No Sad Songs in the House of the Sun
Poem by Shauna Osborn
A father taught his five-year-old
to memorize where they were
in relation to the air force base
no matter where they went:
the grocery store
her cousins’ house.
He said it was important
in case anything bad happens:
coordinated air attacks —
& when it happened,
whatever it was,
she had to run toward the base
as fast as she could,
tearing the clothes
off her body
if she saw a sky full of smoke.
He said this would be a better,
hopefully instant death,
rather than the excruciating
slow death that would happen
if she were too far away.
The daughter found pictures of explosions,
bombs, & air attacks
the next time they went to the library.
The books were thick,
so heavy the father had to help get them
from shelf to table for her.
Books so old, so dusty,
housing lots of dark type
on bible-thin paper
with gray & black pictures
just like the old encyclopedias
her uncle had at home.
The destruction pictures
she found were funny —
like huge clouds
landed on the ground,
too tired & fat to float.
A kindergarten teacher
had her class draw their families
for show & tell one day.
So the daughter drew herself, her sister,
& her dead brother — stick arms joined,
rushing toward the spot
their longer-legged parents
had just abandoned on the page.
All moving closer
to the crayoned iridescent gold,
burnt orange, & dandelion waves
coming from where the air base had once been —
waxy bright waves of doom
she thought were gorgeous,
like sunset hitting clean river water.
SHAUNA OSBORN is a Comanche / German mestiza who works as an instructor and community organizer in Albuquerque. She received her MFA from New Mexico State University and has won various awards for academic research, photography, and poetry, including a National Poetry Award from New York Public Library. Find her at her website.
First Place Winner of the 2013 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry