Thursday, June 19, 2014



This returning to the root is called quietness.
-- Lao Tzu

There is a manner of returning to the root
that explains the virtue of a hole,
its quietness the petering circle:
The canon of the cipher indicts us all.

And you, rocking yourself to an eddy,
drown the death wish: O that grief
on sons’ faces could tell you all.
“Will courage be visited upon my children?”

It is this cut that whittles the tree down,
not of consumption but of fright
that bereaving is one’s splintering
of children’s bones. Death is our betrayal.

They are sons gaping as grandfathers die
shapes the gloom of the breaking circle.
They who knew the frenzy of the bloodcry
must never return to find sons become spittle.




Youth Sprouts from Sudden Fear in the Bright Grip of the City

All the piper has is a bag of music and a pack of metaphors. -- In a Sparrow’s Time, 1990

1. The Firstborn

These broken smiles, these cracked laughter –
(O dear tender dear gentle dear child)
You have become my little mermaid,
Restless in your lair; and I, the Sire’s shadow staid
On a broken, creaking chair, growing stems,
Rotting grass, shooting blossoms dying on an ear.

Youth sprouts from sudden fear
in the bright grip of the City.

2. A Shock of Memory

Paper boats neatly crumpled into a shock of memory
form the eddies where we drown a death wish among
debris scattered for effect upon a mound of games
left awry when the rain came.
Glee undone, wry laughter muffling quiet cry,
we pray:

We shall not play boat today, child, the rain is harsh,
The night falling tucks away the gentle wind and dog stars.
We shall cup the melting sky in our hands,
We shall, behind the dogwood, let Him slip us by.

3. A Mischief of Cigars

You were a break of laughter
firmly cut on Father’s chin before your birth.
Your life was a smile in the mischief of cigars.

You have been born before in a shock of memory
when all Mother could remember were nights
Father was the agile dancer dancing dense
the deep dark duty that you were.

O, my son.

4. A Game of Fireflies

It is only death dies in a cavort of children:
the game is old – catching fireflies in the woods.
When fire dies in the hollow of their palms,
the woods fall dark, the games expire;
but the children haunt the woods
because fireflies will be back. Time shapes up
the day’s good game when fire is caught.

Tonight, child, we change the game:
Catch the fire and burn the Woods,
Yield the fireflies for the night’s good game.
When nighttime shrouds the dry woods, hija,
lead me on where the game is good,
where Apu Ang-ngin appoints the Fire seconds
to the Duel with children playing the Children’s Hour.

Children play. Tra-la. Fire and Woods. Tra-la.

5. Dialogue

“Time died here, love, among the hyacinths.
I had this way of picking it up, feline-like purring,
By the nape – your Mother crying a little –--
I buried Time between the dogrose and the lilies."

O, Father. Time overtakes us, and
We cower in our darkened rooms.
But I will always lie awake as you peek

Into these rooms, along cold corridors,
Eager to hear you gently whisper:

“Sleep, little one, Hush, little one,
wipe those clear brown eyes, and smile.
Tomorrow we travel to the stars and clouds,
In a clear sky, bundle Time in a sling, lose
It among the winged ones, and find it again,
Coming home, among the lilies now in lusty bloom.

6. Unbridled in Spring

Dandelions grow unbridled in spring,
Because they would not at any other time;
But you will shoot unbridled on the wing
To clip the wind at any other time.

It is the curse of sitting tall, my daughter,
Pursues you, like I must in turn pursue;
The pursuit is not unlike some laughter
Welled from frolic and peal of ingénue

Caught in the fervid grasp of her lover,
Spilled on the shimmering mantle of bloom;
Dandelions grow unbridled as cover
For hillocks echoing some such uncertain gloom.

Laughter is as good only as the song
When not arrested in its rhyme;
You are a laughter as good as song,
My Dandelion, in spring or wintertime.



For my grandchildren Julian Ashley +, Diana Patricia, Daniel Anthony, Matthew Francis, Taylor Lauren, Megan Sarah, Michael Albert, Sydney Alexis, and Chloé Dominique, Louis Martin, Marie Clementine



(For all my Wee Ones* wherever they are or will be.)

1. There is Here

Here is where there is: Do you hear the murmur
of the seawaves laving this shore? It is her caress.
Mother titters gently with her romping children
among the sundown shadows, a flushed horizon
meeting, hugging the sea, Father’s sunburnt face
gleaming ruddy with laughter’s heat, His brows
still etched on crinkled clouds in the waning sky.

