Plant Diaries

Mila Haugová

Translated from Slovak by John Minahane

a dream: I dreamed we’re traveling in an open train a man sits reclining on his seat I stroke his shoulder and ask how’s the work going: he says: fine, how’s the family: he says fine. so what else do you need I ask: he looks at me with squinting eyes and says: my book.

diary entry: today is September 21, 2014, the first day of autumn and the equinox: sun, fruits forcefully and irrevocably fall from the trees, a profound joy from the full day: we eat lunch and then look at tapestries in the museum: horses, deer, eagles and wild poppies: white: house: colours gold & red (the heart still doesn’t know) event of the day is Nemzeti vágta: to the enormous square which they’ve strewn with sand a rider plants one foot on one horse the other on a second and still keeps three chestnut horses on reins before him: a horse race is won by a woman called Gyöngyi, which means pearl, on the English thoroughbred Suhany: the prize is 5,000,000

forints for the mare Tahitófala: like my grandmother I have tears in my eyes at the hymn … yesterday I went to see her and my grandfather at the cemetery: for years they loathed each other

now they must lie together…

white bones mingled in the warm clay of the south

grammar of the body: little tongue the lake in my husband’s throat speaks and he walks beside me intangible because only for an instant at the edge of hesitation do our two warm bodies come near I see the vein pulsing on the temple the firm eyelashes the border between hair and nape twilight slowly slides into the limousine purring of the foreign city that has received us through his voice sounds Shakespeare: “I have almost forgot the taste of fear…” and indeed beside him

for a little while at least I do not fear (Budapest, October 6, 2014)

XXII For dessert I cut some figs (Ficus carica, Linné) into little thin slices, a pity they can’t be pressed they look like tender vaginas: delicate pink threads on a yellow-green background. before my window miracle-like 5 fragile cyclamens are flowering (Cyclamen hederifolium, Linné var. autumnale) it’s a shame to pull and press them and dry them for the herbarium: they have staunchly survived repeated scythe-massacres on the lawn of the literary museum: in the three windows (of my temporary home) a face appears ringed by light, unknown pedestrians, there they lay down keys for me…post…messages…to messages…with the window human beings took a step out from themselves…you ask me where were you all day? I saw you had your window closed…I was… on October 22 all had become just a slow-motion film

I don’t remember it but I was

archive: by chance I find a text on the royal architect Kha, who was builder to the pharaoh Amenhotep III (1386-1346 before Christ) Kha owned the first protractor, triangle (ekierka) and folding measure, which they found in his tomb intact: he had a magnificent bed of a shape like those that we too sleep in: gilded wood: a chair and little table

in a coffer there were clothes and things for personal use: a razor: rings, requisites for writing and drawing: a chain the pharaoh’s gift a luxuriously equipped room in a tomb posthumous residence 3000 years old fruit in a dish

(8:26 p.m., September, Budapest: still)

plumbline: spirit-level: sketch of a pyramid

map: the fox shines in the dark of a paw amber eyes entangled in the long dry stalks of grass the fox-face intimately known from atlases slow-motion shot the slender body is finally content in a dusky den he pursues: he is pursued the crest of the hill glows blue and green: dry and curt as a gunshot comes his bark:

…where now he sleeps…


silva rerum: the forest of things: a way of writing a text in which there’s everything… now according to the rules of this text I ought to write something about the family: the family tree: my father’s watch the Doxy Mama’s white gloves: daughter’s drawings: little blue jackal, jaguar Iberian lynx… lophius…

here I’d gladly insert the source of the hair of my one-year-old granddaughter Sašenka or put in the first fallen milk-tooth of five-year-old Aimeé (when she was 8 months old one night I looked into her open eyes and she saw me and I saw her and it was proof that we have a soul.)

everything that was simultaneously is instinct

grammar: complex sentence all that is between us now will (one day) be nothing (platinum hammer) the nothing that will be all that was between us… (anvil)

reconstruction of the Argonaut ship: a white night butterfly on a white wall as if the Milky Way was (all) what can still be embraced in the resonance of two voices: eternity endures

in one: climactic time climactic body



then pure indivisibility

grammar: disappearing: white lilywomen: grandmother mother light carved by the shadow of light: the buried northsouthern: it doesn’t cease to act: so there may be certainty that they’ll reach the other side (I don’t want to die yet, whatever you think the 96-year-old woman said)

pre-monition: pre-sage to sit on the white bench which ever-different hands of mine clutch: mother: daughter: mother: the hand meticulously guards what it recognised: in hidden mystery in painful abiding: delivers: that which passes beyond: that which contains a fidelity to beauty for us self-evident: white benches white lilywomen: photo: light

