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.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


(Please Click on Image to Zoom in on Text. Photo by Jerome Delay, The Associated Press)


1. The Surgeon

I will mend you, Gloire,
If it takes all my dark days.
Heal, little girl, heal.

2. O.R. Staff

Stay with us, wee lass,
Do not close your eyes on us,
Stay alive, Gloire.

3. Survivor in Goma

She ran all the way
To the ration store here
To get some corn. Gloire.

4. The Rescue Team

Slumped on a mound
Of brown rice, she did not cry.
She bled silently.

O, Gloire. You could not
Even whimper like a fallen
Dog, caught with a bone.

You held on to your
Bag of corn, kernels blood red
From your gushing wound.

O Gloire, you even
Smiled and laughed a little:
You got Maman corn

She could cook for you
And your now dead brothers, Gloire.
Was it your birthday?

5. The Rebel Soldier

O, little hero, live,
I swear to be brave for you.
Grow strong for Motherland!

6. The Gunman

From this tree, I must
Hang myself in shame, cut my
Throat. I shot this girl.

7. Gloire's First Words

Will mother be mad?
I did not bring home her corn.
Aieee...that hurts, Sir. Aiee...

8. Amani Zaliwa

O Gloire, my brave girl,
Live for us who deserve death,
For being afraid to die.



Tuesday, November 27, 2012



When Time equals Being,
That would be the End.

Nothing would get past
The edges of ephemera.

What would the end be,
When Being equals Time?

There will not be a bang
Anywhere, nor a whimper.

There can only be trumpets
Of the winged proclaiming

An arrival in a regained
Haven where Death is dead;

At which time, no time
Marks being on time. Ever.

All will be late for the birth
Of God on Judgment Day.

---Albert B. Casuga



Monday, November 26, 2012



He said wallpapers in his study must be plain,
no flowers, trees, birds, or senseless curlicues
can match the birth-to-baptism-to-birthday
pictures that he prays would include weddings,
births, elf-looking poses of children and theirs,
grandchildren and theirs (he’d be a hundred),
framed and frozen in time, a collection of smiles
that would bind the Earth like a ribbon of glee
when knotted from-pursed-end to-toothy-end.

He said he will be the memento-keeper of long
remembrances, a Methuselah of happy times,
and he would not exchange his role for places
in havens of peace and quiet, he’d have laughter
and surprise squeals of romping lads and lasses,
infants once, gossoons and ingénues forever.

All his waking and sleeping hours are litanies
of joie de vivre: was that Marie on the turf?
How new, yet how knowing her whole-face
smile comes through like a burst of sunshine
that promises a long-drawn spring, a summer
of running across strawberry fields, jumping
into lily-mottled rivers. Was that Matthew
sprawled on the soccer green, his megawatt
grin saying: I’m okay, gramps, okay. Okay?
Was that Chloe in a princess’ veil? Did she
do that regal pirouette, and that wild bourree?
Was that Megan with her palette and canvas,
showing off a portrait of a once chubby Mikee?
Was that him needing help blowing his cake’s
Candles, and all ten grandchildren lending it?

Abandon all dread and heartbreak you who
enter this space, this paradise
, his artlessly
scribbled sign on his door warned. This place,
this heart, this parlour of warmth and love,
this refuge.
He looked at all his frames again,
reminded the renovator: No decor. Just plain.


Sunday, November 25, 2012



(For the Children of Ishinomake)

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;/ The worlds revolve like ancient women/ Gathering fuel in vacant lots.---T. S. Eliot, “Preludes”, Collected Poems 1909-1935

Debris around the empty schoolhouse
have been cleared, gathered into motley
piles neatly lined on where the road was
before that too crumbled with village
life; only the old women stayed longer
than any of the taut-jawed rescuers now
back in cities where Ishinomaki is just a
dot in the grids pressed upon the brittle
maps. The temblor and the tsunami
are still everything to them: raw feelings,
ceaseless nightmares of weeping men
picking up limp bodies of children dug
out of the rubble, still tightly clutching
their shredded books and broken crayon.

