TAMMY HO LAI-MING
Tammy Lai-Ming Ho is a Hong Kong-born academic,
editor and poet. She is the founding co-editor of Cha:
An Asian Literary Journal and the scholarly journal Hong
Kong Studies. Her first poetry collection, Hula Hooping
(Chameleon Press), was published in 2015, for which she
won the Young Artist Award in Literary Arts in Hong Kong.
Her second poetry collection is Too Too Too Too (Math
Paper Press, 2018) and her first collection of stories is
Her Name Upon the Strand (Delere Press, 2018). Tammy
is also the author of Neo-Victorian Cannibalism: A Theory
of Contemporary Adaptations (Palgrave, 2019). She is an
Associate Professor teaching at Hong Kong Baptist
University and serves as the President of PEN Hong Kong.
To go from here to there, sometimes a map is needed. But some maps may lie, make up cities, towns. Some maps are only gestural, distorting the distance between separated lovers who in the old days occupied post offices with frequent letters. There is always an accurate time on a clock pinned to a wall somewhere, but not here. Censorship doesn't happen to language only, but to maps too. Entire nuclear waste dumps, detention camps, vanish. There is no standardisation of maps like the standardisation of timezones in China. The average day is 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.09 seconds. The average human orgasm is more fleeting than the average pig's. A rose by another name is still a rose, but there are over 900 types of red roses. A language becomes extinct every two weeks. Every time we say goodbye, think, a part of you goes extinct. There are colours that trigger hunger, others induce fear, others still make me think of your book covers. How many roads does a random map actually cover? How many days does a map know? Some countries believe printing their own maps creates a grand reality. They say in a lifetime, people brush their teeth so many times, open the venetian blinds, light a cigarette, throw out rotting flowers, pour wine—everything has an estimated number. In my lifetime, I may only see you as often as conscience lets me. There are mirrors on the moon, reflecting light. Our room has mirrors and they reflect just us, creating an epoch of our own. A new time.
Ode to Age
In some cultures it is disrepectful to name the names of the deceased. In some places, people are forbidden to name the deceased. Have you finally woken up from your long sleep? In the presence of heat there may be sugar. You know it is love when your lover makes you sometimes a little surreal. You complained about the red wine, that it was inferior to me. A death at an inconvenient time is never forgotten and reminds us of the vast distance between the soil and next month. Words that sound ugly in Mandarin sound no better in Cantonese. Love that is meant to be consumed will end up boneless. We are at our happiest when we know that the happiness is hundreds of years old but is also combustible. Looking at your face, neck, and fingertips reveals no information of your permitting mind. If there were a metaphorical tomorrow I'd want to drive our desires through it like lunatics, well aware of the eyes of the watchers who jealously watch us.
When I don't know what to say I silently count coins and he's annoyed by this act of passive aggressiveness. Even if he loves me completely, let us be honest, it is still not enough, because completeness is relative. If I could upturn his books carefully numbered and lined up on the shelves—calligraphy scrolls lend the arrangement a learned aura—I would. I hear his voice and I sometimes quickly calculate: am I today totally loving, or do I allow myself to be difficult? A city is ruined only when a certain percentage of its physical appearance is no longer recognisable. A relationship is ruined despite everything looking intact; the lovers' phones tell the right hour, their laundry out to dry is clean, they go to the theatre to be seen. Many languages are tonal and they don't require more attentiveness except when what is said is said with attention. At the end of a meal, he watches me suck the remaining chopped bird's eye chillies, spitting out the spent red skin that glistens darkly. He knows my lips are all at that time hot and swollen, ready to be soon kissed on our bed, where we count our four hip bones.
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