The little shadows taunt the limb-grasping tide.
Raucous, when doused at last, their screams
echo their surprised delight drowning whimper
of ebbtide waves now turned to gentle laughter.

2. His Faith

O, that this cacophony of sounds
becomes the noise of a lifetime
this old heart (from all distances)
could hearken to, leap up to ---
Velvety notes of a joie de vivre
this place was built for, made of,
has grown by, and remembered by.

Is this not, after all, the paradise
he thought was lost in time past
now visited upon his coy dotage
when he still hankers for some joy,
a little life left, while there is time?

Revised, June 18, 2014


*Julian Ashley +, Diana Patricia, Daniel Anthony, Matthew Francis, Taylor Lauren, Megan Sarah, Michael Albert, Sidney Alexis, Chloe Dominique, Louis Martin, and Marie Clementine. Forever infants jumping on my walls at sundown while I lie in my hammock.

1. + (For the Grandson Who Did Not Choose to Stay)

 (In memory of Julian Ashley)

How I wish you had given me the chance to teach
you how to fish. But you left without saying goodbye.

Or it could have been the way lilies go –
we cannot tell them from filth flowing
with the flower towed to die in an open sea
itself immolating; we would not even know
(ever) why its heart gobbles up what in the
beginning it gave.

It is the Sea eats limb so life (so love)
may not to its eternal wanting finish
what it late started must soon deny:
a clown’s journey through a circle’s shadow,
the circle rending rapture where, threatening,
the Shadow begins what beginnings
should have done: to fill the empty cups,
the gaping tables, with lilies of the marsh
and vases of the Sun.

But the circle and the shadow uniting
are miracles come from the Sea
its womb (and lilies) devouring.


(For Julian Ashley+, October 2, 1984-January 30, 1885)

It is the Sea eats limb so life (so love)/ may not to its eternal wanting finish/ what it late started must soon deny:/ a clown’s journey through a circle’s shadow. . .

Another fishing season would have gone
by sundown, but I have stopped counting
and stopped fishing, too; think of all the bass
that got away and the crayfish dried brittle
on rocks laved clean of seaweed and brine,
ebb tide marking rhythm and time when
breaking waves drown the homeward hallos
of fishermen pulling empty nets and ruined
mesh dragged off by catamarans whose relics
now jag brackish breakwater rocks when
low tide retrieves stray shells wrapped in flotsam.

It is my hammock hour. Come swing yourself
on this final refuge. Don’t take too long, hijo.
We have groupers to grill, oysters to chuck!

Echoes of your shrill shrieks and laughter startle
me still when I cock my ear to catch them
filling rooms and spaces that I would have shared
with you if you had only given me the chance
to teach you how to fish. But you left without
saying goodbye. At sundown, though,
on my hammock hour, I still hum your lullaby.

October 2, 2010, Mississauga
On October 2, 2014, Julian Ashley Casuga-Dela Rosa, my first grandchild, would have been 30, but he succumbed to sudden infant death syndrome four months after his birth.

I wrote an earlier poem marking his passing, "For the Grandson Who Did Not Choose to Stay", which I reprint together with the “Hammock Song”  O, how we could have gone away fishing, had he stayed longer. Con amor duradero, hijo mio.





(For Diana Patricia Casuga-Dy, Grandchild #1)

1. Lover, Healer, Daughter

A milestone, or a millstone. Her search
For passion and fun requires a distinction.
One negates the other. Knowing her need
And finding what fulfills it---touchstones.
From these turnpikes, she will find home.
Her joy is to serve and heal all afflictions
As she has done to all that drag her down,
And she is happy now. She needs to love.

Did she, will she find her one true passion?

If she has not, she has shaped a millstone
To pull her into yet uncharted dark holes,
The abyss whence she has pulled anchors,
Cast aweigh so she could fly in a span of sky
Gods have assigned as endless corridors
For her flights as lover, healer, a daughter.

2. A Crowning Milestone

Here she is, scarcely departed in my eye
As the restless infant playing sleepover
At Lolo and Lola’s ocean of a sandbox bed,
Laughing at the start of a quiet lullaby,
Frantically wailing: I wanna go mommy.
Home. "Love," the tired abuela hugs her.
"It is two in the morning. Still sleep time."

She would fall back sobbing, but mornings
Would find her yammering over pancakes
How when she grows big, she will take care
Of her, Lola and Lola, Sleep in your big bed
and make you good, and strong, and happy.
How can this not be her crowning milestone?

