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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, December 29, 2013




by Albert B. Casuga

It’s when I’m weary of considerations,/ And life is too much like a pathless wood.../ I’d like to get away from earth a while/ And then come back to it and begin over.../...Earth’s the right place for love:/ I don’t know where it’s likely to go better. --- Robert Frost, Birches


"But isn’t it our destiny to love/ the world until it falls to pieces?"---Luisa A, Igloria,  “Earth Bound Song”, Via Negativa



If you marvelled at the dance of the Northern Lights
Counterpointing the smouldering plumes of ashen smoke
Billowing out of an Eyjafjallajokull cradled by melting glacier,

Or quietly scanned the opal horizons of Banda Aceh swathed
In a glorious sunset chiaroscuro before the waves claimed
Atolls and infants back into the rip tide roar of that tsunami;

If you were ambushed by an unforgiving temblor that rocked
Haiti out of its romping in reggae regaled beaches turned
Into common graveyards of carrion crushed under rubble;

If you have walked through cherry-blossom-strewn streets
And smiled at strangers’ hallooing: How about this spring?
Before rampaging twister funnels crushed hearths and homes;

If you have strolled and danced ragtime beat on Orleans’
Roadhouses rocking rampant with rap and razzmatazz
Before Katrina’s wrath wreaked hell’s hurricane havoc;

If you still marvel at forest flowers as God’s fingers
And espy sandpipers bolt through thicket cramping marsh
Before infernal flames crackle through Santa Barbara’s hills;

If you have stolen kisses and felt purloined embraces
In the limpid ripples of Cancun’s caressingly undulant seas
Before the onset of the curdling spill on the playa negra;

If you braved the stygian stink of IlogPasig and sang songs
While harvesting floating tulips, debris, or stray crayfish
For some foregone repast before it turned into River Styx;

If you have lived through these and now blow fanfare
For Earth’s being the right place for love or maybe care,
You might yet begin to accept that Mother’s lullabies were

Also her gnashing of teeth when you wailed through nights
When slumber would have allowed her love not tantrums
Of infants grown now and “quartered in the hands of war”:


How else explain the wrath of days descending
not into quietness but pain? Has she not kept her anger
in check for all the tantrums of the Ages: Thermopylae,
Masada, Ilium, Pompeii? Hiroshima, Auschwitz, Nagasaki?
Stalin’s pogroms? The death chambers and Holocaust trains?
Polpot’s killing fields in Kampuchea? Rwanda’s genocide?

Before it lured tourist trekkers, the verboten Walls of China?
The Berlin Wall? The Gaza Wall? Fences of n.i.m.b.y.
neighbours: India and Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, splintered
Korea, the Irelands shorn of the emerald isles, the fractured
United Kingdom where the sun has finally set on its Empire,
the still haemorrhaging American southern states crippled
and still unyoked from black history but seething now
from the African-American’s irascible entitlement ---

With Zimbabwe’s apartheid, Congo’s rapes, Ethiopia’s
hunger, Sudan’s ceaseless putsch tango, Somalia’s piracy
trade, tribal wars in Uganda, Namibia, Botswana, Kenya,
will blacks overcome someday, soon? Only if they, too,
would get munitions from Venezuela’s bottomless vaults
gurgling with black gold, aceite y petroleo, and Oil of Ages.
Lubricator of the war and killing machines, In Oil we Trust.



Has it gone any better? Love on this piece of terra infirma?
That’s when Mother shushed you back to sleep,
An impatient rhythm clipping away what should have been
A gently lulling melody from the Song of Ages:


Rock-a-bye, baby on the treetop; when the wind blows,
The cradle will rock. When the bough breaks, the cradle
Will fall; and down will come baby, cradle, and all


The bough breaks, and you scream. Too late for that.
This is not a dream. The freefall is Mother’s little slip
When she could no longer hold you still, somnolence
Finally taking over, and your cri d’couer, a scream
For help, for caress, for all the love gone from an empty room.
The cradle falls, she can’t pick it up. Exhausted and utterly
Spent, she mutters in her sleep: Spare the rod, spoil the child.

Tomorrow, if it comes, Mother will prop up --- backaches
Assault her waking days now --- will step into her plimsoll
As she would her dancing pumps, oil-soaked slippers.
She will slip and fall before anyone else wakes up.
She will yell: “Damn it, who spilled oil on the floor this time?”




Saturday, December 28, 2013

HEAVEN CAN WAIT (For All the Holy Innocents)


Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. --- St. Mark ch. 10 v. 14, the Holy Bible

(For all the Holy Innocents)

Heaven can wait. Hell cannot. Cut them
like flotsam and weed-traps wrapping
bloated carrion beelining toward the sea.

