The Poetry Project

Shiv Kotecha


Hello, Hello. Afternoon.
Have a little paper butterfly.
God it's a real one.
Wings, shoulders, sets of five.

I put this flower out.
And it was on the golden drop
and even if it doesn't grow,

All right, ok, because,
wow, it seems like the voice
like the voice I have
in my head—I’ve got to remember
that its coming from
inside, Hello.

But also this, that this is
Happening, and so a kind
of chaos like feeling
emerges—well maybe
not. Maybe it’s just moon
plus distance. A scrim.
No—but you have to wait
A long time for it, plenty of slowly
felt impulses, several long
Periods of misunderstanding,
and sittings spaced out
over five years of being
—and this part is a metaphor
—asleep, for love to reappear
Like this—damn, it’s the two
things we do, isn’t it.

Tell me when
did you start painting?
As a person? Yes.

So, I think. I think
that I kind of started
painting in what would be,
what might be, pre-memory
except, I remember it.

I was two
and a half or three
When I moved to my house
and I would go up a thin
set of stairs to this little attic
space above the apartment
my parents rented on the
second floor of this um
house in Baldwin my dad
had turned into a little studio
space and I would go up
this set of stairs and
I guess I began
by finger painting.

Yes I have memories,
I have happy memories,
and other ones, of people
downstairs fighting. And in them
I painted about being happy
and about other memories
as of the stairs and the people
on the other side—I don’t know—
of them. I have, you get me Shiv,
these depression memories,
and one of the big ones is painting,
that it came with me despite them.

It was my dad, he wanted
To become an artist.
He went to SVA and then quit
the union and he came
from a long line
of pro-demo revolutionaries,
what do they call them,
the 48ers, Germans left
Germany and came here, right,
to fight in the civil war,
that sort of thing,
building after it
a set company for vaudeville
acts in Bushwick, just
like a block away
from where I live
with Liam, and my father’s
father, he was a stage
hand at Saint James
Theater, so it was my dad
who grew up around
his father, the stage, and
a set of paints.
Then it was me.

He wanted to paint
Right out of college but
then he had me at 23 so
when he was like 25
He’d always be coming
home from work and always
working double shifts,
and wanting to paint
but working two full
time jobs, and starting,
not on his own but
with this guy Jeff,
a mural company,
so painted really all
of the time for money
trying to afford being on Long
Island with a family and not
coming from one, so maybe
he was at the dinner
table but likely
if you wanted to hang
out with him you’d have to go
to his studio which was

Like seascapes.
He would go down
to the beach
and he would make
And I would follow him
into the mountains
with a paint box
smaller than this one.

And he used to take
a lot of pictures of us,
and would make the castle
and that kind of thing.

So my life feels like
this kind of funny
you know, I mean obviously
here we are, on Ocean Blvd.
and I am like painting
the kind of places
my father was wanting
to paint. It makes me so happy
that you’re losing your mind
and can you adjust your—
that’s good. Yeah, Sure.
And thank you, Yeah,
I mean it isn’t just a
feeling I had years ago
But something since—
the sense that it was wrong
to not just sit down and kiss
her and to immediately plan
to get martinis when we’re off
the island. I like this. I like it too,
that it’s more a scene
of recognition and less
a picture of it.

Can you tell me
about your horses.
One Christmas, right
after my grandfather died
my father was at the house
and he found this old picture
of a storefront
and some horses,
of two horses
and my great grandfather to their side.
So he calls me up.
And he goes TM.
He’s like what is 195 Christie Street.
And I say Dad that’s my gallery.
And I’m going to have a show there.
And he’s like holy shit.
And so I’m like what.
And he says you’re never going
to believe it but on the back
of this photograph of your great
grandfather, a storefront
and two horses it says
195 Christie Street.

So that was that.
I fell down
a research hole,
found the article
about the horses
who escaped a fire,
that began next door
inside the cabinet shop
of some guy named
of 197 Christie-street,
a few minutes before one
in the morning on January 23
1858, owing to the quantity
of shavings and seasoned
lumber he had piled up.
The fire made such rapid
headway before any fire
companies reached the ground
that four buildings were burned,
a loss of $26,000, and a set of tools
valued at $40 for each of the 50
or so men who were in the employ
on which there was no insurance,
just gone, and about 6 horses
in the building were rescued
and someone took a photo of them
running out of the fire.

So it's all a kind of dance
with hidden abstractions,
and abstract structures, my horses.
They are these like flowy states
of things being carefully placed.
If you look at them, they’re not
in the rectangle. Oh my god a cigarette.

Inner, the voice in me. Plus coughing.
Like a warm zip above tape
hiss such that
“everything's loose bath
not about perfect bath
about this kind of loose bath.”
It's a hard thing to explain.
“Heaven is a kiss and a smile”
and outer fucking space.
Exactly, exactly. Exactly.

You don't just get
to that rectangle
accidentally—that that foot
is exactly on the golden spot
in the dark corner
of the thing, so that he,
being Caravaggio, knew
he didn't have to do anything
else because that foot was going to
anchor it—that. Exactly.
It's funny, I never,
ever, I don't think
I've ever talked
about it before. But yesterday
the moon shot like blood
clot red into the brainless,
blue me like sky at which point
you confirmed that I’ve lost
it, that I’m a goner,
that things come back,
Like these butterflies
inside of me. Oh,
you’re getting in the shadows
of this tree now.

I haven't done a quick
portrait in a minute.
Are you enjoying
yourself? I am
struggling, I'm like,
I'm not gonna finish this
right now in a way
I'm necessarily going to be
permanently happy about but
actually I also feel like
this is so nice
and I like talking so much,
slightly distracting, but great.
If I stop talking I'll die.
Are you enjoying this
yourself? Yeah I am,
and I’m really, really hoping
this works because if it can
be done alone I reject it.

Issue 20