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Home Fires

Instrumentation: Sop., B.Cl., Bsn., C Tpt., Vla., Vc., D.B

Duration: 12:00 min.


Written for Isaac Mayhew's Ember Septet.

Text by Bonney Ruhl.

Program Note:

Zea Mays 

Home is, for some, a place of comfort,

warm arms and soft embraces and 

safety. But for others, for me, home is 

an origin point, a place of my creation, and comfort

plays no part in it. When I think of the place

I was born, and the house in which I was raised, I cannot deny 

that it has shaped me into who I am, although it was not 

gentle, twisted me into shapes that will never unbend; 

not a cradle, but a crucible.

--Bonney Ruhl



“Home Fires” by Bonney Ruhl

These are things I know to be true: the corn is high, above my head and when the wind comes it bends and rushes like waves on the shore, how it undulates in the wind; the sense of scale of it beneath the sky. You can walk in among the rows, and watch it bend under you--they never run perfectly straight, you never emerge where you wanted to.

Like the ocean floor, the ground at the base of the stalks is silent and lifeless. I am safe in the corn, sheltered by their tall stalks, hidden from view. Nothing can reach me inside the corn, no people, no fires…

No-one knows who started them, if anyone started them,


Summer is dry, and hot, and accidents do happen

Almost worse if they were accidents, because that means they were not the actions of another human but just life unfolding, relentless and unstoppable.


During the inevitable blackouts, the candles would be brought out


How many are lit? Keep track, no more than five at a time, and always within sight. Can you see them all?


What if I knock one over? Accidentally? On purpose?


I would never, I would never


But I think of it, obsessively, even when the candles are extinguished and put away. It would be so easy, so easy


A thousand rituals to drive away the feeling, to rid myself of the fear, to make everything good:


I walk along the rows of corn, chanting: "Annihilation, Immolation, Isolation:" their meanings less important than the way they feel on my tongue, vowels! Bursting consonants! A desperate prayer for things to be alright.


I stand outside my house for almost an hour, unable to go any further, unable to bear the pressure of doing it wrong and ruining the safety.


I go into the corn, where I will be safe.


Stay tuned for the premiere!


© 2019, Adam Zolty

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