Center for Creative Inquiry

A Portrait of Misery


I hate the smell of acrylic

on my spoon as I scoop

breakfast. This morning

I had aubergine with

a titanium white side.


And when I drew the

curtains they drew back

streaks of ochre on my

threadbare suit. Of course,

there isn’t any thread at all.


I wish that magic

felt at all magical.

I wish that wishes

couldn’t come true,

and that when I used

to stare at the framed

bedroom on the wall

when he was beating

me, I wish I’d never

wished to escape.


When I look through

the window to what

should be trees and

fields to run further

into I see a wall of

phthalo blue.


And when I dare to

turn around to that

fourth wall I see him

waiting with a brush

in hand to beat the

devil out of me as

he paints more bars

onto this cage I made.


I wish that magic

felt at all magical

or at the very least

that I’d never have

to feel again.

Description of Work:

This is a poem about a person trapped in a painting because of a wish they made to escape an abusive situation that backfired horribly.

Description of Process:

My first thought when I saw the prompt was, "what would it actually be like to live in a painting?" Not just the pretty sights, but the rest of the senses. Everything you taste or smell is paint. Whenever you touch anything, assuming reality is not frozen into place, you would get paint back on you, and the only texture would be smooth and wet. Quite frankly it would be a form of hell. So my next question was, why did this person end up in a form of torture? I've been interested in monkey's paws lately, so I thought a wish gone wrong would be an interesting approach. It had to be a generic escape wish without thinking of the ramifications. I could have made it any number of things the person was escaping, but I chose an abusive situation because it let me make more Bob Ross references (his paint colors and "beat the devil out of it.") It also tied in better into the theme because it explores both halves of the prompt.

About the Author:

Eitan Perlin

Eitan Perlin studied mathematics and philosophy, but found a love for poetry in the past two years. He works full time in a small consulting company in the DC area. He has been published in KLIO and Prospectus, Wingless Dreamer, Just Femme, and Dandy, and has a forthcoming publication in The Parliament literary magazine.

Image credit: Aurora Mazzoldi w:it:Aurora_MazzoldiCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons