blackmail press 21
Abigail Licad
U.S.A / Philippines

crossed cultures - special issue
Abigail Licad grew up in the Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. with her family at age 14.  She has a B.A. in English from UC Berkeley and an M.Phil in Literature from Oxford University.


No brightly-colored crêpe paper unfurled for us then,
no assembly kits in shapes of plastic dragons or jet-planes
like the one Meynard’s overseas father brought back,
elegant and invincible, just old newspapers

saved for wrapping fish:  Aquino’s stalwarted face
folded diagonally half-overlooking movie star gossip,
cooked rice smushed for paste, some string,  
and bits broken off from Ma’s walis tingting

thinly tapered sticks bundled on the thick end
and made to work.  My brother and I hiked up hills
where vegetable plots embroidered land,
raced to make wind catch and watched our masterwork

soar and soar, unfazed by flimsy trembles,
its clumsy sideways ascent to the sky.
Why the walis tingting never broke or the paper tear
did not cross our minds, or that the downcast

audience of clouds thought laughable
our saranggola’s chances for success:
good thing Meynard’s kite was on another piece of sky –
ours could then be as good as any poor thing.

Catsear on Sidewalk

Marvelous: this insistence to sprout
and bloom despite cemented barrier
which pressed down its hardening weight
precisely to bar from this first glimpse
of sunlight – how in the dark you culled
mineral from soil, preserved every trickle of rain,
patiently softened the plot for seedling’s hatch
until masterful cunning determined
the right moment to defy, and then up! up!
overnight through buried patch of land,
thick of pavement and sleeping cracks,
through ragged edges poised to choke
than step aside and let you breathe.
Not one to cower from strange environs
you broke more asphalt to make room –  
basal rosette of lobed leaves, long,
hollow stalk, and toothed petals of single
yellow blossom all announcing a kind of triumph –
Hypochaeris radicata L.: I have come, I am here
– although how this could grow into such tenacity
as required to weather approaching threat
of plodding boots, garden shears,
and the general hostility of surrounding
pavement whose one night of inattentiveness
is still being blamed for your invasion,
no one knows.  Better perhaps to have continued
dreaming beneath the road’s surface than to wake
to bright day of limitation, for how could
any horticulture embrace the very reminder
of its own unnaturalness for one of its own? 
Better perhaps to have dwelled deeply
in the recesses of possibility,
than to thrive where you are not wanted. 

Featured Artist Fiona Holding