Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

AiOP 2017: SENSE- Thinker in Residence Sherese Francis’s Poems


Sherese Francis

The word poetry comes from the word Poiesis, which means “a creation” or “made thing.” A poem is as an invention, something realized from things we come across randomly. My experience at Art in Odd Places was mostly random encounters with the artworks. This was my first time and I didn’t look at the website before I came, so I felt lost walking around sometimes. But sometimes, out of the randomness, something beautiful can be created. As humans, our power of figurative language is our ability to connect random things together that seem to have no connection on the surface and that to me is mystical. For my posts, I wrote mystical poetry inspired by the art I came across on Friday and Sunday.


Art in Odd Places 10/13/17 The Journey Is Just As Important As the Art (A Prose Poem)

When you didn’t prepare beforehand and didn’t map out where to go:
Today’s color must have been green. I met a man dressed in green on a subway platform on my
way here. He was telling me the secrets of the world.
My week has been busy. Planning and doing. An exhibition of books. Hiding the secrets of the
world. I didn’t have time to prepare before coming here. To think about the art I would possibly
see. But it’s my first time. Today is Friday the 13th and I ended up here on 14th street. I decided
to wing it, not knowing where to go.
My phone full of online directions. My guide with a limited battery life. I exited the F train and
saw the Stone Wall Gnosis. I had no knowledge beforehand. Was it part of the event? Wasn’t
I kept walking.
I looked at my phone and it told me Avenue C. The L train. First Avenue. Where is the art? When
it comes to the street, anything can be art. Back to phone. Immaculate Conception. That was one
of the odd places. I walked inside. There was no sign of the art. I walked back out and saw two
men. I asked for directions to the art. They’ve seen that place before, but it’s not here. Maybe the
YMCA? It has all kinds of art.
I kept walking.
Wait. Was this one? Crocheted purple flowers on a gate? Yes! I kept walking, but this time like I

received a token to the next level. Still walking. I found nothing else. Union Square. The statue
of Ghandi. No one was there yet. The installation had not happened yet. A motto near the statue:
“there is more to life than increasing its speed.”
I kept walking.
Passing by the Salvation Army, I saw the art deco that I thought was supposed to be at
Immaculate Conception is here. And it was near the YMCA! Just not the east side one, but the
west side. Was that a trick? Maybe all journeys are a fight to the very end.
I kept walking.
A vintage shop. Beloved as a sign in the window. Next to it a record album of the Isle of Wight

rock festival. Jimi Hendrix headlined. I tried to find the Work Harder sign, but wasn’t sure if I
had to go into the gallery. I looked in the window and saw a group of men working. They saw
I kept walking.
Bathroom break. I rushed back to the YMCA. Shopping break. Picked up toothpaste for my
parents at Duane Reade. Returned to bathroom break. I saw the green monster with its head on
its hand giving out talismans. I promised myself to return. First bathroom break.
I walked back.
Adenoid was its name. Its head was its puppet. Its talisman. Adenoid asked me what I wished.
Said in this world everyone needs a talisman. All the powerful men in the world have one. Said
choose a talisman. There were elders’ hair, feathers with stones, squirrel heads and body parts,
and grass from the midwest. I chose an orange feather with a white stone that had a red dot. I
wished for safe travels home. The woman next to me chose a black feather. She wished for a
better leader than the one we have. Or at least that’s how I phrase it. Don’t want her getting in
I kept walking.
It’s funny how your mental state can change over the course of a day. Can affect your
appreciation for art. When I started I was tired. I wanted to reach a destination and see art, but
this journey demanded I search for it like looking for buried treasure. It wasn’t what I knew I
wanted, but I accepted what I got.
I got to keep walking.
A green box. Four diamonds for windows. I looked inside one and then another. The gods
blessed our minds with knowledge and we traveled the spaces of the world like astronauts. My
looking attracted others.
I kept walking.
I reached the High Line. I walked the stairs. I found a seat. I found rest. And here I am sitting
here staring at green shoots writing this. Green must have been today’s color.
I walk back.
I return to the Stone Wall Gnosis I saw at the start of this journey and saw as I passed down 14th
street again. An ancient wall with the secrets of the world.

Reception In an Odd Place

The firefly
has landed
on the back of my hand.
A dark inky imprint,
of my boots
on a mat of paper
like Matt’s
striped black and white
My other choice
would have been a bat
or a fish.
A red pyre passes
of a fallen Goddess
who rises once again;
a Goddess of love
named Lady K Fever
plays Maria Maria with her
smudge stick smoke swinging
through the air;
Saint Cabrini passes
and blesses all those in transition.
And I am drinking pomegranate sparkling
from Ed the master mixologist;
eating a moon pie
with a tricky fruit’s blood and curdling milk,
meeting old and new friends
through the oracle
of business cards,
being taken under
into this night
of collective
into this union
of art on the street.

Art in Odd Places 10/15/17 Whatever You Find Along the Way, Finds You (Invenio)

Blinded woman stands with two nurses at her side.
Her sign reads: We are all hungry.
The green monster Adenoid is there again
with its talismans.
The back of my throat has been swollen
from allergies early this week.
I need to remember to drink more water.
Collective Bargain: What do we want?
What are our demands?
Common sense by numbers —
14 hanging jerseys above
a sidewalk drawing of
“I’ll fight.”
Is the “We will rebuild” sign
on a pile of rubble part of it all?
Beloved is in a closed shop’s window.
An unexpected relay of rainbow dancers

and a rolling pipe pin

returns me to my point.
Piles of white paper made in the image
of fire wood, building an imagination of return.
Crocheted plastic flower and a promise

to refuse plastic, to use less,
to value things we see as valueless
like the ghost histories of objects we throw away,
their spectrographies, and unexpected meanings,
like candy corn and mints in the shape of the
Pythagorean theorem, in the shaping of all
the lineages that make up who you are.
I am a gathering station of creative wellness,

a fullness of herbs steeped into the waters of my body,
bush knowledges of my Caribbean ancestors and medicine makers.
Mother Cabrini blesses me as a beautiful spirit. Tells me
to hold onto it and to follow my heart. I find the tarot table

and a mix of cards. Card 14 is the card of Temperance. Balance.
Patience. Purpose. Meaning. Art. A woman seeking a reading
tells the story of the Kallikak family divided into a rich side
and a poor side. The question is always what is moral and
social success? Can the rich be moral? Can the poor be rich?
What is the secret behind why one ends up one way
and the other doesn’t? The bookmark and the seashell I take
without a reading. The expedition ends before I meet my friend
and I am still thinking of the team in white coats carrying their own flags,
a preaching man playing the mbira, next to green monster heads
in a red cart, rapping about all the ways the world could change.

Share Button