by Tantra Bensko (USA)

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No more, said the small man. No more. He turned, and walked away. That was the beginning of the show. The slight hint of reddened darkness started filling in the filigree of the trees, started dotting the i’s, started smudging the hair of the ladies with precise buns, started hearing the sounds of the children playing in the distance, and absorbing the sound into itself, sighing.

The sun was nearly set, on the Equinox, with a full Harvest moon. No one had called us together, but somehow, we had agreed on some other plane of our minds to gather to watch the moon. If we were in Hong Kong, we would be carrying paper lanterns this evening for the moon viewing holiday. Instead, we watched the place in the stillness where the small man disappeared into, walking in a way that combined deliberate sedateness and forceful determination, pride, and a sense of pride being demolished. The sounds began.

Cicadas, crickets, frogs, bats. And the as the breeze stirred, as was typical this time of the evening, insects coming out, the birds started feeding on them, and chirping. The magical thing about this is that bird songs are wonderfully integrated with the life of leaves. The sounds are well known to dilate the stomata, the tiny holes in the bottom surfaces of leaves which let the plants eat minerals themselves out of the air. And water from the air. The plants open their tiny mouths, like baby birds waiting to be fed, and the air itself feeds them, when the bird songs play for them.

We let ourselves relax further, leaning on each other, letting our heads droop on each other’s shoulders, sighing. We eventually sat down on the ground, first a couple, then all of us. Our surroundings were vague, darkening around the edges, with the sense of non locality, as the moon would be up any moment, and people would be seeing it all over the place.

Gasses were going in and out of the holes in the epidermises of very large leaves all around us. The holes are opened and closed by the guard cells, one on each side of the stoma, which are shaped something like the vulva lips. They become charmed by the beauty of the songs, allowing entry, penetration of the nutrients of the world itself, to become one with them. Because it is a wet enough season, they remain more open than they would if it were dry, when they would close to hold in the moisture.

We were being in the moment, with nothing to distract us from the leaves around us, the moon, the coolness of the ground against us. We weren’t remembering the past, or imagining the future, not disagreeing or thinking on arguments to continue later. Nothing dramatic needed to be happening other than the breathing in and out of carbon dioxide around us, and the changing of the source of light from bright, with many explosions these days in solar flares, to reflected, and extra large.

The stomata were opening juicily. The darkness was going inside them. The show was beginning to unfold as being nothing. With the small man walking away, there was peace. There was the promise of a large orange moon of the Harvest of leaves. There were happy birds. And there was us. None of us had anything to say that had a bit of conflict in it, to each other. We didn’t feel like talking and breaking the bird song miracle once I pointed out the stomata. We didn’t want a crowd full of words to drown out the precise level of sound needed to open the little holes, innocent little things, trusting.

Being so quiet let us go into trances, as if we were dreaming awake, our unconscious letting fleeting colorful images to float among us, tweaking us on the cheeks, dancing over our heads, and the children were already experiencing hypnagogia, images that occur before sleep that would be dreams if we were  just on the other side of alpha brainwaves, into the theta waves. Few people cultivate this moment long enough to notice it’s going on. Others, like myself, we thrive on it, make it last, ask it questions, write down the images, glowing little colorful stories bizarre and lit up the more we meditate.

The stomata allow carbon dioxide to move in the leaves so they can photosynthesize. And because there is too much carbon dioxide now in the world, there are only a fraction of the number of stomata enjoying themselves in the underparts of leaves.

The hynpagogia of the children was starting in infect us all, as their heads would start to nod, but recover themselves, and that became as contagious as yawns.

The leaves had been breathing out water all day in the heat, to keep cool, through their stomata. Panting, sweating. This was the first time in 20 years that autumn begins on a full moon, the moon that rises  as the sun sets.

Really, I am only alone. Really, I am in the present. There were no people who gathered together on this evening. I am imagining them, though the sounds of the birds really open the stomata for the evening, before the tiny holes close up for the night, keeping moisture in. I have seen no humans for so long, I make them up to tell to you in stories, as if they really existed, but I am not sure they do. It has been months. I sing to the trees in the same sounds as birds, and no one knows it. But now, you do. You, who may or may not be in Romania.

I am dreaming of Capidava, wishing I were there again, on the Danube, in a little boat, Romanian cows standing on the edge of the water, looking at me. The cows looked at me, timelessly, and I looked at them. But when a man came up to us, they all turned silently away, immobile, no sign of considering looking at him. Perhaps it was because he ate cows, and I did not. I am thinking of the past, not the present. I am wanting it to be the future.

