:: Article

Naked in Front of Strangers #4

By Kimberly Nichols.


When I show up to the canvas it happens,

And when I show up to the brush, out it bleeds

Or when I glance out from the upstairs window

To see him planting trellises

For verdant green grapes in ninety nine degree heat

Waves in an earthquake-laden summer

The fragility of life calls it forward as well.


This is a time of friends who disown me

Because I disown the role of keeping them constantly entertained

Or seeding their penchant for dramatic overture

In a life that’s half over and not worth the effort,

Instead valuing the downward spiral

Of going inwards to that place where the underworld fox breathes,

Holding up palms full of red currant berries

And secrets that make the blood thicken.

And I kick myself for waiting this late

For biding so much time within parts unaccounted for

In the grandiose scheme of all that is meaningful

And it’s not lonely here although I am more alone than ever.


Looking is birthed from another bone than seeing.

Seeing requires a slow pulsing patience.

It’s the Persian sign on the main street hotel

Where little boys dressed up for a wedding giggle over a balcony

At all the bosom tops they spy from their elevated advantage,

Or the boy in front of the laundromat

Reading the Count of Monte Christo

At four p.m. on Monday

Across the street from the Japanese man throwing seeds

On the library lawn that will soon sprout

Strawberries and my neighbor yells

Shrilling things at the homeless man asleep beneath my fencepost

While I discreetly wish him sweet dreams.


My poetic panic is gone, my political unease.

It’s not that I still don’t activate often,

It’s merely that life has slowed down to accompany the breeze

Seen now through the lens of a large spanning arc,

Between the old sparks of ignition

And the mellowness that folds in beneath the skin

When one gives in to choosing one’s battles carefully

And with keen discernment.


Walking alone in the San Fernando Valley I notice new trees,

Hispanic men pruning their prized blood orange groves

While trained pit bulls protect backyards full of machinery

And the world breaks into a thousand shards of colorful strata.


It happens when I show up to the keyboard, too

When in blinding moments I am broadsided by grace

And by the soft yet guttural realization

That my muse is, and always has been,

Love, and I embrace it.


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 Neptune’s Journey as well as a 22-piece conceptual art project titled FOOL.


First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, May 13th, 2013.