Poem introduction

This poem has a French title ‘Trompe l’Oeil’ which means ‘fool the eye’.

Trompe l’Oeil

All over Genoa
you see them: windows with open shutters.
Then the illusion shatters.

But that’s not true. You knew
the shutters were merely painted on.
You knew it time and time again.

The claim of the painted shutter
that it ever shuts the eye
of the window is an open lie.

You find its shadow-latches strike
the wall at a single angle,
like the struck hands of a clock.

Who needs to be correct
more often than once a day?
Who needs real shadow more than play?

Inside the house, an endless
supply of clothes to wash.
On an outer wall its fresh

paint hung out to dry –
shirttails flapping on a frieze
unruffled by any breeze,

like the words pinned to this line.
And the foreign word is a lie:
that second l in l’oeil

which only looks like an l, and is silent. 


from Open Shutters (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), © Mary Jo Salter 2003, used by permission of the author

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1Welcome to Hiroshima

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2The Rebirth of Venus

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3Unfinished Painting

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4Summer 1983

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5Boulevard du Montparnasse

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6Young Girl Peeling Apples

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7Lullaby for a Daughter

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8Lament

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10A Rainbow over the Seine

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11Libretto

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12Absolute September

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13Trompe l'Oeil

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14Erasers

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15A Morris Dance

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16A Phone Call to the Future

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17Wake-Up Call

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18The Gods

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19Goodbye, Train

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20It's Hard to Say

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21No Second Try

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22String of Pearls

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23Complaint for Absolute Divorce

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24Bed of Letters

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25Lost Originals

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27Little Men

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