Their gnarled fingers and weary faces
stick out like bookmarks at the last light
of sundown, clipped between pages of rags
flapping in the uncertain weather, while
they move in little circles like crayfish
clambering over what remains of the yard
that once teemed with laughing children;
they would stop to talk over the muffled
rumble of the excavators, and bend quickly
to glean more rubbish or gather briefly
to touch and bless a tear from a blouse or
a piece from a muddied shirt they would
gently put away in their bamboo baskets.

Other times, other seasons, they would
be here picking up ripped twigs dried
on the banks of the river at the foot of the
hill, fuel for the vats of the sweetened
yams they would boil to regale the boys
and girls gathered around them at school
break, laughing as raucously as the wee
urchins, while wiping their caramelled
lips with shawls they would wrap their
heads with when they walk down the hill,
to wait for another daybreak of fuel
picking, praying for a kinder season. Soon.



Saturday, November 24, 2012



Where is the other world?
Why is it the other world?
Sounds like a spare tire,
doesn’t it? Don’t worry.
Blow your chances here,
and you will get another.
It is a quick visit anyway,
you would not regret it.
It is the ration store across
the abandoned churchyard.
You will even find an extra
heart there, when yours
turns callous and blind to
all that it was made for.

Was it for love? Don’t worry,
there’s an overstock of that
in the other world. That is
what is in that other world.

Is that not what Good Friday
is all about? God took back
His son, and hoarded it there
in his unreachable warehouse,
beyond the magic of flowers
and the ardor of ardent caress,
because our vouchers would
not guarantee enough supply
just as it always ran out here,
when kindness and courage
were all we needed to protect
the world we know would take
us when no one wants to pick
us up from where we have fallen.

Where we have fallen, where
we could no longer get up from,
why not have another world
instead, then rest in peace at last?



Friday, November 23, 2012




We shall not cease from exploration/ And the end of all our exploring/ Will be to arrive where we started/ And know the place for the first time. ---T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”, Four Quartets


By the time we got back,
the river had run dry.
Did we not plant stones
here to mark how far we
could swing on the vines
before springing naked
into the murky mudpool
to swim with the carabaos? 

Look, the boulder of hearts
is still there—with names
of the little boys who died
stealing unhusked corn
from the bursting granary
of the only farmer in town. 

Before hanging himself
from the barn’s only rafter,
he singed the bales of rice
and hay covering the sacks
where they hid, giggling
as they watched maestra
wrap her clean legs around
their math teacher’s waist,
and cried endlessly for god
or gods, for she felt good. 


The fire ate them all, lads
still convulsing, teachers
still locked and quivering,
tubercular farmer dangling. 

If the river were still here,
it would roar with stories:
the boy who survived, he
became the town mayor,
and he had the river bend
away to parch that farm
and plant the rock naming
it The Hardest Monument
for lads who still guffaw
when comparing versions
of that tale about the boys
burning while their eyes
melted popping, and their
cheating mentors rolling
on the hay, while farmer
firebug swung his cuckold
heart away watching his
unhusked corn stock move
and his piles of hay tumble
pell-mell amid entreaties
to the gods to make those
burning moments last. 

Rain caught us munching
corn from the burnt cob
at the corner store ran by
the farmer’s orphaned girl
who kept laughing at our
raunchy tattle-tales of fire
and monuments to tickled
voyeurs watching lovers burn. 

Like old men in empty spaces,
we come back here to laugh
at what meaning we could
gather from our beginnings.




Wednesday, November 21, 2012



How much truth is there in wooing?
I shall but love thee after death? 

When they are earnest, are they true?
How much more hyperbole is needed  

before protested passion turns false,
as urgent only as desire must be sated?  

