Saturday, January 21, 2012



Ambit's Gambit (A. B. Casuga Litblog): CRUISE FARE 3: BRAZILIAN LOVERS

Ambit's Gambit (A. B. Casuga Litblog): CRUISE FARE 3: BRAZILIAN LOVERS



“In ascending steep climbs, the Himalayan Sherpas hold each other on the shoulder in a single file; you know, it somehow energizes them.” – Yobo, while climbing the Georgetown Fort in Grenada

“Sich falsche Hoffnungen machen,”
he muttered absently,
looking for an excuse to be on top
of a hill housing a dungeon.

Remnants of a lookout point,
the Fort stands now for an illusion:
safe from the marauders,
safe from the ogres of conquest,
here remains a craven rock
of futile defence from the claws
of Empires that came to save settlers
from voodoo and disease
in the name of God and country,
hope for the hoffnungsvoll,
a new world where the old
is a detritus of violence and greed.

“I am a castaway child
of the Holocaust, and I remember:
no dungeons or chambers
shall cut us down wherever we go;
our best revenge is to thrive
at any time in any clime in any place
where we find ourselves
derided, denied, and defeated;
it is only the hoffnunglos
who must inherit the wind;
my people will always build
the lighthouse on the knoll;
like the Sherpas on the Everest,
we hold each other‘s back
ascending, we lend each other
strength until the very end.”

Muttering, Yobo of Sarnia, man of means,
absently looked down the cliff and claimed:
“Ich auch eigen der Welt unter.
No one will take it away from me. Ever.
Pardon my Deutsch, Monsieur,
but habits die hard and tongues get twisted."


Photo by Bobby Wong Jr.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ambit's Gambit (A. B. Casuga Litblog): A CRUISE FARE: THE VIEUX MADAME, 84

Ambit's Gambit (A. B. Casuga Litblog): A CRUISE FARE: THE VIEUX MADAME, 84



Last June, Coastal Poems and Asia Writes published my Earth Poems, an unlikely Cassandra of disasters plaguing the planet. In this week's dailies, news about subsequent disasters all over the globe seemed to have validated fears of the true wrath of days descending on man. 

The floods in Pakistan, the infernal temperature rise and resultant forest fires in Russia, the floods, fires, and mud slides in China, the temblors in unpredicted points, the outcrop of drug-resistant viruses, microbes, and diseases compounding these disasters were capped by news that the glaciers on Earth's poles are melting and ocean waters are threatening to reclaim terra firma.

I rewrote the Earth Poems to update on these calamities, but I am not laying claim on prophetic powers nor putting one over Nostradamus. I almost want to derive so much wicked delight over the realisation that I could say at this point, "I told you so," but I would rather not. It is not funny, you know.
I clip with this revision the week's disaster news. 

(Click on Image to zoom in on text)


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


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 Ilog Pasig 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”:


(Click on Image to zoom on Text)

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.



(Click on Image to zoom in on Text)

Has it gone any better? Love on this piece of terra infirma?
The man crucified on Golgotha preached love,
And he got killed.
Free the enslaved black man, he cried in Gettysburg,
And he got killed.
The loincloth-clad man asked for non-violent resistance,
And he got killed.
Another Gandhi later, the distaff side, asked for peace,
And she got killed.
The man got his people to the moon, and said:
Ask not what your country can do for you;
Ask what you can do for your country.
And he got killed.
I have a dream. He said that equality of races will ring true,
And he got killed.
Exiled and returning to forge a conscience for his people,
He said the “Filipino is worth dying for”.
And he got killed.


Guam gets rattled with its strongest quake yet, sunken atolls
In the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand become sea again.
Landslide carnavals in Brazil? Uganda, too? Chile quakes 8.2.
Russia’s galloping inferno will reach Chernobyl in no time.
Radioactive fallouts imminent; its reach unimaginable.
What’s 14 million homeless like in Pakistan’s deluge?
Wait till China registers its numbers after floods, forest fires,
Mud and muck will roll out its carrion in denuded hills
Like stuck-up slaloms sloshing down where snow will soon
Cover all – not grass on knolls – just searing deserts. Gobi.

