:: Article

Naked in Front of Strangers #6

By Kimberly Nichols


Cans of Bud, like

patriotic jewels popped at four,

an afternoon at King Eddy’s; androgynous

silver haired men, iPod-listening

Hispanics, white

and blue striped button ups and a

screaming queen, drunk since noon.


And me and he,

sidled up together,

knee to knee ‘neath sticky bar,

happiest in hundred year old places.


Old-timer in flannel

who won’t shut up

like the guys in black and white movies

who foil mobsters

in getaway alleys

with toothless City of Angels grins.


We’re hanging out again

in hundred year old spaces, dark

and stormy for me, bourbon

for him and a gracious young

waitress good at humoring the lecher’s grin.


Two half bearded hipsters,

or gay lovers,

or entertainment executives,

linger in the lonely section,

under a badly made painting,

hot handed, wet-panted;

a man jumps in for a moment,

off the street for a tequila shot,

gulped down with beads of booze

glistening on his blackened chin.


We might as well be at the VFW,

with Dodgers on every TV in town

and old radios line the shelving dusty as death,

frozen here, wrinkles engraved

beneath the doorman’s eyeballs.


Some people use this place

as a boozy office, some sit and stare,

burping sound bites every so often

about old dramatic scenes in their lives.


I know drunks, been around them for years,

they’re kind of like blankets

when you just want to disappear, here

a guy is squawking, his loudness

booms all over the place,

he’s ranting about kissing a girl,

forty years ago so his parents would think he was straight.

Booze is good when you want to resolve stories,

go on broken record mode,

or let the subconscious do its work in broad daylight.

People watching people, the sound

of silence in two ice cubes clinking amongst

the otherwise chaotic din.


They’re still playing Bye Bye Miss American Pie

as my black vinyl purse hits my knee

underneath the bar enough times

to give me a bruise and it’s summer,

when dark bars glint even brighter

and lingering here lies hope,

oddly enough, breaking

up afternoons of pounding the pavement.


Between art, love and entertainment,

we come here, the slouch down at the end

says he was fired last New Year’s Eve

and his mustache reminds me of uncles,

I’m too bright in my red and orange dress

but not my furrowed brow, or the way I slug the last

sip from my glass.

I write poetry on my thigh down below

where no one can see, I tell my

boyfriend that I used to write in bars alone,

a lot when I was twenty.


Those were the days when I was searching,

not so much for clues in others,  but those

lurking within myself. Now

I’m forty and everyone is wearing watches,

counting time or limiting the drink, not us,

we’ve got all the time in the world,

after a while the door to the street looms electric

like a bright white beacon to the other side

and we in our cave become accustomed to each

other, no longer stealing glances, vetting

and surveying the chance between the cracks

slumped over in the comfort zone at the bottom

of our drinks, a casual hour as

marshmallow time passes.


Kimberly Cooper Nichols is an artist, writer and social anthropologist living in Los Angeles, 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. Follow her on Twitter @ LITGFOA.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, October 31st, 2013.