3. Finding the Dream Patient

Leave-takings are longer now with a healer
Hugging this dotard of an old man: Lolo,
Have your heart repaired again, this time
With a bovine’s valve; the porcine’s tissue
Gave you a good decade and more. Quizzas,
You might even make the century mark.
I will take care of you. I will be with you.

Like that night when she wanted to go home
To her mommy, he kissed her gently again,
And whispered: “Why, Love, I did not know
That I had a bright nurse who is also in search
For her dream patient. I am yours then.
Dream patient or not, I might even ask for soup.
O, you can also cup my heart, hush it, heal it."

Mississauga, June 17, 2014



 (For Daniel Anthony Casuga-Dy, 21, Grandchild #2)

1. The Lolo’s Side Show

Protesting , “I am not a side show”, he ran off to his room
Half-naked in his kindergarten pants: I got him! A mantra
I will haunt him with all the rest of his best days. Dan Man.

Would I ask him to sing maybe? Dance? Say twinkle star?
I did, that one time I needed to see my little Danny Boy,
For that one joy grandfathers hunt for: a fishing buddy boy.

But no, he is not a side show. Not for a jig, nor for a song,
Not even for the call from those pipes from glen to glen:
He is not the little show. Not the unheard. Not merely seen.

No, not a little show. No, not the little show. The Big Show.
The littlest rebel did not take long to prove he’s got mettle:
Junior Senior High did he not work at cooking fries? So?

2. Making Up with His Ace Philo Essay

Homework is easy stuff. Home Work is the tough stuff:
Dad got the better of his worn-out ticker; I took an apron.
And wrote that essay which Mom rushed to my sulking Lolo:

“A Gift Outright” the Grand man called it on Father’s Day,
And I remembered Frost had that Inaugural Poem for JFK.
He must think it’s great then, (Mr. Simms called it my best),

The gramps I did not sing for, nor danced for as a “sideshow”
When I was that nude toddler he coaxed as his lump of joy,
Now this pubescent grandson he thought he still knew.

3. The Essay as I Recall

Daniel’s essay is so like Daniel. Here is that puling little boy
who stormed out, when doted upon by this dimwitted dotard:
“I am not a sideshow, you know!” He was just a wee lad of two
or three then (not even in kindergarten?). Was he not then?

O he was voluble about things he thought he knew, he knew.
An impressive thesis: “One will never truly know whomsoever
we think we know.” (Or "one is forever lonely?"). Filosopo?
Not that kind of charlatan. He is the real thing. Philosopher.

4. The Big Show: A Prelude

Graduation day. How he regales his audience of lovers.
He laughs, squints, flirts with the damsels, too. Handsome.
College education was a breeze after all. After the struggle.
Moving on, he said, work, graduate work, more capitalist
Ventures on his plate. He is the consummate host to relatives
Godmother, Abuelo, Abuela, Aunts, Dad Nash, Mom Nicole,
Cousins, nephews, nieces, the college and workplace gang,
His sister Diana Patricia, and, he whispered to Lolo: The girls.

He is not a sideshow, all right. I did not misread your essay,
Danny Boy. How little I knew you, mettle and all. O Dan Man,
Before curtains fall on Lolo’s show, and dotage robs you
Of your victory, I must concede: You have become the Big Show.

Mississauga, June 16, 2014


(For Matthew, Grandchild # 3, On His Football Debut)

 Was it a random number, Matthew?
Or did you choose to call attention
to your grandmother’s 68th birthday?
Why not the next naughty number?

She peered through her Leica camera
but could not see you nor make you out
among those sweaty gnashing giants
who could have been the drooling babies
not so long ago. She yelped out a gasp
of delighted surprise when she espied you
on the zoom: How do you zoom on his face?
Zoom in on, I lisped a feigned idiot’s shrug.

From afar, she could still see a puling boy
who could not even throw a ball. She yelled:
Omigod, look at him barrel through that lad
blocking his run! He would hurt the boy
or get himself broken! It sounded like a sob.

I could not help but look for the mayhem
I came to watch his football debut for:
Who will dare bump him? My little boy,
all bulked up, war-primed, brute strong,
could throw a pigskin to God knows where.
Oooh yes, pitch the first blocking body, too.

“Bloody idiot”, he would snap a growl, a snarl,
really. But if he were within hearing distance,
she would upbraid him: Matthew Francis,
language! He would snicker but curl away.

