Rest &
For those who we've lost, and for those still hanging on.

You are entering a portal, a virtual expansion of Naudline Pierre's installation as part of This Longing Vessel, the 2019–20 Studio Museum Artist in Residence exhibition on view at MoMA PS1 through March 14, 2021. This digital space, where you’ll find written and sonic reactions to the paintings in the exhibition, is and is not a memorial. This is a space where you can breathe deeply, remembering. It is and always will be, an intentional space for Black femmes to imagine, re-imagine, imagine again, and then imagine some more.


Ras Cutlass

You have once imagined this apartment as a tomb. You walk around sullen and organless, crossing the rooms at odd angles. At night you feel your insides melting at your feet and evaporating. And every morning feels like a cliff calling to you.

You roll over. You sleep in fits with a pillow against your face.

You have been told about this train we’re on a long time ago. Barreling toward an unseen ravine, the future.

The arrow of time said, progress! is a bedtime story for kids with perfect attendance and kids who never seen the inside of a courtroom. Health and Happiness is an elevator you missed by birthright. It’s been said that you will always live for labor and crumbs and half-homes, half-lives in fear of being torn away from the scraps of love and safety you was thrown as a forgotten, street thing. And that you and your friends will always be running, running, ahead of the lawman and the landlord and the boss and the Mother and the Father.

You will wake and sit delirious and sleepless in the deep of the dark morning by the south-facing window, wondering why nothing or no one you touch out there ever stays with you, in here. And why you always end up by yourself in the nights and the mornings. Alone on this freight train, barreling with just see-through memories, and the terror of your own thoughts.

A few times you were brought, or you brought yourself, or you were called, or pulled, to the end of the line. So you know what it means to decelerate. It’s become tradition for you, head on collision with Void—barreling into brick walls from young.

All those times, something about you scrambled for a root on the way down to grab onto and hang on to. Something about that shrinking skylight as you plunged had you digging your fingers into the clay, blood all dripping down your wrists. This ain’t it boo.

God shared a secret with a prophet you met in a strip mall church in Delaware one time, when you was fourteen and things were locked up in you like a fireproof safe. When you was a little automaton prone to freezes and glitches and constriction. God told the prophet you’d stay hard to kill,

but you didn’t hear Her.

You know now there’s hard work in catatonia, stillness, in inhabiting tombs and tomb-shaped space. Any haunt, any good one, any black hole knows the pain of tending pain, the call to work the aches til they’re all you have. To rest is not to be dead.

When you jumped this Arrow, you stayed looking over your shoulder for the rot of birth and colony and genocide. Stayed looking back so long, you never noticed you been living, growing older. This apartment was a womb this whole time, and you been gestating.

Spent so much time living in disbelief, living like a fugitive on time you thought you stole. And you think this is why the things I love slip between my fingers. Half-dead, who could even see me? Or want me?

On this dark morning, it will occur to you that perhaps time is not a weapon, but a thickness of fabrics, some layers gauzy and porous, others a maze of brocade and knit. Perhaps you are not a fugitive, but a lighthouse. All the ones you almost were are not lost. They buoy along your shores.

Then the early morning sun will reach into that south facing window and fill your gaze with light. You have never seen something so beautiful as the possibility of a new day, the raw radiation of space, and the machinations of perception that allow you to feel this Star’s cool winter heat.

May you live for one moment in utter stillness, root into the armchair like a monument. Invite warmth, you stone.

May the soldiers march past your quiet chrysalis, mistaking you for shrapnel and refuse.

May you live against the Empire with rest and joy in the time you have taken for yourself.

May you release the false binaries of Death and Life, and remember you are ever becoming, however catatonic.


