Tuesday, November 29, 2011



(For Marie Clementine)

To mean anything,/ a container must store/ a visible substance./ We destroy them, melt them/ all together, make them/ into new versions/ of what they were already,/ fill them again./ Bottomless refills...From “Bottomless” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 11-21-11

Hija mia, donde esta su sonrisa bella?
Where is your lovely smile, my child? 

As if on cue, a pair of glistening eyes
brighten her quick grin flashed on a
fitsful of face now suddenly larger
than the gaping windows around her. 

Barely dry from the ripples of a womb,
how could this infant speak a world
of adoring mime, a soundlessly gentle
smile that might as well be the sunrise? 

Is this the hidden world of a refilled
vessel, a venerable ghost in a new cup
of meaning come back to remind us
whence we come, a happy other place? 

There and here are a plenitude of grace,
where nothing is destroyed, where old
is new and a tandem of the eternal,
sprung from a gyre’s ever spinning cycle. 

A lover’s smile perhaps from a past
that is always present; a stored glass
brimming with what it already held?
Is this, therefore, a bottomless refill? 

Like a roadside cafe’s vending, does this
offer our parched lips with moistened
remembrances of ever tender kisses
that we slept by, warm and gentle still? 

De donde esta su sonrisa bella, hija?
Whence come your lovely smile, my girl?

---Albert B. Casuga

Monday, November 28, 2011


Photo by Bobby Wong Jr.


This is the game/ we keep engaging in, Finding/ a Good Stopping Point by/ Seeing Clues in the Universe./ Tell me when, that’s us,/ grinding, waiting. Say when. ---Hannah Stephenson

Looking for a good time to stop,
is to stop looking like slumping
on a fallen trunk or a trail rock
jagged and jutting out of the bluff. 

Morning walks get longer along
empty spaces before familiar curbs
signal a turn to what we wait for:
the final bend. We are back home. 

Now Albert is coming back,
make yourself  a bit smart.”* Eliot,
of course, said it for me earlier. 

How long ago was that, when I
read those Wasteland lines? How
long have I waited to use them?
Is this a good time, yet? I waited. 

Because we have seen the clues,
because we have seen them all
already, I feel it is time to stop
waiting, sum up the bill, and go. 

What was I given to bear the pain
of knowing that I did not know?
Or build a home I could not live in?
What tools must I now return? 

In summing up, I will discount this,
in the game of haggling for a place
back in the Garden. Our stay here
was overpaid. We waited too long 

for that room with a better view,
that terrace with a canopy of roses,
and blue birds trilling on the sill.
O, for a touch of that distant sky! 

Next time around, if there is one,
I will be smart. I will settle only for
a room where I could see the sky
and the sea conspire to eat the sun. 

---Albert B. Casuga

*T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland, II. A Game of Chess, T.S. Eliot, the Complete Poems and Plays 1909-1950

Thursday, November 24, 2011



A pile of fresh dirt at the woods’ edge: a groundhog has dug a den under the roots of a poison ivy-throttled maple. Will he itch all winter?—Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 11-23-11 

Places shape us if we let them, like a dug den
at the woods’ edge would define the hog’s
winter under maple tree roots, poison ivy
wrapping its trunk at ground’s access points.

How much life can be eked out of this place
when boundaries throttle the explorer’s
spirit before one has started his exploration?
Not in my backyard, you don’t. Verboten.

There is poison in the air, water, dirt, or fire
from the bellies of the earth to the fusion
chambers of atomic energy plants; death
in coal-fired stations belching black smoke
to ozone distances, drought in global warming.

Seas gobble up atolls and resort isles; diseases
even sprout from infirmaries, and hospitals
become hospices for the dying and the dead.
Why must digging the dirt out of a den
start with the handicap of poison ivy?

Why plant genius and courage in a man
when his unbridled enterprise and struggle
can only lead to disasters that make burial
grounds his enduring, grandest monuments?

There is fresh dirt on the ground: An Occupier
will be buried among the tents in the park.
He could not restart his life; he took it instead.
Like that itch would do the groundhog in, I bet.

— Albert B. Casuga

Tuesday, November 22, 2011



Stay still, we ask/ our things, while we repurpose/ them. What we mean is stay, / still, we need a little longer.—From “Repurposed” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 11-22-11

Memories are needs reshaped as still points,
if they could just be pinned down to stay
whole before falling like shattered mirrors
that recompose as harlequins of fluid faces
struggling to remould beyond the shadows
and the strange masks that fears and dread
now wear as they strut about as tall desires
we pray would remain longer than a mirage
of remembrances perishing like the carrion
of dreams and endless longings to be here. 

