Sunday, July 31, 2011



This cool stillness on a bare porch jolts me
from a somber thought: hanging by a thread,
this fluffy piece of thistledown tells us all
about how tenuously we cling to a place we
never really owned. Like that wind tossed
seed-carrier, when we dance our final twirl
and all the dancers off the floor, we hold on
to a lingering melody that keeps us swaying,
alas, to an absent band---an invisible yarn
binding us to a story's end. We barely tremble. 

---Albert B. Casuga

Prompt: Cool and still. The piece of thistledown stuck to a porch post by an invisible thread—small flag of an ephemeral country—barely trembles.---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 07-31-11

Saturday, July 30, 2011



This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper. ---From “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot 

By sundown, they will be gone, like long shadows
on my porch walls. All the fierce singing done,
what remains is the quiet murmur of the bourn.
Its stream will not return, nor will the swallows. 

But while they flitted from tree tops to broken
perches, did they not cry out their bravest songs?
These are our elm trees, these are our willows,
we pieced our homes here together, we roosted. 

At the bluffs, we find the edge of the woods muted
now. Soon, even the cackling gulls will dive a final
swoon, catch the last crayfish lost on boulders left
bare by ebbing tide that must also leave its shore. 

It is troths like these that will not last, nothing
endures. The silence can only become a whimper.

---Albert B. Casuga

Prompt: This morning it hits me: how silent the woods have become now with most of the migrants done singing their fierce but temporary attachments.---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 07-29-11

Friday, July 29, 2011


I am the dream that flickers beneath the eyelids/of the child who wakes then names the events/that unfold. ---From “What You Don’t Always See” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 07-27-11 


We were running through rice fields, abuelo,
some of us flying our bamboo-ribbed kites: 

then a billowing red cloud burned my serpent
kite, its long tail falling by the river bank. Aiee! 

What wild wind would wander this way? Why?
It was like a huge face, a very angry face? Why? 

Its scowl and its roaring laughter made us all
scamper, hid under mango trees laden with fruit. 

They kept on hitting us, the falling fruit bombs,
and then there was this big blue bird cackling, 

its quivering beak raised to the darkened sky,
sounding like grandmother  yelling: Callate! 

We would pipe down and hear her protest:
Quiet, quiet! Your grandfather must sleep. 

Would I get my kite back again? I am afraid,
abuelo, but I want to go back to that dream, 

rebuild my broken kite, bathe in that river,
look for the blue bird that scolded the sky.

---Albert B. Casuga

Abuelo – grandfather; Callate!—Keep quiet!

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Photo by Bobby Wong Jr.

Shrugging off this cool morning’s dread
is as good as some calming camomile tea:
must be some fall breeze breaking through
the corridor of elms fencing the woods in.

Will autumn repaint all this raw sienna
visited upon this valley by fierce sunshine?
How quickly will all this verdance go?
A tardy spring rushed a stampede of green.

Quite like the unbridled sprint of a boy
whistling for wind to buoy his kite beyond
the bourn, this gallop toward dreaded days
of dying and death is a grown man’s dash

through bivouacs of war. Nothing will last:
rainbow palettes on treetops turn grey
before the pall of winter inters carrion
of happy seasons. Or is it just crickets chirping?
—Albert B. Casuga

Prompt: Another cool morning. Autumn’s in the air, I say to myself, but it’s really just a cricket chirping in the corner of the garden.---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 07-27-11

Wednesday, July 27, 2011



Why do we return to/what we know? Do we uncover any anchors/or nets. Homeward bound, /the song goes, which means heading for home/or tied up in looking. ---From “Homeward Bound” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 07-27-11

Cups, bric-a-brac, milestone pictures, pillows,
even rarely-washed security blankets spell it:
it is the smell of knowing that makes us run
to her stove  as soon as we drop our wee world
of toy trains, biscuit cans, disrobed barbies,
and ask if favourite cakes are cooking in the oven. 

It stays with us, this habit of pinning the tail
on memorial behinds. We know them well.
On the darkest nights, on most tempestuous times,
haven’t we gone back home quiet and blindfolded?
They know we would grow up and go away.
Folks enter into one-way contracts like these. 

Then home becomes hazy in uncharted distances.
Looking ties us down, we follow familiar scents
only to lose them along the way. Pavement arrows
do not point to where the heart lingers and stays.
Is there no clear map to this refuge? In the fog,
how can the faithless promise he is home at last? 

An undiscovered country before long, home
turns up around the bend, but we also find out
that it is the nook from which we cannot return.

---Albert B. Casuga

Tuesday, July 26, 2011



I saw your image stitched and stuffed as a well-/worn pincushion  with the legend “There/is a place in my heart for you”. ---From “Milagrito: Eye of the Raven,” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 07-25-11

Was that a heart left askew at the wayside chapel
of the Albuquerque  abbey? Was it an offering
yanked out of a purloined body, a lover’s sacrifice?
Would you do that for me, amor mio, would you? 

What looked like a heart: yes, moulded in silver
melted from old pesetas and Yanqui moneda, an
unlikely blending of borders here where human
traffic routinely includes migrant decapitation. 

