my failed life as a Swedish painter
after “The Cloud” by Prince Eugen, Duke of Närke
Since this is an ekphrastic poem you’re probably expecting that I’ll write about the painting. But really, all I want to do is have a lazy picnic with a painted lover up on that hill – a spot that isn’t too steep so that I don’t have to press hard against gravity, but somewhere that lets us look down over the landscape. And by have a lazy picnic I mean I want us to have sex there, with clouds floating over us – skinny clouds and puffy clouds and clouds that look like they’ve been imprinted with crocodile skin texture, ready to be turned into a designer handbag, because who wouldn’t want a handbag made of crocodile skin clouds? And this grass is somehow a soft felt fabric with fingerprint whorls, which is great for me since I’m allergic to grass and so I can have sex here without ending up with itchy legs or sneezing.
The reality is that I can’t paint, that I have no painting skills – beyond painting walls in my house, with a roller, in colours that I like but that a future buyer probably wouldn’t – so I don’t know how to create these shades and tones, how to hold the brush to get these details to come through, how to paint a cloud that doesn’t look like a six-year old did it. And this is a silly poem because all it’s trying to do is pretend that I don’t think about how to get Rawiri to come back to me, and you’re thinking who’s Rawiri? we haven’t heard about him in this poem til now but if you’d looked closely, you would’ve seen that he’s mixed in with the linseed oil and he’s in every paint stroke. You’ve been looking at him all this time without even knowing it.
- Paula Harris