“An earthquake is expected on the fault lines between Israel
And Palestine”, the breaking news announces another temblor.
Nazareth shrines will be closed to pilgrims. And Jerusalem?
Closed. Gaza? Construction abandoned. Problems solved.
Like the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo drove the Ugly American
From the Philippine’s Clark Base where the legions
Of armed rebels, limp politicos, and clap-infected whores
Could not. Tomorrow, then, the Ring of Fire.


Has it gone any better? Love on this piece of terra incognita?
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?”

(Click the image to zoom in on Text)

Earth Poems, Revised from Asia Writes release, August 14, 2010


Wednesday, January 18, 2012



There will be a world with no you in it, / and it won’t be lopsided here without you.... Forever, you will never come back. ---Hannah Stephenson, “Fraction”, The Storialist, 01-17-12 

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. 

---Albert B. Casuga

Sunday, January 15, 2012



The clock’s hands never run the other way.---Luisa A. Igloria, “Oracle”, Via Negativa, 01-13-12 and To the unrepeatable life, the poet writes—/ a hymn of gratefulness…---by Luisa A. Igloria, ViaNegativa, 01-12-12

Because what we now have is a life
we will never have again, something
as unrepeatable as living or dying,
we drink to it as often as we turn down
an empty cup, and learn to forgive
what was given or not noblese oblige,
coming as we do to this strange place
without as much as a warning or even
our consent. Because we did not plan
to be born, is it too vexing to learn,
perhaps to revel in the myriad acts
of loving, and in return be grateful
to perform the surprising magical art
of shaping life, nurturing it, finding it
where no one would lead us, blind
as we are to this fire in our weak loins
that was left behind by a rushed maker
like a spare screw, and we had to find
where it would fit snugly, divinely apt
and delicately, deliciously, our manner
of staying alive when dying is better?

--- Albert B. Casuga

Saturday, January 14, 2012



Four decades and nine years ago, Veronica and I embarked on a journey that we are happy to look back at. The journey goes on. In these poems, milestones mark our way. We will remember.

1. Growing Old Together


--- The female carries the male butterfly on her back while they reproduce, and then the female eats the male while waiting for the pupa to become another butterfly, and then she dies shortly after. --- Bohol Butterfly Farm Guide Felix.


How a butterfly farm can turn
an upside down imitation of life,
haunts me still this side of art as life
or life as art as transfixed visions
of what we must be now:
like the gravid mariposa luring its mate
in a flight of duty -– she must bear
the male of her specie on her back
while they consummate a dance on air
not unlike our act of mating ---
she enamouring her mate
with scents purloined from blossoms
as, conjoined, they flit from flower to leaf
tumbling on air in ecstasy
not unknown to us when wild and young
and brave with joie de vivre,
for they must breed their kind
in a chrysalis of quiescence hurriedly,
urgently, before an inexorable end
where the male must be consumed
as her victual while clinging
to bramble branches bearing her pupa
seen to us now, voyeurs of unfolding
beauty and arresting splendour,
as the preening papillon bestirring
the dry air into a flutter of magic
sprung from throes of death and dying,
for she, too, must soon perish
after this function of issuing
a magnificence that for us can only be
borne of love and loving, yes,
perhaps also onto death and dying.


The poet’s refrain, “how do I love thee”,
is supercilious here, cher ami,
it cannot match the male butterfly’s sacrifice,
nor this mariposa’s dying
to bear life, beauty, and splendour.
Alas, beauty is an omen here.