Quite like a mirage, what is seen now
is unseen on the other side of a wall:  

everything can become nothing here.
They were never there to start with.  

What then is reality? Why even accept
that either one is true or it is false?  

The long shadow at sundown is there
on the porch wall, but is it also dread?  

It is a magic scarcely accepted or used.
Being here assumes not being there  

but has always been a place where
things cannot be here or there without  

your insistence that these are true
or false because you are there to name  

them what they may be or why, as you
have always done since you ran away  

from home to flex newfound power
to call false true and true false, and let  

things live or die where they may,

because you assigned them that meaning. 

---Albert B. Casuga


*Even when things are true or false, they are true and false. (True or False)---Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 03-07-12

Tuesday, November 20, 2012



Look harder into the darkened corridor
after the shutters have gone down,  

ignore the clipped clatter of slats slapped
shut with peremptory indifference;  

blurred shadows should start jumping
through them as lingering sunrays  

slither like paper-thin serpents flapping
languidly with the stale air. I am there. 

How else will my lost carrion incarnate
except through the quiver of hungry loins  

trembling achingly through cold nights
when your frenzied fight with the pillows  

and caressing flannel become urgent noise
echoing unsatedly needy behind shutters. 

--- Albert B. Casuga


Monday, November 19, 2012



Dread is all that is left to fear.
How fearsome can dreadful be?
When pounding the writing pad
will not work, and periphrasis
shrouds the shape of feelings,
you are there. Have you lost it?

Have the empty spaces taken over?
Nothing devours as quickly as holes
that make up a mind’s sinkholes,
unforgiving vortices not unlike
the death of remembrances, temps
gobbling life like corn off cobs.

Where have all the pieces gone?
Even the sundown shadows dancing
on empty walls are now chimera,
spelling nothing, nor are ideographs
from crude outlines of senseless
Rorschach designs any help now.

When have they conspired to eat
language up, leaving cobbled blocks
of fancy aspire toward the nadir
of fearsome nightmares and silence,
where meaning is pure confusion,
where a heart throb is an aching itch?

Dread is all there is left and courage
is a mocking harlequin proclaiming
power to move on, go on, write on,
bleed on, live on, creating the cipher
known only to absent phrase hewers
who pretend a hoarse ahem is a song.




Love is most nearly itself/ When here and now cease to matter./ Old men ought to be explorers/ Here and there does not matter/ We must be still and still moving/ Into another intensity... T. S. Eliot, “East Coker”, Four Quartets

Too late to be afraid, I have left for places
to explore, posted my address “nowhere”
and there will be no returning. Not here. 

Not now, or anywhere. I have built me
caverns of love walled with sound, echoes
really, of cathedrals of thought and feeling 

neatly folded into my threadbare knapsack
of everything that is old and do not matter:
Only the love, barely the love, all the love. 

What is it? Where is it? How is it made?
How long will it last? Why call it a passion?
In that hill, on that rugged cross, it was. It is.

Where I shall go, I shall be asked: How long
did it take for you to know how to get home?
I always felt the tug, but never its intensity. 

---Albert B. Casuga



Sunday, November 18, 2012



(For all War Widows and Lovers)

She must go back there, one way or the other,
it is a dive into her origin. Why not a caress?
She will need one to get to the other. Knowing
them all, the smell of the brine, of pungent
sweat on the backs of the lads who carried
her into the church then floating with mud:

They held her gingerly by her thighs, ruffles
wafting in the unseasonal wind, her panuelo
lashing their faces then glistening lustfully
as they stole forbidden glances at her clean
legs dangling, kicking furtively at their sides.
Drenching her, breaking waves urge her return.

She could still taste the rice coffee on his lips
when he kissed her mouth and vowed his troth.
He left for a war, and could not come home,
cut down at some shore wading toward a hail
of sand and pebble, dying for God and country,
yet could not crawl back to live by his promise.