There are no signs nor arrows on this path
that could retrace those gentle and happy
days when we owned the place where we
could not get lost even if we heroically tried.
We mean to rename these streets and mark
them indelibly so we could come home again.
But those still points are never there nor still
when we need them steadier than chameleons
that we are born with, where our zero point
is neither water, nor dirt, nor fire, nor air.

--Albert B. Casuga

Friday, November 11, 2011



Staycation doesn't seem to work with the abuela anymore, so we will take a week's break  somewhere even more quiet than the occasional rustle of newspapers and bills on the breakfast table.. We'll plan the longer one while there. Don't worry, kids, the inheritance kitty is still intact! (:--P) I think.
(Shh...More bills to pay!)

Thursday, November 10, 2011



I’ve turned the bird of my inmost longings/ loose into the ether. / I’ll keep the green branch on which it roosts, / should it return. I’ll learn to live on this door’s swinging hinge, / sustain on flimsy hope. Because I/ love it so, I’ll let it take its leave of me.--- From “Aria” by Luisa A. Igloria, Via Negativa 11-10-11 

Should it return, I will be there by the sill
peering through drawn curtains, letting
the wind play with the chimes firmly hung
on its path. I need to be warned before I
open the door on its now rusty hinges.
I must appear unexpectant, must not look
surprised nor fazed, but gently regal even
as I welcome it back: You are home, love,

and your perch is still green like you never
left it. If you must go again, pray leave
the hinges swinging, you won’t take long,
would you? I could plan on it. But, will you?

— Albert B. Casuga

Tuesday, November 8, 2011



What is the difference between/ chaos and order, anyway. / Where would we look/to measure this. The before/or after. Where do those start. --- From “Methodology” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 11-08-11


Order is articulated chaos, its desire
an old rebellion that recalls the loss
of a streamlined paradise. Nothing
is needed here. Everything is given. 

Then, why walk out of this Garden?
A provident Eden where everything
grew including his wanton dreams,
of having his way: orders be damned. 

How simple things would have been.
Each pebble on the pond had a reason
to be there, each star a constellation
of sunlight, each sun a starter of life. 

How serenely flowers would bloom
on the tip of thorns, or water flow
gently from the cracks of dry rocks,
and ripe fruit fall on open mouths. 

Everything can happen here, nothing
is everything there, a cipher is full.
How benignly would mountains rise
from the sea, and lakes from mudpools. 

Would movement have moved this
conspiracy of stillness and creation?
He could not see this, nor feel the pain
of a yanked rib to make a woman cane. 

A yearning rooted in his belly burned,
a lust for roaming the hidden valleys,
finding struggle with fish and grain
a surprising tug on his arms and loins. 

Walking out on a promise of fullness
and unbridled abundance, did he
choose somehow to stand on hindlegs
and see whence came the thunderous 

offer? You who are made in my image,
shall have dominion over all that you
see and taste, all that is still or moves,
or none but the courage to choose. 

He chose to shape his own order out
of the unseen chaos of growth he
occupied East of Eden, and decided:
We will gather ourselves some fig leaves.  

We will make ourselves our own image.

--- Albert B. Casuga

*Adam and Eve in Paradise by Jan Brueghle the Elder

Sunday, November 6, 2011



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 whispers.../ I am not empty, I am open. ---From Vermeer, Tomas Transtromer

1. For The Buried Miners

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. Not Empty, but Open

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

Saturday, November 5, 2011



While oak leaves spiral into the yard, six vultures tilt and pivot high above, searching for an updraft, then turn and drift on south. --- Dave Bonta, The Morning Porch, 10-04-11 

A mantle of oak leaves lifts with the updraft
like an unguarded skirt billowing to reveal
gnarled and spindly trunks, brittle leftovers
of the season’s turn, not yet rid of frost marks.

Nothing to look at from where I sip my tea.
Flapping vulture wings lend the fall wheeze
a healthier sound, their cackling a strangely
dismissive sneer as they fly towards tundra

where they might yet find carrion of seals left
after the hunt. Done with the hoarfrost, done
with the hollow whistle of the woods, done
with the walling-in poplar trees. Like nomads,

they fly south now to store meals heftier than
rodents and sparrows. Will they Occupy winter?

