To Agree

Ilaria Maria Sala

It just so happened that I started to read a bit about linguistics
I wondered briefly, could our misunderstandings be explained through semantics
Or philology
Lexicology, syntax?
Is yours simply an acrolect for which I don’t have the key, that contains affricates that scare me
A diachronic phoneme has me lost in my train of thoughts – I am listening, sorry, I really am
Only, I was told to beware of subordinate clauses.
I digress. So far
I have found only one point on which the learned ones agree
And it is that time is space.
A space you invaded and garbled and twisted
A space that was for you when you came and full of blood when you left
Is blood also space?
Is the time gap between our dreams and our fights and when you wrestled full control

Postvocalic anguish follows a groan that bleeds out of me
I apologise for putting here so much in this dark viscous red
But I am intrigued. The question is insistent
Time, as space.
It implies something that, here, we are still fighting over:
To measure the space we have, then, we need to agree on a beginning (I reject an ending)
Does it start with the Lo Ting, or from that day I saw you eating grilled pork (“I can’t think of meat as being food” I said, “animals feel pain they bleed”. Accept, kindly, my excuses if it was arrogant)
Does it start with the Barren Rock or with the Patriots Only (I know people of both persuasions yet I belong to neither)
Is it the hidden valleys in between, is it an inaccessible bay
Or do you only count the highways, and the lands that you formed by throwing everything at hand into the sea, and what we cherished, too?
What would that count as, I wonder: is it the time you took from us, or is it the space you made for yourself.

I wanted to drive my bicycle behind the post office building
That easy lawless diversion everyone was at
Instead they were pouring concrete on that spot wanting to turn it into empty stairs and ban our shortcuts
I noticed it takes just two slim wheels to cause unease
And you said: It is the absolute prerogative of the State to administer space as it sees fit.
You had no time for my outrage at this dispossession,
Words percolated from your self assurance

I would have accepted your apologies, had you ever made them – an ethereal diphthong, an accusative instead of a genitive. I would have accepted what would have come, anyway.
I stood. In the cold – the cold negative space that formed between my questions and the answers I hoped for.
Today I walked behind the post office, again. I was talking to you in my head, and it turned into an argument
They are building a car-park where we went to defend our little strip of land
We thought we were victorious but see, here we are, arguing again.

The learned ones however are unanimous
They agree that time is space so I try to ask for more
We all do. We ask and wish for more
More of both.

Ilaria Maria Sala is a writer, a ceramic artist, a journalist, a photographer and a poet based in Hong Kong. Her poetic work has appeared in Voice and Verse; Asian Cha; Hong Kong Protesting and other publications. She writes mostly in English and Italian – like her last two books, L’Eclissi di Hong Kong (ADD editore, 2022), essays and poems about Hong Kong, and Pechino 1989 (Edizioni Una Città), a photographic essay.


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