What controls cannot contain, infanticide
could quickly provide: terminate them,
abort before a trimester germinates more
burden, stop the plague of life on a dying
planet. When echoes of children’s laughter
could no longer be heard in a muted valley,
elusive peace and quiet would be there,
no duties to rear, no grain shortages.

Wars will cease from an attrition of warriors,
old soldiers wither in unstocked barracks,
the draftees will stop coming. They have all,
all perished, in abortion camps, in famine
camps, in evacuation camps, in flood camps,
in garbage dumps and landfills, God’s Act
stamped across records: avoid insurance runs.

The boys have been massacred before
in the hills of Bethlehem, and the pillage
written about in Gospel language as the day
of the innocents, now los ninos inocentes.
Why can’t that be done again? No in vitros
will be possible, nor will it be allowed either.
No rhythm of swords. Just Syrian chemicals.

Do not copulate, depopulate, depopulate!
Pill boxes will bear this mandate.  Absent
the plea for missing kids, more is better.
Children soldiers? What for? Kill. Be killed.  
Hell will be heaven on earth, death is life.
Nothing will be everything. A Zero sum.
Wrath descended, Apocalypse has come.


Friday, December 27, 2013



Sit. Feast on your life. ---Derek Walcott “Love After Love

Although this invitation will prolong our wait
in the cold antechambers that we surround
ourselves with, we will cautiously accept it.

Why not? Sitting here, staring at a kaleidoscope
of the many faces we have constructed to meet
other faces, I celebrate a love affair with myself.

Who else will do that for me? There were lovers,
and there were lovers, but they held on to their
own chisels to pare and scrape their own image

of what they could have and hold not unlike
a wild-eyed Pygmalion sculpting flesh onto his one
desire, a Galatea of his rawest wants and dreams.

I will sit and wait for the feast of all feasts
to be served on my table, my head on a platter,
my heart seasoning a bowl of hope, a soupcon

of little mercies that lovers often do: a salving
of hurts, a troth of endless fealty, a promise
that the image on the mirror is finally, only mine.



Saturday, December 21, 2013


DISASTER POEMS. What is it like to pray and be unheard, benignly ignored, suffered? Defile this Earth and despoil its treasures. Its sky, on a clear day, will remain empty; blank, unflinching, taking all wounding of its loins as a rhythm of a day. The sky better not be falling. But it is. It is late.

The sky has taken its place/ leaning against the wall. / It is like a prayer to what is empty. / And what is empty turns its face to us/ and whis...
pers.../ I am not empty, I am open. ---From Vermeer, Tomas Transtromer

1. The Buried
All they could have done was to stitch slices
of their picture of the sky, its blank expanse
their thin measure of what feels free and safe.

Buried for days on end under buttresses
that could no longer hold despoiled walls
of dirt, they prayed for a glimpse of the sky.

They did not need to: even in the starkest
gloom of that dark and black tomb of gold,
they each had a share of that absent sky.

O, for a smell of that dry air in Chile’s hills!
But this black hole, now a cloying dread,
is it all that is between them and raw despair?

2. Open, Not Empty
Where is the sky when we need it? Or do we?
Even if it is there for the taking, will it answer
our prayers? It will empty itself of rain before

we can be saved. It is closed. It is empty. Pray
to the rocks, as loud as an intoning bishop,
it throws the entreaty right back. But you hear

an echo, a whisper from an unseen face: I am
the refuge of all the winged who roam spaces
for the free and unafraid. It is your little voice.

Like those darting sparrows, your unbound
soul will storm the abandoned bolted gates,
save that these doors are abundantly open,

and have always been agape; and the garden,
once lost has always remained open, the sky
its door, waiting for all who want to till it.

 --- Albert B. Casuga

Friday, December 20, 2013


After after, is there anything or anyone
left to sing the hammock songs? After after,
will you still be there waiting,  a warm blanket
in your hands, to throw the flannel on my lap,
lest I drool myself to a sundown slumber
and promptly forget it gets cold in the winter?
Aiee, amor mio, despues de nuestros amores,
when love is gone, after all the countless days,
where shall we find that place called after?
If it is lost, too, will there always be another?
Will this longing for the warmth of a gentle caress,
when nights and beds are cold, find its answer?
Will it be a knowing touch on my back after after?
Tomorrow, I will walk through an abandoned garden in the rain:
I will tilt my face to some grey sky like an agape earthen jar, catch
myself some nourishing rain. Must I, on my gnarled knees, beg
for these hurts to set me free? My hummingbirds will fly off
leaving me this mansion of joy, but oh, a finite hint of eternity.
Sometime soon, I must frolic in this uncertain weather, dash
through this shower of grace, sate my parched throat in the rain,
drink myself deliriously happy.  But after after, will you be there?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


The Manger recalling the Nativity scene in Bethelem was the true symbol of Christmas that no Christmas tree (pine or prefab faux sapling)could replace. These poems recall a time when making it for the holy day was quite an often quietly revered enterprise for the faithful. Those days are gone. Although we have the year-round "belen" in our family room to remind us of the central theme of our faith, we see less of it even in the Christian churches of our congregations. Why?


