so the Yanquis and maybe loose guerrillero bands
would not feign control in those huge houses,
the ilustrados shared a municipio as their homes. 

Aiee, Dora! Lo siento mucho, Dora. But Alejandro
has just left us! She stared at the swirl at the bottom
of the warm milk he would normally take after siesta. 

Dionisia started jumping around in manic grief,
the hired help, the Japanese governadorcillo,
stood silently. She drank the milk instead. Gave me 

the rest, from powdered Yanqui milk, while I stared
at her wrapping the absent Patron with the franela
sent to him earlier by his brothers, the Freemasons, 

together with the wall-to-wall portrait of their hero,
Dr. Jose Protacio Rizal, who seemed to stare down
at me with a stony silence I would describe in a novel 

much, much later, when I recovered enough sense
not to malign silence, even if it comes from the bottom
of an empty cup, and, why have I always wanted more?

---Albert B. Casuga

Saturday, February 25, 2012



...And that/ plaint, that pleading: I know its color/  now— the lilac shade of longing// that looks to slide into the arms/  of evening, the way I want to feel/ your lips linger, your tongue// shape itself to the ache of my mouth./  The way the syllable opens in mucho,/ before trailing off into the night.---From “Besame” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 02-24-12 

Que tengo miedo, perder se después.*
There was style then, no cat alleys 

for rendezvous, however urgent
loss looms the night after. Adios, amor.* 

Whimpering like a barrister puppy,
she said, I am afraid I will lose you. 

How can you, mi amor, there is enough
of these kisses to last us the life time. 

The lilac’s purple will always be there,
she waters her bush daily like a baby. 

Recuerdos de un beso con mucho
amor ardiente.* It was all I could take. 

Do I still ache in my mouth? Do I shape
goodbye plaints on them as the rhumba 

plays on, and on, and on, and on, in my
Manhattan loft before I escape dreams 

To punish lovers who could not hold on?
The lonely years be damned. Besame.

---Albert B. Casuga

*Que tengo miedo, perder se después –I am afraid I will lose you after this; Adios, amor – goodbye love; Recuerdo de un beso con mucho amor ardiente –Remembrances of a kiss given with great ardence; Besame – Kiss me.

Friday, February 24, 2012



Rain has erased the last patches of snow. The lilac bush gives birth to a cardinal, a wren, four white-crowned sparrows and a chipmunk.---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 02-24-12

Clouds clean up, when it rains.
There is a population growth under the lilac.
Too much too soon, perhaps? 

Snow patches linger, at the edges
of the primrose path; before another sunrise,
there must needs be a lot of clucking.

Sipping my tepid tea at the porch,
I feel long shadows at sundown jump at me
cackling of other voices, other rooms.

— Albert B. Casuga

Thursday, February 23, 2012



If it were here and whole, the heart/ would think this was a nest. ---Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 02-22-12


Abuela*, dear soul and headstrong,
Asked me to bury her sitting down:

Must be where the limestones met
With the road, so I could take the bus. 

The bus to where? To meet with Jose
Who has been waiting all this time. 

When he left with the conquistador*
On the galleon, he would sew for them.

Even today was no different. She must
Answer her own questions. No one.

No one knows how long I waited.
There is a bench at the iglesia.* Ours.

We met there on a Misa de Gallo,*
He promised we would have Pascuas.*

As long as the pew was there. Burned.
They came, los barbaros *, burned it.

No one built the church again. No one.
I will not be buried there, hijo. Nunca.*

No lying down for me. Must be ready
to move when Jose will take me home.

She turned a hundred-three that day,
but reminded me to bury her sitting.

Lest I forget. If I kept my word, would
grandfather really have taken her home?

Would the bus have stopped for her,
terno, panuelo,* and all, quietly sitting?

On a stone grave among the limestones?
She would insist: It is my nest, Don Jose.

--- Albert B. Casuga

*Abuela – grandmother; conquistador – the Spanish colonizer; iglesia – church; Misa de Gallo – midnight mass; Pascuas – Christmases; los barbaros – the Japanese and American colonizers; Nunca – never. terna -- ball dress; panuelo -- mating scarf.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


(Poro Point, a painting by Perla Generosa-Patricio, amiga duradera.)


The person you must speak to,/ but cannot call, you dread it so much.---From “Let Me Do This Thing for You” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 02-22-11

Has it all been fifty years? Same voice, same lilt
across the seas, and all we could talk about is hurt,
kneecaps, and their replacement. Hiked a hundred
highways. Always, always, this is home. Who else
would laugh raucously about a painful, painful cut
across a decrepit bone? Who would imagine pails
of tears, as you cracked the newly-installed joint,
crawling on all fours like the prouder forebears,
just so you could find refuge among soft pillows?
Retreat to your darkened bedroom. Curse the cut. 