Though no one is here, I am creating drama for myself by longing. Wanting to see the animals walk down the roads, by the cars, no one caring, because they know their way back home. Wanting to drink Palinka that someone has made and given to me under the Romanian moon, drinking out of jars. Wanting to eat fish tail soup, as much as I didn’t like it at the time. The image of it has never left me, and makes me happy.

I have been touched by no one for many months. I have heard no one’s voice but the birds. I have wandered alone in the night. I have not much slept. So, instead, I dream awake in stories, for you.

Really, I live with my bedbound grandfather, and his caregiver, who is 75. In my dream head, I am alone, totally alone. The only touch I have is when I help change his diapers, roll him over to the edge of the bed and hold onto him against the abyss he sees opening up on the other side of his bed rails, about to swallow him. I am brave. I keep him from falling into nothingness. I am the voice of somethingness. Yet, how odd, as to me, I am the voice of nothingness. I flow from one to the next through Grandpa’s snores.

I hear their voices, Grandpa and his caregiver, but they are so, so very different from the voices in my head. They have ways that I don’t have, and have to hide mine from. Our ideas of life are generations different, many. I love them, and they love me. His caregiver is a proud woman, capable, attentive to every detail. “We just had a nice big bowel movement,” she says. Better than the other days, when she reports, showing me with her fingers slightly apart, “He was constipated bad today. Only this much came out, and it was hard as a rock.”

I massage his feet, which are full of fungus, the nails having to be cut with yard clippers. They are thick and yellow with white fuzz. The skin on his feet flakes off, and there is often redness. We discuss the slight swelling in the ankles, make notations. We notate everything, from his blood sugar to his blood pressure, heart rate, color of his urine in the catheter bag, if he is losing or gaining stomach roundness, how much wax and fungus come out of his ears using ear candles that pull them out, while they burn at the top, suction doing its job.

I massage his back, and dream of Capidava.

We catalog the hypnogogia he has while awake. Help him understand his dementia in terms of quantum physics, his favorite explanation for it all, the parallel worlds we go into, that we can be in at the same time. How to get from one to the next seamlessly, without danger. How all the people he sees around him are not real in the sense that we also see them. But other times, we can’t tell him that.

We navigate the moments when we can and can’t, as if we don’t tell him the truth, and he catches us at is, he is angry about it forever. Yet if we don’t catch the invisible money flying by in the breeze from the holes he sees in the walls, he feels broke. The tiny 75 years old lady leaps about the room catching dollars that don’t exist between her slender fingers with great charm and precision.

Yet, talking to someone my age, someone to love in a different way, to laugh with about jokes we understand, cavort with physical humor, playacting we are bugs, or fish that eat bugs, or both at the same time, has not occurred in several months. Looking at the face of someone handsome, touching his face, seems like something that may never again occur, as I am here as long as this man lives, in the forest, and I don’t drive, and I have no friends here, in this isolation they call Alabama. My friends are the birds, the trees, the rocks. I love them. They touch me, as does the wind, and the light from the moon, and the sun.

Really, it has only been a few months of seeing no one but them. But the last months when someone was here, my husband with me, in this house, he touched me not. He no longer looked me in the eyes with awe, touched my face, kissed my lips. No longer compressed his forehead, angling his face at me intensely, saying Thank you, with never any explanation. No longer made small grunts inside his throat when moving suddenly in spasms of joy and playfulness, and sinuous enjoyment of his form. No longer reached and touched my leg with electric jolts of spirit power longing for my own.

He slept upstairs. When we drove, we looked ahead. We didn’t talk. His lips grew thinner, more compressed, and paler, less expressive. His cheeks grew gaunter. I would read to him of silence, of solitude, of the poetry of the ocean, until I cried too much to speak. He had gone into a vow of silence. A vow of celibacy. Of  eating only grain. A vow to exist in the silence, to hear the birds, to open and close himself in the quiet nurturing of the night, breathing in oxygen, breathing in the timeless, the eternal oneness, until he left, to live in a sailboat, on the western sea.

Jupiter is as close as it has been to the earth and the sun both, in  60 years, and it’s casting a purple haze. There are moon around it, two to the left, and two to the right. Jupiter and the full moon are conjunct tonight. For the Equinox. Grandpa’s caregiver and Papa both asked me what an Equinox was, when I told them. I told them about the different rituals done through the whole. I mentioned blood. Neither one of them ever goes outside. I go out every day, and every night.

The northern hemisphere of our living sun sent out two magnetic filaments and a solar flare erupted.

A solar wind is reaching us today from a coronal hole in the sun. Random meteoroids flew as fireballs across western United States.