Mimi Tempestt

angel-devil woman

withstands radiant levels

of torturing


her youth flies


into a cloudy ethos

the hyperion of thought-springs

whimpers promise from over her shoulder

bitten by an immortal eye
her begging asks

too soon?

infinite is soon enough.

her flight is ripened by infinite doldrums

in cyclical shades

of a rainbow who knows when

to bend itself into a black hole

allow its serpentry to swallow

its own tail & rebirth heaven again

calypso enchantment cooing calm until calamity conquers their odyssey

galaxy is an overture

universe is a hym

her woes take flight amongst a symphony of rigel

rays shine sweet eastward

glowing glory from her breasts

she must be forever to them

& forever must be a souring fruit

bitten eternally digesting malleable seasons

galaxy is an overture

universe is a hym

like lilith in eden









callously cloned


unfulfilling as unholy

incongruous in nature

inoculate to their incomplete

the mitosis of her being denies their depths

if we bow to listen closely

we dare to hear

her song rings so sweet

I’d give you my tongue and swallow my fury if i thought it could save me My tulip memories have been reduced to loops of a phoenix youth, so ever-present To experience my feminine essence as godly and lady You’d have to understand the moon’s glimmers when she is full, dark, and in crescent

I’d close my eyes and never wake up if I remembered the nevering of tomorrow You see I was in love once, and now once means never Swallowing meaning-making disguised as hollow This heart yearns so loud within the possibility of together

And when I land, let my limbs be torn into a feast for my own kind Let the black fire be the place of my decay and rest My wings will resurrect from the mitosis of my own mind Then I will take flight unto another nebula’s nest

her eternal body as sacrifice

to enable their sins

their sins as seeds

to fertilize her eternal body

her wings

like velvet petals

peeled back

downtrodden by acid rain

the resurrection
the decomposition
into angel dust

her birth name


composed majestically of

dark matter

seraphim ensembled


wickedly winged

terraformed into mama

cherub maiden

twilight their tender eyes

the next passage through proxima



Drink Me Down

Naudline Pierre

Hold me up; I feel like I could fall, she thought.

“Can I open myself here? She heard her voice crack, thick with feeling. “Do you have enough vessels to hold my insides?”

“Yes,” the being seemed to say. Cerulean skin glowing. Broad, feathered breasts glistening.

Another being bent down to softly kiss her left foot. She shivered. The breath from their nostrils tickled her ankle. The being hadn’t opened their mouth, yet somehow she heard them speak. It was as if they shared a sliver of each other’s minds. An odd but welcome sensation, their presences vibrated within her head.

Violet feathers brushed the back of her knee as the being’s dark and glassy eyes said, “Yes, we will.”

There was warmth behind her lids and such a tightness in her throat. She wanted to melt and be absorbed by every celestial figure gathered around her. Just to feel what it would be like to be inside somebody else.

Drink me down.

She wanted to be soft and mushy. She wanted to be ensconced in her feelings, and their affections. Protected.

Wings flapped above her, and she looked up. Fire.

A blazing, glowing being kissed her in that tiny spot between her nose and mouth. There was a burning sensation, but it wasn’t painful.

A cool flame began to take over her limbs. The transformation had begun.

In that liminal space, she closed her eyes and waited for another kiss.


Jessica W. Bonds, LCSW-R

My name is Jessica Bonds and I am a licensed clinical social worker, Reiki practitioner, and sound therapist. I am honored to present a guided sound bath meditation, inspired by the work of Naudline Pierre in the exhibition This Longing Vessel: Studio Museum Artists in Residence 2019–2020 at MoMA PS1.

Pierre creates ecstatic scenes where Black femme figures of celestial origin embrace, nurture, and protect each other amid golden yellows, emerald greens, vivid blues, and magentas.

Drawing on religious imagery, Pierre’s paintings feature the recurring presence of an alter ego anointed by ancestral beings, depicted at grand-scale in works like Guardian (in Yellow) and Guardian (in Green).

With different instruments and sounds, I will gently guide your mind and body to a deep meditative state that will access the warmth and protection provided by your loving guardians.

[Jessica leads a series of guided mindful breathing & relaxation exercises.Listen to the full sound bath here.]