Except that today, when you called, you were your
three-hundred-sixty-five-day guffawing patient;
and all this is for your new-found-patient friend,
my fearful wife, whose kneecaps need never be
used again, wherever rendezvous around the bend
brings us. You were kind enough to tell her: Go for it.
Have them alter what you got from both fathers
in heaven and on earth. It will only add more to our
fancy-free roving, the highways still untravelled. 

Oh, you gleefully chattered: we recalled birthdates,
and found you older; but I had always wanted to be
your big brother to shelter you from a joie de vivre
that would throw all cautions to the wanton wind.
While we waited for your return call, (we missed you
last night), I guessed you were the shadow on a pane
looming into a scarcely-heated study, but I knew
the past would no longer be dreaded; they have come
to regale us with hope, no, not fear and trembling.  

She was silently impressed: Both of you have never
grown old, one can pick that up from your laughter.
Touching her knees, she stood up quickly. Pain. Pain.
But cheers to old friends. Love to them. Salamat, Perla.*

--- Albert B. Casuga

(Perla and her husband Franco at New Jersey, USA.)

*Salamat, Perla. ---Thank you, Perla.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012



 (For Koharu Hiratsuka, Decapitated by Tsunami, March 28, 2011) 

Querulous cries of a raccoon, like lost notes from a soprano clarinet. Two pileateds hammer for their breakfast—an arrhythmic percussion.---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 02-20-12 

It sounded querulous then before it was angry.
Even as she digs with bobcats now, her hands
tremble at the touch of every flotsam, debris
from the mud that still buries Ishinomaki.


Koharu! Koharu! Koharuuuuuuuuuu…
she calls out even before she mounts
the oriole-like excavator she traded
for the books and pencils at Okawa
Primary School. A sensei first, she
has blended rather oddly into a daily scene of diggers, trundling trucks
carting out anything and everything that can be scraped from a landscape
rended by the temblor’s uglier sister:                                    Tsunami. Tsunami.
Koharuuuuuu….Koharu. Koharu…                                              peters out into sobs
now, and it’s been almost                                                                     a year of sunrise to
           @@@@@@@@                                                                               sundown digging.
Koharu. Koharu. Koharuuuuuuuu…I must
Make her whole again.  I must find her hair,
her eyes, her mouth. Oh, Great Otosan out
there, I will be here until the end of tomorrows
and more, and I will rouse you from your sleep,
and cry for my daughter. Will you give her back?
     Brackish tides roar in and out of the sea
          dumping black Sargasso pickled
            in oil not her girl. Not Koharu.


“Koharu, are you there in your broken schoolhouse?
Look, from this distance, it looks like your toothless
father’s indelible grimace, he has stopped talking,
except to the tatami walls when he drowns in sake
so he would not feel the twist of this god-given
Sepuku, this knife in his gut, this loss, this loneliness. 

He is not here digging for you, Koharu, but do not
be sad, come home soon. Touch his face. Tell him
it is not a shame not to be able to cry anymore.
The onions he cuts for our sashimi at noontime
will not make him weep, he says. He has just given up
on all of Miyagi Prefecture’s ancestors and shin tao.*
Where were they when the monster wave cut my
daughter’s head and cut our lives,  he growls daily.

There is not a day he does not look at your picture,
Koharu. On the hill beside Okawa, he has built
a stone stairway where, he says, you will run toward
when the wave comes again. Not the bridge, he yells.
All our tomadachi* whose children perished then
think he has lost his mind. No, darling, his heart. 

Not I, not I, Koharu. If you don’t come today, I will
be here again tomorrow, and tomorrow, and…
I will not even give our Shinto ancestors a chance
to rest. No, not I, my love, until I see your face
once more, one so much like your grandmother’s,
your hair as dark and silky as your grandfather’s,
your lips as red as red can be, your birdlike mouth
I delighted in feeding the rice I first masticated
in my own so you would not choke on your meal
of seaweed and kane and ika, oh, and octopus!” 

Sounds at sundown not unlike lost notes from
a soprano clarinet, are blended for some time now
with the doleful call: Koharu. Koharuuuuuuuuuu…
Until Hiratsuka climbs into the cab of her digger,
and starts searching for her daughter’s severed
head amidst the urgent percussion of excavators.

---Albert B. Casuga

This poem was based on Toronto Star reporter Raveena  Aulakh’s 02-18-12 story of Naomi Hiratsuka who has left her teaching job to become an excavator operator so she could recover the head of her daughter, Koharu, who got decapitated in the Tsunami disaster that hit Fukushima, Japan (Miyagi Prefecture) on March 28, 2011. She has been at her quest for almost a year now, when her search of mucking in the mud was replaced by her taking on the challenge of operating a mechanized excavator. (See story. Click on image to zoomed on the text.