2. Coming Full Circle


--On a cruise along Lachine, Quebec

It is the river as mother to the sea
Entraps us into this womblike feeling of ease;
It is the river draws us to this discovery
Of need, our quiet helplessness.
We are the river ran its course
Into an engulfment of restless sea.
How far have we gone from our rivered Nara?
Or how long have we gone astray?
Does the river current come full circle
From the breaking waves of sea?
Do we meet each other, dreamlike,
In the endless stream of the world’s Lachines?
When do we come back as rivulets
In some hidden rock spring?
The river runs full circle, and we discover
We have not even halfway met.
When will my currents break into your rocks,
You distant sea, you entrapment of need
And engulfment of ease?
When will the sea create the river?
When will the river create the sea?
Where they meet in the trickle of a little garden,
Who laves the riverstones?
Who laps the greening shores?
The river’s rush is also our question.

3. The Dreaded Maelstrom

DIES IRAE (1970)


Halfway, between this river stone and many rocks after,
Nara shall have gone from our echoes-call.
We have wandered into a sunken mangrove and wonder:
Is it as silent there? Are there crabs there?
What quiet mood is pinching bloodless our spleens?
This is another pool –-- navel upon the earth.
Always, always, we cannot be grown men here.

After the white rocks, after the riverbend,
Nara becomes the dreaded dream.
We have put off many plans of soulful revisiting ---
We will go on re-stepping beyond the white stones,
Each step becoming the startled rising
Into a darkened city farther downstream
Where we once resolved never to die in.


Do we wake up then afraid of Nara?
But rising here is the nightmare come so soon,
Treason in the daytime, maelstrom at night:

The nightmare was of cackling frogs
And serpents rending skulls and cerebrae
Of kitemakers who sing while termite logs
Burn and children, chanting the Dies Irae,
Mush brainmatter, pulling out allegory
Like unwanted white hair, stuffing black grass
Where brain was, casting tired similes
Into dirty tin cans where earthworm wastage was:

River swells drown us where, surfacing,
We wake up knowing our days have become
Termite nights and decaying metaphors.

4. Kite Seasons We Remember


(For Lourdes Veronica Lim, University of Santo Tomas, Manila, 1962)


There is an old haunt, Im-nas,
Where I am singer and kite-maker emeritus
Trumpeting reed laughter after the wind
On the rib of delivered rice:

It is the kite season in Nara, remember?
Time for the kite-song, remember?
Blow, Apo Angin, blow,
We whistle for the wind.

For us, sky-struck or one with this bird
Loving mate and leaving earth on the wind,
Winged: ravishing the sun, unblinded,
We wingless and simple wait for the wind.

We while kiting comatose away lifting crags
That room the secrecies of mating frogs.
They hop with surprised grace angered by
Blushing by


Veronica, you and I, child and kite,
We shall wait for the wind:
If I were the kite, fly me to the sky,
To the bird on wing.

Should I, descending, rip my fibre
On the thorns of a fig tree
Or the curse of its flower,
Do not abduct me: I perish there.

Thinking of you: Veronica-Im-nas,
And I am kite now, inured and waiting
For the wind to ravish me free.
It is the kite season in Nara. Remember?


*(From "Narra Quartet", Narra Poems and Others, 1968)
Im-nas is Ilocano for Beloved
Apo Angin is Ilocano for O Wind

Wednesday, January 11, 2012



(For Marie)

I’m moved to get down on my knees./ I’m not even sure what is there.---Luisa Igloria, “Rezar”, Via Negativa, 01-08-12

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

look at her smile fleetingly 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

Thursday, January 5, 2012



Homesickness hurts/ because it will always be unrequited. ---From “Heartland” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 01-04-12

Mudfish between fingers, rice stalks
whipped by whistling monsoon wind
on our thin backs, rain-pelted faces:
you cannot look back at them in anger. 

But you do. You have lost them forever.
You can never be there again. Forever.
You will go back to the old schoolyard,
but you will not find the desk you carved 

her name on, hearts, initials, arrows,
all gone from sandpapered desk tops,
dark paint covering the deepest cuts
like healed cankers, mended wounds, 

scars of the rawest longing for the girl
who had the longest hair, wiliest smile,
cleverest excuses for going home late,
“O, we cleaned the blackboards and all.” 