— Albert B. Casuga

Friday, November 4, 2011



(For my dear Sister, Brenda Teodora Casuga-Maglaya+)

How do I best remember you, hermanita?
That father would call you princesita mia
after a swig of Domecq and sarsaparilla? 

You were not one to get excited by these,
nor would you bat an eyelash; you’d jump
off his lap and call out to me: “ ‘manong! 

                   That was always my cue for another game
                   of patintero under the lone lamp on our
                   camino; your sad eyes lit up, you’d smile. 

                   The smile you bravely left me when you
                   hugged me from your sick bed, was your
                   own smile, nobody else’s. I will not forget. 

--- Albert B. Casuga



Every room is full, / even the empty ones. --- Hannah Stephenson, “Untitled”, 11-02-11

It is the room we dread to open
when we go back home because
we have to. You can bunk in here,
nothing has changed, you sleep
well in familiar places, don’t you? 

Except that this room is too full
of everything I might have been
running away from: you will be
back for the summer holidays,
won’t you? Mom would like that. 

I did not catch the train back,
nor did I try that summer when
father said he was ill: come home
as quickly as classes end, your
father would like that. Come home. 

It has been some time since I last
dusted off the cobwebs and dirt
from the sill and the pictures
in this room. I stare at them longer
now praying they would talk back: 

You’ve come home at last. Stay,
stay longer, we would like that.
There’s catfish to hook at the river
a stone’s throw from home. There’s
black berries to gather for wine. 

They stare back at my wan face
from the confines of the ornate frame
and the bursting memories in sepia:
Father in white gabardine suit,
Mother in her white terna de boda. 

I have come home, but I cannot stay.
This room is now full.  And empty. 

--- Albert B. Casuga
Click to zoom in on text.

Thursday, November 3, 2011



For Lola Dora  (Dona Teodora Flores Casuga+)

All, all of those shadows that people
my stories, abuela, have their home
in your sundown tales. My poetry sings 

still with the rhythm of your voice, images
have been shaped before in the pictures
you etched with your face and fingers. 

They will not be blurred by old minds
fumbling with remembrances, recuerdos,
abuela, of all that you left to sprout 

in the moist and porous soil of our hearts
and the wild moss peats of our minds,
and every word from my pen is your word. 


For Grandmother (Dona Sotera Martinez-Buenaventura+)

If you were here, I would know where you
are: you would be by the gaping window
where the statue of the Sagrada Familia 

would be, lighting candle stubs, striking
matchsticks endlessly until all are lit,
and only the sound of struck flint remained. 

Soon, you would be wandering among empty
rooms, calling out for me to put on my church
clothes for a walk to the Iglesia and pray. 

However hollow those vaults were, or inert
those icons looked, the walls would vibrate
with your intoned oracion, and I’d feel safe. 

---Albert B. Casuga



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.

--- Albert B. Casuga

*Culled from "Poesias Para Los Muertos" (11-01-11). I was not able to say goodbye when he died at the Bethany Hospital in San Fernando, La Union.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011



For Lolo Jose  (Don Jose Buenaventura+)

I would look at your fingers, abuelo, if you
were here crouched by my easel, my paint,
my oil, my bastidores. They are my fingers. 

We hardly knew you, save that illustrados
from the city would look for you if they
needed the latest design in haberdashery. 

Don Jose, make my shoulders look broad,
Don Jose, I need to appear commanding;
Don Jose, please look away from my wife. 

Swarthy as your Basque roots, your eyes
blaze beyond your gaze; an artisan by day,
an artist and lover, abuelo de mis sueƱos.


For Lolo Candro (Don Alejandro F. Casuga+)

Calling it a day at the old Mercado,
do you remember me running to you
snivelling at the tail end of every race? 

Kin of all sizes and wile would beat me
to all the coins in your trouser pockets
where you kept them as gold for the best, 

really, the most agile and the fastest
hands, the greedy and the needy, but you
said you knew I was simply the slowest. 

So you had the small pesetas for them,
but you always saved the peso de plata
for me near your heart: your chestpockets. 


*Culled from "Poesias Para Los Muertos" posted 11-01-11 to higlight two great influences on my art and my other life as a politician and academic: my maternal grandfather, Jose Buenaventura, and paternal grandfather, Alejandro F. Casuga. The etches are how I remember them in my mind's eye.