*Akiramena – the one who never gives up; Otosan -- father, mother; sensei –- teacher;  shin tao – way of the gods;  tomadachi – friends; kane – crab; ika – shrimps; sashimi – raw fish cutlets;  Shinto – ancestor worship
 (Click on Image to zoom in on Text)

Saturday, February 18, 2012




This is my daily trial, grave/ failure through omission: how do I sip water //or coffee or broth, pass fruit or bread sweetened/ with butter through my mouth, without tasting/ the salt of her hunger’s quiet reprimand? ---from “Provision” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 02-17-12

How often does she get up nights
looking for the leftover dried fish?
She wakes up hungry these days,
roused by carousing cats, mating
with puling sounds she snickers
about when her knees do not hurt. 

Dawn cracks by the time she rests
her face on the laced tabled cloth
her ilustrado* family had given
her as a wedding gift, embroidered
by her abuela: the way to a man’s
heart is through his stomach. 

Or some such bromide she must
have lived by, however often she
promised to leave the philanderer
on her now cold bed till he freezes
over, but he went on to die ahead
in a seedy motel locked ardently
in the armpit of a snoring querida. 

With grand aplomb, she buried him
decently, and her neighbours said:
Like a lady, she stood by her man. 

She wakes up nights now looking
for a misplaced cellphone, its use
scarcely learned, no, not mastered,
but handy anyway when she calls
her next-of-kin across-god-knows
what-oceans asking for his where
abouts, he is not home yet, and she
feels like eating some hot dimsum
from that dark Ka-Yang panciteria
where families gather on Sundays.

---Albert B. Casuga

 *ilustrado -- well-educated

Thursday, February 16, 2012



When the face looks back at itself/ from the mirror, what does it see? ---From “First One, Then the Other” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 02-15-12 

Was it Fabianne Geismar’s* fantasy, lifting that mirror?
Mirror as loot in temblor-stricken Haiti is fantasy 

enough for that crumpled lass on the rubble of Haiti.
Haiti made sure the lass absconded too with enough 

bullets in her brain, rending a dream of seeing her face
face itself in a purloined vanity piece pocked with bullets 

when retrieved for Wal-Mart from her tight embrace. 

Embrace your mirror, girl, a trophy of blooming. When?
When stirrings in your haunches told you what to steal? 

Steal the heart of that lad staring at you with shy lust:
lust for love, for all that wreckage allows you to steal 

so you can see your mouth that will kiss him, your eyes,
eyes that will shape him in your breasts, your so… 

So supple body ripened quickly to life’s urgent quiver. 

---Albert B. Casuga

* SHOT DEAD FOR STEALING MIRRORS. Fabianne Geismar, 15, was shot by police pursuing looters.---Headline and Caption, The Toronto Star, Catastrophe in Haiti, Jan 20, 2009, Pg. 19


(Click on Image to Zoom in on Text and Pictures)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


A Lourdes Cadiz-Aguda Painting


(For Veronica on Valentine’s Day, 2012) 

"Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere."---Isabelle Eberhardt 

1. A Sundrenched Elsewhere

Sometime soon, I must swing down
from my sundown hammock,
get back to those unpasted pictures. 

Albums have more life here than I need.
They can be nagging, flogging,
their bursting sunshine smiles nailing 

time and love in sun-drenched elsewhere:
there, a place for lost seashells,
here, a cliff to dive into lost memories from. 

Where have they all gone?  Or faded into?
These walls are blank now,
where they hung mute on nailed frames. 

Where shall I go from here when shadows
would no longer grow tall?
Will I even be able to talk to mottled walls? 

I must go back somehow to a sun-drenched
refuge, wherever elsewhere
they have frozen into these dead pictures, 

carrion of wonder in yellowed album pages.
Where have they gone, what place
awaits to return the days I have yet to shape? 

I must find that one sun-drenched place
that haunts me now and see you
there before I abscond into those shadows. 

2.  Poro Point*

That’s where I go to when I ache
for a piece of that elusive paradise,
it is a stone’s throw from there
where languid sunsets play tricks
on squinting eyes, a will-0’-the-wisp
laved by ebbtide, a sundown bravura
of rainbows, a Wagnerian grandeur.  

Here I am, picking up abandoned
shells. Could their quondam settlers
have required more wiggle space,
find ease where there is nothing
left of free and unbridle growing?
I, too, have bartered my lost dreams
but like Orpheus I looked too closely. 

Have I turned around to size up my
trophy coming out of struggles
to recast quotidian days into happy
residues of life and love? Did I lose
what I endlessly return to, where
coming back is also coming home?
I look back for shells that I had lost.


*Revised from a post on September 22, 2011

A photo by Bobby Wong Jr., Philippines