Are the moss-gowned shore boulders
still there? The rocks in whose crevices
you buried secret vows to always be there
for each other in this place, this town? 

That tamarind tree in whose branches
your kite got caught, rended bamboo
ribs cracked you wept over until she
stilled your quivering shoulders in her 

arms, is it still there between the hills
you named after her, body parts you
were too scared to call were like hers?
Does the tree still bear its tangy fruit? 

There will be more questions. Will you
find the answers you need to go home?
You will even ask the trees, if you must,
but even they will no longer talk to you. 

---Albert B. Casuga

Wednesday, January 4, 2012



You are noisy/ even when you are silent, / the world is dripping with/ Do Not Disturb signs in/ languages we don’t even/ recognize as languages. --- From “On Eggshells” by Hannah Stephenson, The Storialist, 01-03-12

It is easy enough to hear silence
at the edge of the woods. It is loud. 

Your pounding heart is not there
beating sense into your dulled mind. 

They just jump out like shadows
on walls, turn their backs, ignore us. 

On its own, one whines with longings
struggling to spill out, uncorked, 

from unguarded gaols of feelings
that have lain fallow, rotten carrion 

of desire tardily unbound, love gone
still, a truant finally nailed dead 

on broken beds creaking under cold
sheets that will never find heat again. 

The other, a slug of a mind, stays mute,
until it is egged on to scream out a pain 

in its pure form: a memory of loss,
a raw betrayal of troth. Cut, cut clean. 

Out of the woods, on his way home,
it was easy to read on the locked cottage 

door an absent sign: Do not disturb.
Silence has its sharp language. It is clear.

--- Albert B. Casuga

Monday, January 2, 2012



We point our dishes at the farthest stars, / searching for any crumb of meaning. / Who but the most downwardly mobile, / undocumented aliens/ would turn unjaded ears toward the earth? ---Dave Bonta, “After Rilke”, Via Negativa 

Missing the many splendored thing
is one way of looking at this search.
How really far out there do we need
to fly, or espy for the god particle we
seemed to have lost in the process? 

Why look behind the stars or in them?
Did we not lose our angels coming off
the crib or the direst cranny for shelter?
They do not grow with us, nor guide us.
Absconding, they quietly creep away. 

Courage and devilment open our eyes
to what stories we could live with or by,
or what places to board up or occupy.
Orphans at birth, we are alone at death.
What we mean here is what we make. 

The womb is a meaning we cannot do
without: our final breath is a call:
Mother, hold me. Our first cry is a call:
Mother, love me. And then we grow old
shaping up all excess purposes and ends. 

The tomb is yet another meaning we
scarcely begin to understand before it
pulls us to its urgent demand: living
to die trying to live while dying is easy
may yet be the meaning we struggle for.

---Albert B. Casuga

Sunday, January 1, 2012



That night will come, fully felt, indelible,
there will be no key to turn on the door:
it was always with me in my breastpocket
where it is easy enough to feel, the throbs
underneath it urging me to take the path
home where you said my stenciled footsteps
can still be traced even with the early snow
on the cobble stones. I shall retrace them.

—Albert B. Casuga


If leaving were easy and found myself
in a hereafter, I might find these words
for you (if thoughts and our pillow-talk
could still cut through the walls-on-walls
of dark nights and blank sheets stiffened
into cold knife-edged shields guarding
against our talking to each other again):

“Leave the window open, let the branch
grow close to it, you will find me there
scrambling among bridges of moonlight,
starlight, sunlight, even flickers from your
turned-down lamps, singing those little
songs I always sang to keep the fine rhythm
of my pats on your thighs, caresses to put
you to sleep on warm nights you thought
were not made for slumber or some such.”

Albert B. Casuga


* 2012 (B.M.A). Before the Mayan Apocalypse

These poems are responses to Luisa A. Aguilar poems, ``Animus`` and ``Postscript`` published in Dave Bonta`s Via Negativa. 12-30-11, 12-31-11