of a long extinguished time: fidelity to repeated forms: Mama’s hands in white gloves: white embroidered lace of grandmother Alžbeta:


death will not cover nakedness

but only veil

amore: calm…windlessness silence hush to stop it just for a second:

the tensed metal film of the ocean… remoteness of the red-winged blackbird… hands over keyboard:

to hold a man’s head when he tosses in sleep after a savage day: to stop and look out the window: to turn to pass in front of the door to imagine the faithful dog is still lying there with his head in his paws: the mulberry tree is still losing green leaves: the bridges disappear a sluggish barge lops them off: a figure 8 appear in the fog it joins heaven and earth of the living and the dead

monad 3: I measure my time by the letters I write:

no one is here: the house at the summer’s end empty: all whom I love have gone away: in the grass white benches: buckets:

sandals: red pencil windows and doors shut:

daughter’s colourful dress on a line: a pungent scent of basil marjoram sage and the bundles of plantain are drying:

all that’s missing is tobacco as in Janko Kráľ’s garden and does whom I’d caress to my “heart’s delight”: and a hand with a slender palm: the asbestos threads of August stretched to September: white drawings and sketches of an Arab granddaughter: all of us & the horses cats dogs unknown birds a jaguar with a red bow: flowers ants left-handedly: mirroredly

(she too like me is alone for everything in the heart) I’ve been writing and doing almost the same thing from childhood: I love and I don’t understand: the details are ever more cruel: may she not know that

(à Aimeé, July 19, 2015, Zajačia dolina)


in dusk the child comes to me through the entire dark garden opens the door places her head on my knees grips the nightdress with her hands (I feel how calmly she breathes) then without a word turns and returns through the same dark to her Mama (my daughter) all of this takes only as long as my utterly wearied heart to return to its pulse one two one two while the little gazelle falls asleep in her safe lair little wild creature

(à granddaughter Sašenka, August 24, 2015 at 20:20)

monad1: I wish I could wish without wishing:

in un — inter — rupted writing an unconscious loathing for writing (it tears me away from wishing): bodies of women between two desires: girl disappears forever in woman: light of childhood preserves its glow: for the first time

she pulls on transparent tights: sits on a bicycle:

he sees her: a little while: in the garden there’s still the stone

that she used to sit on later: then fourteen years old she wished the same: now she writes to know what’s going on with her and the world: which now

falls way down under her feet

canti: I rose at half four in the morning and went out into the garden a faint veil of mist over the irises wound down towards the cherry trees and vanished in summer’s last grass: it was August still: sunlit-green circle of fallen apples: there are precisely as many as on the tree: from depth of nest and sleep a bird sounds: Orion emerges a constellation for autumn: the light which now arrives will only be twilight: the wolfhound (from) across the fence scents me and comes to lick me: the days narrow down to

elementary joys (August 31, 2015)


peace radiates from words and some reality from you movements are like light piercing through water: Diamond fracture A photo’s a comprehending thing not just content but composition I said I was once more going to read those few philosophers that I love.

I began with Pascal: I have him in German it’s harder for me and he’s a writer I sometimes understand he’s like a ray of light: and suddenly all’s clouded over even with repeated reading…

But such sentences give me inner nourishment (and help to forget bad dreams I’ve had two in recent times) Since it’s certain that we won’t be in it (life) for long and uncertain whether we’ll still have our hour in it, that last condition is the one for us…

Or to seek one’s share of a happiness that will last… or: that life itself is what is at stake he writes this about the year 1656…

his Rechnungsmaschine

became the basis for the idea of the computer…


I read on before sleeping…

In the night of November 23, 1654, Pascal had a mystical

experience of God’s presence: he wrote it down and sewed the paper in

the lining of the coat he always had with him: the paper would be found

by accident after his death…it is about light The most important thing for him was maintaining oneself and self-limitation self-culmination… and the sense of a prospect of finding anew the lost beginning of the endless preciousness of things and desire for a hopeful end (God) And his theory of the reasons for the movement and order of

the heart is very close to my heart He links it with return to the essence (the source) and for him needless to say it is faith…and the truth of the heart: I don’t know if the word feeling was used in philosophy before Husserl so far I haven’t found it here Strange how for me it’s attractive and incomprehensible the world of his writing

the heart has reasons

mother light carved by the shadow of light: the buried northsouthern: it doesn’t cease to operate: so it will be certain

John Minahane has lived in Slovakia since 1996. He has translated works by major Slovak poets such as Ladislav Novomeský and Milan Rúfus, In 2018, he translated The Bloody Sonnets, the outstanding series of anti-war poems written by Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav in August/September 1914 on the outbreak of World War 1.