May 14

Sub Rosa

By Tantra Bensko

When weird things happen to me, sometimes I wonder. Is it because my Palatine German ancestors kept a rose bush in their yard?

When I am followed, signs and symbols left on my bed, wolves howl where there are no wolves, and something invisible knocks me on my head. Is it because my ancestors planted the flowers against their house? When they connived to go against the system that oppressed them, they let the other Rosicrucians know they were with them all the way. They passed notes with flowers. They spoke the language of the bees.

They took their name from that bush. Rosenbaum. They were invited to cross the seas and live in the new world, to Pennsylvania, Bucks County. To build the limestone pyramids with an eye and an eagle, to hold an olive branch with thirteen arrows on the stone, to chant and pace, howl in robes, to cast the petals to the air that travel across dimensions of time and place. That land upon my lover’s head from nowhere in the winter sky, though there is no bush around, that stick to his face, and his entrails of secrets, remaining only on his closed eyes when he spins and spins, all the rest flying off, and then he turns to look at me, and roses are his irises, and roses are his lies.

rose hips and catnipWhen weird things happen to me, sometimes I wonder. Is it because my Rosicrucian grandfather, a limestone master, tried to build the pyramid in Needmore, Indiana to replicate the Cheops? The Golden Fleece awards took it down, left it scattered on the ground.

So instead he rode the stone on a mission from Bedford, the limestone capital of the world, to build the Pentagon.

Cupid gave the god of silence a rose as a gift for holding Venus’s secrets. Roman banquet room roses reminded confidentiality in the presence of sweet pink wine. What secrets does my lover keep beneath the red softness of his lips that part and start to speak in silence, close again? My lover who first walked into me out of fog.

The blank Indiana skies along a river flooded with secrets landed on its banks, barking and mewling and taking flight, turning into ice crystals the size of dreams that open out like origami snowflakes into points and angles, holes to other worlds.

Sometimes the Rosicrucians call my name, my family name of bushes, murder, spies, thirteen. Their symbols on the family graves press against my skin when I lean against them, and stay impressed for days. I hugged a grave, then held my lover to me, and when we parted bodies, the frottaged rose symbol remained upon his skin as he backed away, burning in the fog, in the snow, in the river. And he was never found.


Tantra Bensko teaches fiction writing through UCLA X Writing Program, Writers College, and her academy online. Her latest book is a Slipstream novella, Equinox Mirror, from ELJ and forthcoming in an SF novel from Driven Press. Her stories appear in publications such as Camroc Press Review, Mad Hatters Review, Women Writing the Weird I and II, Zymbol, Metazen, A-Minor, and Surreal South. She has an MA from FSU and MFA from the Iowa Writing Workshop. She’s also enjoyed making music, movies, art, and acting. She lives in Berkeley and her ancestors are from Bucks County, migrating from Palatine Germany. Find more at