I don’t feel real. I feel like one of Grandpa’s hallucinations, as I hide my real self from him and his caregiver. My beliefs are not their beliefs. My behaviors are not theirs. My words are not their words. My secrets are not their secrets.

I spray them with neem against spiders. I bring them apple cider vinegar to drink.  I read to them of physics. The sound of her catalog page by page turning, accompanying my words. My Grandpa snores while awake.

Pope Benedict  has only 5 days ago given the Queen of England a copy of The entire Codex Aureus of Lorsch, a German illuminated gospel manuscript of great worth illuminated with artistry by monks. This manuscript was ripped into pieces because of the ripping in pieces between the Catholics and the Protestants. It was taken forcibly from a library amidst the 30 years war in the 17th Century, for the sake of greed, was split into two pieces, as well as the covers being removed. This made it more sallable.

The two halves telepathically speak to each other, between the Vatican, and Romania, in Alba Uluia, across distance. And they long for the covers, in London and Rome.

Grandpa’s room becomes inhabited by invisible people regularly, and he talks with them, holding out his hands, but they won’t speak. Day after day, he tries to understand. He asks them why, tries new techniques to coax them, bribe them, berate them, cry to them, to make them speak. Silence always.

I love Romania, I tell you. If my heart must stay within its sleeve, at least the fullness of it can send its solar flares of passionate devotion and admiration, love, and longing, towards Romania. The Roma language, making every person beautiful. The incredible houses, each one exciting as can be, to me. And all my photographs are gone. Gone.

My life would be quiet, peaceful, here and now, and almost is, were it not for a mild dismay at missing Romania. But that’s not bad, a silence I live in, a nearly nothingness, a lining up of dreamlike symbols for my life in levels, in myths.

A girl lies in Grandpa’s bed, painting her toenails. A flaming donkey’s hoof dangles above him, wafting ashes on him. A committee of old people, about to die, in a cathedral, give him something bitter to drink as he approaches the alter, and he faints.

Really, I am my father’s hallucinations and dreams of me, which he has trouble disentangling from his waking world. I am  living in a haze, coming and going, weakened by the solar flares. I live on many levels, all true in a dreamlike fashion, all untrue yet, and hidden. The solar flares he doesn’t know about. But he feels them, and that makes his dreams of me more potent, makes my life intense, and strange, anomalously unified, lit up like ancient art, holistic, yet torn in two, as if a Codex in a war, to be sold down the road on the black market.

Solar flares rip patterns in two. They say that make people change into something else. Become completely different from who they were. The solar flares were quiet for 11 years. Now, they rage, we rage.

Really, Grandpa is still waiting for me to come to stay with him. He wishes I were there, but his doctor won’t let me visit. He says it would only confuse him, and he is too disoriented, sometimes believes I’m there, already. And he feels he couldn’t take the pain of seeing me so lonely, out there, alone. It would eat him up. Though he is blind, he is empathetic.

The Schumann frequency of the earth is increasing and the magnetic field of the Earth is decreasing as it slows in it’s rotation. They say that makes us split up with our loves, go deep inside. Forget. The sunspots are going from years of quiescence and peaking into noise, so people now are brash in moves, in break ups, in suicides. And the 100 year big one is overdue.

The decay rate of radioactive isotopes slows right before a solar flare. Some in a laboratory will know before the world goes nuts.

I don’t worry; I just breathe. In and out of Quantum foam, manifesting, unmanifesting, black, white, awake, asleep, alive, less obviously alive. Quantum foam reminds me of stomata, the tiny holes theorized by physicists to make up the surface of reality that let it breathe into miniscule black holes, and through the worm holes, out the white holes.

I want to open, to hear the sun’s music play open my stomata, my little black holes, my heart, my voice  my silence. To tell the truth. As Grandpa’s snores make him shuffle, wag his hands, and open his eyes more wide, more fiercely blue inside sharp corners, turned towards me unseeing, blind, seeing me nonetheless as I have told you, me, not there, me, alone, or me, with invisible friends who will not speak, or me with visible love who will not speak again. Who will not stay. Who was never really with me to begin with. Really.

Tantra Bensko, MFA, teaches Experimental Fiction Writing online. She is the author of Watching the Windows Sleep, published by Naissance Press, and has had over 120 creative writing publications in magazines, winning awards. She is a proponent of Lucid Fiction. She runs a website, where she publishes exclusive work by authors exemplifying Experimental Writing. She lives in rural Alabama. She taught at Atlantykron, in Romania, where she stayed for some time, the most wonderful place she has been.


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