She watched him through tear-stained lenses,
and stifled a cry: My little boy. A big man now.
Strange. At sixty-eight, I, too, felt old and weak.



Revised, o6-13-2014

09-21-11: When he was 14, Matthew Francis Casuga, third eldest grandchild, was an instant choice by a drooling coach when he applied for his high school’ s football team. A little while ago, he was just our little boy who would weep at the sight of a fly on his arm.


(A Poem for Taylor Lauren Kwan)

Unlike Megan, you would rather paint on small spaces.
Like finger nails. Your abuela’s toes looked easy to kiss
With those curlicues you laboured on: Hearts on toes?
But that is who you are: Tough as nails, smart alecky.
All putty and tender and gentle and soft, killer dimples
Allowing all aches to zing through your unfading grin.

What will it be like when next you find yourself hurt?
Will anyone dare crush your armour of tough charm?
While you have the easy and languid grimace of dad,
You, like your mom, can warn fools with a steely smile,
A counterpoise of loving and contempt in your smirk.

To abuela, you are a toddling sweetly-burbling baby
On the phone; to your Tati Jing, you have true method
To your smug, impregnable, hard-to-cut-and-hurt mien;
To your abuelo, like it or not, you are still his beauty
Fiend and regal clown, who could paint a broken heart
On a nail that could be nullified by a laughing face
On another on a hand that has just quickly wiped tears
From your eyes, unseen by anyone, away from the sneer
Of one who would not know you. An angel with a spear.




(For Megan Sarah Casuga, Grandchild #5)

“You have your paintbrush and colors. Paint Paradise, and in you go.”---Nikos Kazantzakis

1. Her Palette of Rainbows

“I painted a rainbow for you, abuelo, a long one.
See it? It twirls around the hills and rivers
It colours the evening sky, too. Look. See It?”

Barely able to contain a bursting torrent of words,
She jumped up from the widest expanse of space
Defined on the floors of the ball court. Her studio.

“Look, look, look. Do you see it now? It is for you.
You can ride on the back of a rainbow can’t you?”
A beaming art teacher followed her with a smile

To where the startled old man got jolted from a nap
While he waited for the lass to finish another day
At what he called her paint-splashing war zone.

“Where? Whaaa? What riding rainbow? When?”
Askance, he blurted absently, until he heard her
Guffaw: “There! Lookit! Come. Let’s make rainbows.”

2. His Covenant Built on the Rainbow

It would have to be a clear canvas, and all the walls
a limitless expanse of nothing. Yet. Your easel
could turn or slide in all possible directions,
your palette a saucer of rainbows. Your brush a wand.

These are my terms for an unbreakable covenant
I shall draw with the Master Artist: that you, my girl,
would always remain the giggling child with colours,
an unbridled conjurer of quaint realities among clouds

where they match quicksilver dreams that shape
and reshape themselves however you fancy them;
that you would be free of the shackles of meaning
or the ghosts of language as their intolerable gaolers

in dungeons where there are no keys nor clanging cell
doors to open; that you would have all the sunrises
and all the sunsets in your fingers, and all the days
of your life kept neatly folded in drawers you could open.

That your thoughts could grasp their tail and hold it
while running to fill all empty vases with loves and lives
as meaning of what meanings would be if your life
meant anything at all; that you will paint your paradise.

June 11, 2014, Mississauga



(For Mikey, Grandchild #6)

Mikey (Michael Albert Casuga who turned 13 last May 7) bested his cousins in the game of balancing on the lily pads (mock pontoons) while crossing the pool without falling into the water before he gets to the last pontoon. This ancient mariner, bedazzled by his grandchildren’s confidence and derring-do, failed to even get past the first pontoon despite their egging him on: Come on, ‘lolo! You can do it! Just do it! --- Writer's Notebook on a Family Break at Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara

He leap-frogged lithely with tentative grace
from one drifting lily pad to the other,
an uncertain smile creased on his elfin face:
quite like relishing the exquisite danger
of leaping from one life moment to another
shorn of anxiety or fear a fall could end it all.

Would the pontoons hold
while he teeters on them
grasping for absent branches?

His final leap was also this old heart’s leap
of faith that this lad’s leap-frogging
will end in a crash of pool where ripples
are his balm and sinking is his baptism
of fire in a game called living where bridges
crumble with the tottering pontoons.