 1. Her Noche Buena

Did you wake up for Noche Buena?*
Lit the balled candle on the belen?*
Do you still put those candles away
for another Pascua de los muertos?*

I can almost see you cranking open
the heavy lid of that narra trunk
at the foot of your bed where his
picture stands sentry while you sleep.

How long did it take you this time
to rearrange the animals around
the manger? Reposition, you’d say
but they’re always in the same place.

The lamb snuggles closest to the box
you stuff with dried grass for hay,
the ass farthest, the horse between.
Why? I would always ask while I,

insolent tot, handed you the wrong
fauna at a time. You would laugh
at how San Jose landed on your palm
when you asked for the donkey, an

angel when you yelled for a shepherd,
a magus when you barked for a burro,
and on and on until you’d pitch me
the hard-packed ball of saved candle

drips from father’s grave on the one
other fiesta you’d get up from sick bed
for---but Noche Buena is a rare treat:
you’d eat pan de sal, a whole banana.

2. Her Belen de Pascua

“Para mi fuerza, para mi belen de pascua,”*
you would sheepishly explain an appetite
we plead for each day you’d remember
father building the manger with you long
after he had the last laugh when, like me,
he would give the dingiest animal figure
instead of a king, a shepherd, or an angel,
and simply did not get up from a crumple
laughing at you when you threw him
back the make-believe cow dung, manure
for the grand project of a straw stable
that father said was wrong: it was a hole
in the city of Petra in that Bethlehem hill,
and there were no inns to take Him in.

You buried him with that Belen de Pascua,*
Mother, and could not quite remake one
you would delight describing to a devil’s
detail to polite and knowing neighbours,
who would drop by to gawk at your porch
where the only clay image in its right place
was the baby in the manger whose name
you kept on muttering was father’s name.
On nights like this, I scare myself, Mother,
with the spectre of the quiet distance.

---Albert B. Casuga

*Noche Buena, Christmas Eve; belen, Christmas manger; Pascua de los muertos, Feast of the Beloved Departed; Para me fuerza, para mi belen de Pascua, for my strength, to build my Christmas manger.

Photo by Bobby Wong Jr., Philippine Photo Artist

Monday, December 16, 2013



The lass on my lap
Said: I won’t play with snow
Today, abuelo.

Even snowmen
Will freeze, will crack in two.
Can’t play tomorrow.

On the frozen pond,
Dead frogs and birds on icy
Snow are broken, too.

Use paper for fire,
Abuelo, the lass offered.
Nodding approval

I muttered wryly:
The snow is my newspaper,
Your eyes my fireplace.

---Albert B. Casuga

Thursday, December 5, 2013




 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.


I was not able to say goodbye to my Father when he passed away December 5, 1975 at the Bethany Hospital in San Fernando City, La Union Province, the Philippines. Just as well. He is still with me.


(For Francisco F. Casuga+)

Yet all the precedent is on my side:/I know that winter death has never tried/The earth but it has failed;.../It cannot check the peeper’s silver croak. --- Robert Frost, The Onset

I would run down the slope and catch myself
a rolling ball of snow before it falls into the ravine,
but walking through the silently falling snow
at the trail is a choice for these creaking knees---
no more gossoon games defying gravity for me
or flying off the hillside edge into fluff below
among the stiffened bramble and wild apple tree.

There’s warmth in the silence of falling snow:
I feel his gentle hands on my nape, I hear him,
I ask him if he would drink a pint with me
if I had reached beer-guzzling age before
he’d make his final trek, before he’d leave,
but I hear his whistling for the wind instead
and tug at his wayward kite now puncturing
some sombre summer sky in San Fernando.

O, how I’d run down the barren slopes to catch
his fallen kite among the burnt logs of the
but these are flakes I find myself catching
and whipped out twigs that break the silence
of falling snow. O my father.


*Clearings made by burning forests


In Memoriam: Francisco Flores Casuga, b. January 9, 1921-December 5, 1875