She must go back there, to lie on that shore
at sundown, drench herself with his tardy touch,
as waves break frenziedly on her breasts and
caress her gently with the ebbing tide, when
she goes home. Laughing, the waves said so,
as she felt them turn warm around her bare calf.

---Albert B. Casuga

Saturday, November 17, 2012



He said it first: after this death,
there is no other. It is peremptory.  

But a world without a memory,
is as final as it can get without you.  

Will it be a place where love is free?
Magical, except you can’t come back.  

The pictures will be on the walls,
as mute as the hooks they hang on.  

They will not talk to you, they can’t.
Even if they could, they would not. 

Even if you have become the cobweb
wrapped tight on the broken frames,  

you would not have been there. No.
You are not part of the furniture.  

Like dust in abandoned houses, you
will inhabit the nooks and crannies,  

and would not be disturbed until
termites take over. Too late then,  

because you are not even a remnant
of temps perdu, you are lost in time  

and in space; even among the stars
and black holes, you are not there.  

Like the sound of a single hand
clapping, you will not be heard.  

The first death is always the last.  


Friday, November 16, 2012



Endless visions and revisions
will follow every work of art,
its end is also its beginning.  

A cat straining to catch its tail
to earn its master’s delight?
But that’s not the metaphor.  

When the last image attaches
itself to a final web of moving
yet still pictures on a canvas,  

when the impasto of colours
have shaped the unuttered
angst trembling on the easel,  

when sounds have moulded
sense into a riot of language,
creation is done, work begins.  

Will the poem sing brightly?
Will the painting now speak?
When are they truly finished?  

He shaped a man out of clay
and thought him imperfect,
he needed her to be complete.  

How hard it must be for Him
to watch them destroy what
grows out of their love and loin.  

Yet he was proclaimed good
and perfect among the trees
and the mud dried out of Eden.  

How hurtful it must be for one
to start from the wreckage
of what began from ardent love. 


Thursday, November 15, 2012



Changes, as constant as they are intriguing,
slither through as coldly as serpents move
into crevices not unlike meandering fog.  

Inexorable patterns, they are the unchanging
streams running through the cherished fables
we tell and retell until they become a reality 

we cannot escape however sanguinely we try
to build walls to ward them off chambers
of fear housing our hapless lives. Hopeless. 

Every sunrise fades into a sundown, all lives
dwindle with discarded days, anguish turns
into ecstasy and loops around like a storm.

What grows in spring withers in summer,
then, like twigs blown off in autumn’s fall,
get buried in winter frost, a carrion of a year.  

Why struggle then for eternity? Nothing lasts.
That story about a lost paradise is still grit
for an unchanging story once upon a time. 

Could changes have been that fruit in Eden?
An apple stuck in his throat, it bobs forever
like an intruding promise that everything  

must perish even in paradise. The rot here
then is forever. Flotsam of ruined homes,
debris of broken lives, all tombs of betrayal. 

Would a morning ever come, as we sip tea,
when like a wave laving the shore, it ebbs
only to crawl back at all sunrises and sunsets,
never ceasing, never leaving, never changing?  

--- Albert B. Casuga


Wednesday, November 14, 2012



(For Marie)

Dark days will always be with us,
but they, too, will pass, like wind
blowing through gloomy rooms: 

look at her fleetingly smile at you
when you hold her to your chest,
the dove-like cooing telling you  

how warm it is to curl into arms
that will always be there to hold
and enfold however cruel days 

become, however bereft of grace
struggling to live becomes. Look
at her gaze at you long enough  

to manage another smile before
she looks away and closes her eyes
to sleep feeling you will be there  

when she opens them again still
singing her a lullaby, her smile
never once leaving her tender face.  

It is when you are moved to get
down on your knees and pray
that, if this were your final day,  

you would still have her cuddled
in your arms smiling at what you
have begun to doubt is still there  

holding us all in his steady palms. 

---Albert B. Casuga