Mira, mira: los dedos de plata, los ojos de oro!*
But why is that other heart carved from wood?
And that shrunken head made of brittle wax?
The maze of lines on its forehead are angry cracks. 

Las hechuras de milagritos, these miracle forms,
they, too, have class distinctions: silver and gold
for the rich, wood and wax for the struggling.
Who and what would the gods hearken to? Sabes? 

Then pray, amor mio, that surprises met here
with largesse are not the same as those in heaven.                                                    

---Albert B. Casuga

Amor mio – my love; pesetas, moneda – money; Sabes? – Do you know?
*Look, look: the fingers are made of silver, the eyes of gold.

Monday, July 25, 2011



So long at work,/and teetering from one impossible/task to another. I count and recount/an abacus of spilled grain, water flowing/from a sieve: o gather me now in.---From “Orison” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 07-24-11 

Sundown was always gleeful for us growing up
around abuela.  It was always time to gather
the clucking hens into bamboo nests tied
on low manzanita* trees, low enough for us
to scoop the scrambling little birds beelined
behind squawking mothers into their perch. 

The chore done, the handsome lady lilts
our boisterous squadron into a sudden
calm: Anyone for rice cakes after prayers?
The magical word was “cake,” not murmured
promises for a reign of peace as it is in heaven. 

On my hammock hour, I replay sundown
tableaus like these radiant remembrances,
(while recollections remain tranquil and clear),
and gather my own noisy bird scoopers, all,
all of them gone now into their own little worlds. 

“Anyone for real stories on when I was young?
Some songs sung as I scooped frantic chicken?
Anyone for tea biscuits after sundown prayers?”
O, for those shadowy things to jump up alive
again from these empty walls. O, for those songs
to chime in again to lull me, and gather me in.

---Albert B. Casuga

*Bird berries that look like little red apples when they ripen.

Saturday, July 23, 2011



(For Louis)

I run my hands over the rough, dry clay,/loving best those surfaces whose cracked /veins might lead divining rods to all/the parched suburbs of the heart.---From “Dowsing”  by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 07-21-11. 

Almost like a puppy, I muttered. Something
about his rushing to be wrapped with the flannel
in my hands, his quivering wag, and what looked
like a pirouette to catch his tail, invites me to rub
his narrow back: I feel cold, abuelo, he shivers. 

Would the man in Eden have protested coyly?
From the clay he was fashioned, I imagine
he would have undergone some gentle dousing
for the moulder to have pronounced: he is good.
From the rough, dry clay, he rose in splendour. 

As did this wisp of a boy rising from the water,
hallooing: Look, abuelo, I can dive, I can swim!
He wiggled his salva vida floating to the edge,
his face toward the bright blue sky: I am good!
As all grandfathers before or after, I said: You are! 

Oh, you are, my boy. And while I wipe you dry
after this dousing frolic, I run my hands over
your body, cleaning it of any tinge of dry clay,
loathe to think that if I were shaping you
from the mud East of Eden, I’d want you pure. 

Unalloyed, a cherubic imp of a teaser, a laughter
tickled out of a dream, a pure delight,  and clean. 

---Albert B. Casuga



Overcast at sunrise, with a cool breeze. A gray catbird in the middle of the gray driveway picks pebbles for the collection in its gizzard.---Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 07-23-11

At sunrise, they rouse their children,
if they have not yet mercifully died,
to trek through desert mirage searching
for oases, cacti, lizards, iguanas, worms,
anything. It’s a landscape of clean bones,
or carrion abandoned by even the crows
that fell prey to the ghastly death march.

I take a guilty gulp at my now tepid tea
when I espy a catbird swallow pebbles
strewn on the sunbaked driveway.
I wonder: c
an a starving child’s belly
hold as many rock chips to ease pangs
of hunger?  Catbirds prefer these strewn

granules to desert sand, I reckon,
but promptly neglect a morning shrug.

—Albert B. Casuga

Friday, July 22, 2011


Meanwhile in America/the news anchors make a show/of indignation at the sun, righteous/& well-coiffed as fallen angels, &/never speculate why we might/really be so hot, never mention/ that we are blowing up mountains/& burning their black hearts to keep cool.---From “Heat Indices” by Dave Bonta, Via Negativa, 07-22-11


There’s fire in the hills that needs deep dowsing,
there’s fire in the hills that needs good licking! 

A cry for combat, if there was one:  All patriots,
stouthearted sons and lovers, all brave hearts,

from sleepy hamlets to the hungry metropolis,
rally to these stars and stripes. Let’s finish this! 

Meanwhile, in America, its heralds blame the sun
for doing its job of fiercely shining--- not to burn 

the parched villages whence come the spunky lad
now coming home from wars in Iraq or Baghdad-- 

but to nourish those amber waves of grain,
and fill the granaries from California to Maine. 