Sunshine and mist

Blessings abound

When you seek answers

I am your truth

When you fear the darkness

I am your light

I am your Guardian of Dawn

When you are stuck and struggle to move forward

I am your motivation

I am the alchemist of your future

I am the foundation from which you expand

I am the guardian of the land

Sometimes solitude and self-discovery are frightening

Sometimes the soul craves a connection

I am here to hold you, nurture and suckle you.

Never fear I am always near

And when the loneliness and fear lead you to place of want,

do not despair

Hold tight, fight

for I will appear.

I am your rock and your guide through tumultuous water.

When doubt resurges and the way is not clear

Remember I am there

I will lift you up

I am the presence you feel

I am the security you imagine

Honor me as I honor you

Nurture me!

When you recognize your true purpose

You will see my heart is yours

My strength, my courage, my cunning and my knowledge, I endow to you!

Stand in your true power, knowing that you are never alone.

Your guardians are here always.


kiki nicole

golden shovels with Naudline Pierre, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Hippolyta Freeman | thru Toni Morrison

sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror & don’t know who she think her is —

on the brink of civil war, I can’t afford to give a shit. altar-ego, take my hands. survival

a performance I be pretending. maybe I laughed then, for the world was small & I was enough.

I knew how to tether it, like sewage in my throat. flimsy hoard of refuge don’t deserve no song. I

want more at the end of this wretched shell, this longing vessel. I want to begin again. want :

dangerous when moving. even if I claim this Nowhere it act like it don’t want me no more

I say void as it is a space traditionally believed to be completely empty; to which I counter—
To whom?


who    always    been in    your clearing      who pre-formed   you   who
pushed a    loving   flesh     a      yung     dough kneaded this   fresh    work
you were   made for this in all    your syllables   +   cavernous   want
here      dreaming  lasts all day our gift      to you take the body + begin again
so wild habitual be     anchor from titty-heft    to remember your wings,   grow horizontal
bent at   the core  —listen !   that gut speak !  what we been tellin you all along

+ a freedom dream

( My favorite dream is the one where a bitch can actually get some rest | who
do I gotta be to get free / where what awaits for me is a bed of amethyst sent
by my muthamuthas /shaped in our dark image/ nigga-esque / where up in here, you
and I will live / long, Black lives /un-nation my speech / I have no record of tongue here /
where we drip so heavy / we pour ourselves out / from ourselves / so
can I sleep on my own lips tonight / who do i gotta free / this language broken /

this sanguineous body anthem /sang me to rest here / it called our name /
this void ours to portal / wild habitat home /sometimes I forget yourself — )

I have no desire to become a person to a stranger. I
ain’t got time to be any less than all that I am.


I deserve to be interrupted by care : I feel most free when i get away with living :: dance a yung
ragtime : flesh of my fresh :: every nigger is a : selection of spirits :: fire : memory :: everyone inside
me says : hello :: I sharpen my overbite : steamset a finger curl coiled :: by wings :: mentally,: i’m
here :: a hot thing : stained :: with : pink : Uniqua from Backyardigans pink : not pink like
[redacted] :: i wear : my muthas skin :: every nigger is : we! : alla : ‘em :: the same breathing : Space
(forgot) :: ungeography : my body :: I be laughing in mirrors thinking I’m alone : with myselfs ::
cackle : eyes :: Us Gamma Rays : ha! : whatchu think was gon happen? :: does the growing upset
you? : very well, :: ( it has been so long since we had me    all to         myself )

*All of the poems in THIS IS FLESH I’M TALKING ABOUT, except one, are an example of a Glowing Shovel, an alternative to Terrance Hayes’s Golden Shovel form, in which the last word of each line forms a pre-existing poem or lines, specifically from the work of Gwendolyn Brooks. The Glowing Shovel is a riff on that form using lines from the work of varying Black artists at the beginning or end of each line that kiki learned from taking a workshop facilitated by poets Simone Person and Rachel Wiley at the Pink Door Writing Retreat in 2019.