The Smell of Good Mud by Lauren Zungia

Lauren Zuniga is a nationally touring poet and teaching artist. She is the founder of Oklahoma Young Writers, a nonprofit organization committed to exciting young people about language. In 2010, she was nominated for State Poet Laureate. She serves on the board of the evocative art gallery, IAO, and is listed on the touring roster for the Oklahoma Arts Council. She has competed in nine national level poetry competitions. She has worked as a vacuum saleslady and a political therapist. She currently lives with her two kids at Clementine Women Artist Collective in Oklahoma City. The Smell of Good Mud is available from Write Bloody Publishing and at


The photographer says she can’t wait until my next “opening.”
I start to correct her and say With poetry, it’s called a reading,
 or a performance or a slam. Then I realize maybe that’s the problem. So I step on my loud and say,

“Yes. Please come to my next opening!”

It will not be all good light and gallery smiles but I will fresh slice the walls for you,
hang my absurd and wait for the wine to spill.

It’s been a long time since I’ve shown anything.

Notice the ten foot installation of Talks Too Much. I eat margarine when I’m nervous. I get nervous when you like me. I describe things poetically
to keep from saying what I really think.

This one here is my father.
 Notice his head asleep on the stove. 
His hands bloated like a drunken liver.
 I drink when I can’t decide who to be.
 I starve when decide I’m too much. 
I am angry, 
almost never.
 Which means you best prepare yourself
 for the nasty awkward that will rain down upon you, when I decide some things deserve my fucking angry. 
I fall in love like some women fall in mortgage.
 I have damn near become my mother. 
Minus five husbands and a bad case of arthritis.
I am still cracking knuckles and divorcing. 
I am terrified that my children will ask why I didn’t 
try harder. I am never alone. Never ever alone.
I go to crowded places where we sit, with a small plate
 of cheese and fruit, cock our head to one side and say,
”I can’t believe someone pinned my stomach to a canvas.”

That is why we do this.

This is an invitation to stop swallowing the art in your mouth.
 This is an invitation to stop ripping yourself apart.
 This is an invitation to be a live nude. Let them draw you dirty, flawed and glistening. This is an invitation to 
your opening.

The Night We Plucked One Thousand Prickly Pear Burrs From Her Ass

was strangely erotic. Each time the tweezers grabbed hold of a small stinging ghost, 
her butt cheeks winced and the backs of her thighs tightened like the nervous flinch of a first kiss.

It had to be arousing for her too. To be sprawled naked on the chaise, each freckle pierced, 
our fingers eagerly rubbing her pink skin to
feel for its sharp shadow.

As we worked, we laughed about the epic headlock, the cackle, the crashing bush.
 PBR cans strewn across the lawn,
 fireworks shaking the horizon like the last grimy hour of a warehouse rave. We never out-grow explosion.
We bitched about how our cycles had been forced into each other, how blood in the compost heap seems to attract animals, how we’ve forgotten how to be animals and how he
will never really love her.

We didn’t talk about how we found her. How we could hear the guttural sobs
all the way from the living room, the hot shower only rinsing the sound, a porcupine curled up in a thin stream of mascara.

We just plucked.

As if each burr were a moment of pain, caught, wiped on the warm washcloth and replaced with the forgiving lust 
of friends.

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