No, no one blames the blowing up of quarries
in mountains to extract fossil fuel for lorries 

that lumber through the highways of America
bringing to every hearth and home in America 

that same camouflage of a bomb strapped
to every man, woman, or child and snapped 

ready to explode as it has now detonated lives
out of their homes in Arizona, market dives 

threatening bankruptcies that would not respect
Wall Street giants, Bronx tramps, and now expect 

even what used to be the strongest, richest country
on this wobbling planet, to fold up, quit as sentry 

to the peace and quiet of a still lovely blue planet
whose very people might have forced its sun to set 

in the deserts of starving Somalia, bleeding Sudan,
butchered Afghanistan, un-safehouses in Pakistan, 

even in every child’s crying corner labeled  American.
Ah, but the weary hand in the farm is still American: 

There’s fire in the hills, but I’ll lay down my hoe,
bear a bucket, lick that fire. God. See the job through!

---Albert  B. Casuga

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Childhood trains us/to expect the great ocean/of time around us, /endless, and always more/of it rolling in and away. /... There will always be/another and a next/and an after, even if we/are unable to know about it.---From “After After” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 07-21-11


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? 

---Albert B. Casuga

*O, my beloved, after all our loves and loving,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011



Real stories tonight, she says, not/made-up. Like what I did, summers when /I was her age: ---From “Real” by Luisa A. Igloria

(For Chloe and Louis)

1. Then

Something about a canopy of stars
and the darkness among the pines
must turn them into giggling elves
traipsing among the  lantern flies.
Bugs with lit tailpipes, he calls them.
She stifles a guffaw, shushes him:
you will wake the hungry bear up.
Would you want to wake up inside
his swirling stomach? He whispers
under the tangled sheet: tell me more
stories, real ones this time. About
how you and abuela stopped a bus
while crossing the street, and she
gave the yelling driver her fat finger.

2. Now

Here we are, imp of a brother grown
beyond those yarns. Will you tell
your own boy---raucously laughing
all by himself in his dimly lit tent---
the same grandmother stories?
“Once upon a time,” will not do it,
they grow quickly beyond that.
Why not lull him instead with one
of grandfather’s  hammock songs?
“When you talk to these trees,
they will always answer you: Close
your eyes tightly, we will sing to you.”
Here we are, imp of a sister, plotting
lullabies by campfire, when sons beg: 

Will you tell us real grandma stories?

---Albert B. Casuga

Tuesday, July 19, 2011



(After Letter to Attention)

If this were a glimpse at dying and how the mind,
fragile as it is, could pull one back to life, I would
work at it, break free from cages that have held
me captive, look at the burning sun long and hard
until I am wedded to its brilliance and finally unified. 

This is the vessel that I offer you to have and to hold,
but I must fill it with the salving grace that will mold
my injured spirit back to what I carefully surrendered
for you to mend and nurture when  it had foundered,
lost at some hostile sea, a boat shorn of sail, unanchored. 

Like Pygmalion, I will chisel every jagged chip, remold
every broken edge, to remake this cup, and will unfold
before your eyes like an earthen jar spun out of my hand,
pared clean at its brim, to collect a wellspring of fluid
nectar to last us a lifetime of all that is sweet and kind.

---Albert B. Casuga

Prompt: Are you still with me?/I know you’re tired, and you want to press /your cheek on the mat or stay supine as a corpse./But the voice nudges you back to the shore, saying /Open your arms and legs like a starfish, open/the cage of your heart; look at the unblinking sun.---From “Letter to Attention” by Luisa A. Igloria posted in Via Negativa, 07-18-11



It will remain silent, an abandoned artifact,
a gravestone cross for the perching raven
that would be a swoop away from its repast
before sundown, before it croaks for more,
this yard being empty except for these stones
wrapped in tumbleweed or lost in bramble. 

It has fallen on its side at the foot of the hill
looking limp like a discarded scarecrow
that has outlived its usefulness, a totem pole
piled with the debris of unclaimed markers
bereft of its stories of happy hunting grounds:
it is a forgotten memento like that on Golgotha. 

It is a mere plus sign now as equations have it,
no added trappings, simply subtracted ones,
like a dangling crucifix on the ‘hood boy’s
neck, it is just a bling now, gold hung on gem
stones eked out from scorched quarries by yet
younger boys who would not know the difference.

---Albert B. Casuga

Prompt: When a relationship dies, what happens/to the orphaned plus sign?—From “Artifactual” by Dave Bonta, Via Negativa, 07-18-11

Monday, July 18, 2011



Has anyone come back from this defiled form
and mapped out ways to get back to that eternity
we claim as heirs to, where days are as chartless
as the river stream that must flow to an endless,
ceaseless fountainhead which has no beginning?
There is no other way back except by destruction. 

When every rampart has been carted away, we
do not pine for them like those we cannot lose
because we store them in vaults of our memory:
they are our milestones of an afterlife we choose
to build from achieved desires, fulfilled dreams--
these chambers of a heart that will not crumble.  

What, indeed, do we know of eternity? Save this:
We are never away from it. Until memory fades. 

---Albert B. Casuga

What do we know of eternity? What/could we do to stave off the hardening/froth of days?---From “Defiler” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa, 07-17-11
We never/go looking for them, as we do/those things we refuse to let/evaporate. We miss the thing,/and our clear memory of it.---From  Momentary Memory”,  by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 07-12-11