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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.

Saturday, July 13, 2013



What temples rise from the deluge of shades,/ what languages of grandeur echo in these ancient retreats?/ Or what language of absence befuddles before this death/ that crumples something to nothing?/ Why is there something rather than nothing?--- From Autumn's Question

1.  A Place to Pray: Sierras (Ca. 70s)*

Cold and rough hewn pews align the red clay floor
where rifles had lain at stock and inert most dawns
when bloodcurdling screams of combat gave way
to hard-earned slumber and crackle of campfire
in tempo with the rhythm of breath heard where life
might still have lingered among the beds carved
from crevices where crag flowers have bloomed
before nightmares came with the fall of sparrows:
this night’s sleep would be tomorrow’s horror.

But daybreak brought instead a temple’s prayer:
Upon this cave, our people will build their church.

*Somewhere in the Sierras of Cagayan Valley, Penablanca, Cagayan, Northern Philippines. A refuge for the Peoples Revolution.

2. A Place to Pray: The War Years (ca. 40s)*

(Grandmother’s Oración)

She would pull us down to our knees
on sundowns like this when dusk
was most gentle, tides ebbed quietly
like a murmured prayer: Oración!

Pray, little ones, He will keep us safe.
Pray that in the dark, we find our way.
Pray that the night will be our blanket.
Pray that the dawn brings back our sun.

Was it the distinct tremolo on her voice
that makes these echoes of an evening
orison cut through this familiar silence
that has survived brief lives and years?

Running back to evacuation shelters
in caverns carved through mountains
to hide us from the slit-eyed marauders,
we scurried with gleaned root crop dug

from scorched soil left ashen in bombed
out farms, but sunsets were her signal
moments when she would stop us dead
from our absconding: Vamos a rezar!

Let us pray! Pray that we get there,
With all our hands, fingers, and feet.
Pray that in the dark we find our way,
Pray that sunrise will be there. Pray!

Sudden rain on foggy evenings like this,
the power out, brings back the shadows
of that past world. In the dark, I pray
she blesses me with a touch on my back

and whisper that she, too, is still lifting
her voice to whom it may still concern,
we get to eat the root crop in our bags,
and children in the desert find theirs.

The war years are gone, but fearsome
havoc promises to catch up with us yet:
I pray the bright clearing in the woods
where a tree has fallen is a place to pray.


*Somewhere in villages of Baguling, a town in La Union Province, Northern Philippines. (Among the mountain tribes, while running from mop up operations of the retreating Japanese Occupation army on the ground and kamikazes in the air.)


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