OBSIDIAN for pipe organ and percussion quartet (2017)


ObsidianShard © by Ana Dueñas 2017

As early as the sixteenth century, Native Americans in Spanish missions were taught how to make and play organs.


the nature of stone is so easy to uncover      it requires

violence        sharp stone hitting        breaking the edges

cracks at the surface        revealing the fissures & fusions

like blood & muscle give way        to a sword


we had the right idea        there are so many ways to take

what eventually they’ll give away:        multifaceted macuahuitl

with teeth like a corncob        sickles for an easy crop

wide-armed blades        we lacerate them & return for ourselves


it doesn’t matter if it all falls away        we burn the fields

where linen-clothed peasants        bend        we cut the veins

at the neck        of our rivers        we watch the bleeding

lava        & call ourselves        conqueror


in white-faced buildings        you are taught to make


wooden shutters and thick-membraned lungs

& steel-necked pipes that breathe like a child


you sit in silence and think of the black beaded tears

seated in arranged rows like the tidy grains of corn and forget


the word you once had for your teeth


you dress your truths in the still robes of saints

and sing what hymns you remember from before


it is the hydraulic nature of survival


you press and there is        the gusting

of a bellows exhaling        & a nearly-human voice:


oh, I have seen the fall of an empire

oh, I have been here before


© Emily Khilfeh 2017