:: Article

Naked in Front of Strangers #5

By Kimberly Nichols


Being in love doesn’t mean you lose the ability to be snarky now and again,

peeking beneath the sheets at dawn, hiding from the light together.


Like my discovery of Plato’s cave in high school, I am constantly aware

that the shadows I see on the wall are projected from my own imagination

and very rarely similar to the world of everyone else around me.


The scroll saw cuts a line, imperfectly fine and willing to be stitched,

like his eyeball from under a pillow; two humans forging

like rent flesh into a prickled union that blooms soft and complete.


My comfort zone breathes where the weeds do: forging their way through

the sidewalk cracks, simultaneously hungry for sun yet grateful

for the gracious shelter their roots find deep in cement.


Even the cacti belie a tender core.


Performing surgery through my art, cutting mistakes out of cardboard

like cherry fibromas, the reveal of hanging ganglion,

layers of ink sopping raw, exposed edges.


Sometimes ugly equals invaluable, sometimes the most beautiful

things are not pretty. Sometimes I drip with vulnerability

and it flops, clumsy.


A mentor tells me, “We have always strengthened ourselves with creation.”


He is special because he coaxed me outward from my shell, wanting to feel.

Does he know this? That I walk open for him? Or have I fooled him

like all the others who think I’m comfortable in the spotlight?


The electric company leaves a barricade sign outside from my front gate

all night, blinking red, as if to tell the world I’m open for business.

And I am, as my sidewalk is friend to sleeping hobo, injured child,

other humans on the lam from life as we’ve been told to know it.


Small white butterflies attack my face as I pour buckets

of water on jasmine vines to spruce the wilted flowers back alive

underneath the oppressing summer sun and its fickle

and precocious gloves of humidity.


Humble and succumbing, I’m learning as I go.


Kimberly Cooper Nichols is an artist, writer and social anthropologist living in Venice Beach, California. She has been exhibiting for over a decade as a conceptual artist in the United States and is the author of the book of literary short fiction Mad Anatomy. She also serves as editor for the socially progressive journal Newtopia. She is a contributing editor to 3:AM where her serial poetry column Naked in Front of Strangers appears regularly. She is currently at work on her second book King Neptune’s Journey as well as a 22-piece conceptual art project titled FOOL.



First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, July 21st, 2013.