 For Sydney Alexis Casuga-Kwan, Grandchild # 7)

 You were looking out into the darkened theatre.
Were you hoping you would not see an old man
On the aisle belting an over-the-rainbow line
About little blue birds able to do it, why can’t he?

But you warned him earlier: no duets, abuelo,
Not on stage either---they will throw popcorn,
Slippers, shoes, maybe chairs at you. Please?
It is our song, and ours only. Nobody must know!

When auditions were called for the Oz, for Dorothy,
I knew that was mine, abuelo. I know the rhythms,
I know the words from my crib, know your tremolo.
Were you trying to lull me then with the rainbow song?

From the corner of your eye, you saw him on third row,
He was swaying, shadow-like, and wiping his eyes,
His lips were moving, Oh no! He was singing your song,
About to leap up his feet, but abuela held him down.

June 9, 2014, Mississauga

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow", a Judy Garland hit from the Wizard of Oz, is our song, Sydney and I. When she sang it as Dorothy on stage, I said, I will join her in a duet on the theatre aisle. That, of course, struck fear and dread in her heart.




(For Chloe Dominique Lalonde, Grandchild #8)

“Adios, adios, abuelo.
Te Amo. Je T'aime! Mahal Kita! Luv ya!”
---- Chloe speaking in tongues.

A glimmer of a sylph on the gossamer bay,
She pirouettes and is gone into her chrysalis
Not unlike the sylvan truants that waylay
The wary wanderer among the trees,

Or the papillon flitting from blossom to bramble,
Hidden but always there, some surprise grace,
A magical fairy light to dispel the creeping pall
Coiled on the winter ennui of fallen days ---

O, she dandles dearly with her ragged ragdoll,
Caressingly delicate in a wistful pas de deux
Of her shadow Fonteyn caught in a sudden fall
By a prancing Baryshnikov vaulting off the shadow.

Was that his pas de chat to snatch her from disaster?
Quickly now, urgently now, hold the hapless Dame
As would a cat curl on the legs of its Master,
Dream now of a demure pas de bourree of fame,

While dreams still enthrall, while the dancing
Is still your language of love, of boundless courage,
While the arguments of your young body moving
To the beats of passion are still the true language

Of the good, the honest, and the beautiful:
Until then, mon amour, these decrepit hands cannot
Stop the deluge of fear, of hurt, and of the frightful
That would drown us all, before our windows are shut.

Even now, as you wave from your window,
I know you will be brave.






(For Louis Martin Lalonde, Grandchild #9)


1. Wiping Him Dry

Grow like the creek, 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 would, he 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.

2.  Yet Another Robot

He would build them with empty soda cans,
recycled wire, parts unknown until they move.
Look, abuelo, a robot! Whence comes this love
for all things foreign to this dotard askance
about why little lads like him would prattle
about apps and some such instead of apples?

3. Like the River

Under his breath, he also lisped a wistful
plea to the walls around him or whoever
could hear an old man’s prayer:

Please, let him build them strong, and not
destroy; and for my
nieto jovencito, to never
forget that there are grander castles in the air.
Please, let him grow like the creek,
when freed of silt will turn to clearest blue.
O let him flow like the river and find his sea.

June 3, 2014 Revised




(For Marie Clementine Lalonde, Grandchild #10)

with these small steps will change her
wee world; a vast expanse awaits her:
there are fields of raw beauty and joy
where flowers seek her to gather them.
But there will be other meadows she
must not cross: her dainty restless feet
will find mud, all the muck and mire
of a spoiled world, some dark places
I pray she will never ever take without
this old man building her clean bridges
she could run through to find her home,
a bright and happy heart, and all that
have been wished for her by all those
who love her, who cherish her quiet,
shining promise, a silence she has yet
to break, her gait a jig she has yet to dance.


Culled, June 19, 2014




At sundown, on my hammock hour, I hum a lullaby.
And I become the magus among the cattails chanting:

O give me a home bursting with laughter and song,
O give me a nook to hide and hold quicksilver dreams.

In their crannies, I shall wrap them with sunflowers;
In icy snow chambers, I shall save slivers of sunlight
To keep them warm. I shall be the rabbit popped out
Of the magus’ cone hat; I shall jump and disappear

Into their hideaway taking the darkness with me.
In their lairs and treehouses, I shall bring dry flint
And candlesticks and all things bright and crackling;
I shall be with my wee ones and darkness be damned.

---Albert B. Casuga


 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.



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