“I tend to refer to most of it as the territory of Ghost Soil. It certainly isn’t a narrow genre. Whatever you call it, it should dance away from easy definition. […] [F]or me, part of it was a knowing that given the way the national narrative was going, this vital space was going to be a prime land grab for fascists. Hence re-enchantment is resistance.” – David Southwell on Hookland
I. Lone Paulownia tree / Római Birodalom
We called that corner Roman Empire, after the cobblestones
ringing the tree in a loose sleepy oval, rising at an angle—
and we ran around the tree, our bodies tilted outward;
we had not yet known the history, could only feel
the magic in our gut.
The hill had always had cultic import, archeologists would say—
before the Ancient Hungarians, also the Celts (invaded by the Romans)
though the first building had been a church, its stone ruins
partially repoured in concrete to withstand forces of nature
and you can see how the focal point of the magic drifted
from (who knows where) to the ancient church to the basilica—
still in use, though the power had unmoored, reanchored in the tree
named in English after the empress, in Hungarian after the emperor.
The tree had to come down for the power to be harvested.
II. The secret garden / Nyárország
I wasn’t sure if Friendship Park was named after Finnish-Hungarian friendship the way the park on the other side of the ten-story housing blocks had been named after sister city Kuopio; or if it had been a Communist gesture evoking a more peaceful age that never existed. Like the Friendship Oil Pipeline cutting across the land.
All the time I did not spend reading, I was there in Friendship Park; and once, as a small child, soon after we moved across the wide avenue, I explored the bush and small trees just behind the sandpit and the steel slides—I ventured inside the thicket, the trees closing above my head—I sought passage into this Summerland of tangled branches grabbing the air with a thousand unruly fingers—and I found, just past chest-high scrub I could not pass: a hollow, a tiny field with a tree, some bushes, the sun streaming in from above, a feeling of sanctity
as strong as I could grasp, the secret garden—the words arose and I remembered there had been a book like that in Mother’s bookcase. Maybe it would reveal the path. I stared as long as I could, in that place outside time, and then headed home to scrutinize the shelves—the spine read The Secret Miracle, by Jorge Luis Borges. I had misremembered the title.
The garden, evanescing. I went back the next day, tried to locate that exact spot, entirely in vain; I ran up the stairwell to the tenth floor and stared down—the patch was unbroken, no opening in the middle to let in the sunlight, no secret. I found the miracle again only later—but by then the park had been bulldozed to give way to a soccer field.
III. The trees across from the Biscuit Factory / Kekszgyár
People in the city Facebook group were mocking
the System of National Collaboration—
the vaguely vintage-sounding name
coined by a hard-right government;
the System of National Collaboration
large-scale construction projects
contracted out to family and friends,
large-scale construction projects
expanses of poured concrete, which
cutting down the trees,
their persistence releasing
invisible threads into the air;
the ecosystem perennially
disrupted by settlement,
now reconstructed into
a giant egregore,
an occult takeover of
all that remained, an assertion of power
over nature itself on a different scale.
The Communists had believed in disenchantment
but new forces vest themselves in the enchanted—
enchanted to their needs, repurposing
everything from Pan-Turanism to King
Stephen’s priests converting peasants by force,
mandating belief by blood, by the nation;
and I walked away—
the world wrenched from my grasp,
the globe tilting even though I stood still
this migration beginning before
I stepped across any border;
I walked away—
but the afterimages of trees
still call out to me,
demanding to be named,
IV. City Park
On the outskirts of inner-city Budapest, every tree
is a threshold to story, history, place;
the outlines of branches now giving way
to confidently superfluous buildings
have been etched into me on night walks
and I see them all still, with the clarity
I never crossed those thresholds
and now I never would. This evocation
calling out to the nineteen twenties
is not the reenchantment
I was promised. To enact my own
the link grows tenuous.
I retrace the letter-shapes in each word
so that the incantation would live on
within me at the least.
Writing subsumes oral tradition
and I mourn, I mourn—
Love scatters, fragments, breaks into prismatic mirages all the easier dispelled—the simple uncomplicated love of the inhabitant toward a space. Everything must go or be consumed, incorporated. If it cannot be painted with the national colors it cannot stay. First the individual trees, they are noticed less except by those who have run their fingers along the cracks in their bark. Then the parks. Then the buildings, the more iconic the more crucial that they are eliminated as rapidly as possible. Tendrils of belonging chopped apart. A dissolution and then a harvest. You can go. I must; my cities no longer mine, my trees no longer rooted. I left my history there, but my history does not have a sufficient hold on reality anymore that would enable it to stay, be maintained. Only within, within—
and there it remains, resounds in the ventricles like a lament.
Bogi Takács (e/em/eir/emself or they pronouns) is a Hungarian Jewish agender trans person and an immigrant to the US. E is a winner of the Lambda award for editing Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, the Hugo award for Best Fan Writer, and a finalist for other awards. Eir debut poetry collection Algorithmic Shapeshifting and eir debut short story collection The Trans Space Octopus Congregation were both released in 2019. You can find Bogi talking about books at http://www.bogireadstheworld.com, and on various social media like Twitter, Patreon and Instagram as bogiperson.