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for Chameleon Dance

8/11/2006 c1 7The Breakdancing Ninja
The Breakdancing Ninja is angry. He gives this a 3 out of 5 for hurting his brain in the worst way possible. He’s waggling horseradish at you in an angry way. Secretly, he derives a masochistic pleasure from feeling confused and heart-broken during the process of reading and trying to interpret the meaning out of this poem, but he is still frustrated. He indicates his sentiment for it by deducting half a point. The other one and a half were missing in action, as was: a clear theme and meaning and tone for this poem. Read the criticism below for more details. Unhappy face. :(

Holy Jesus. Supposing the author used extreme poetic license and freedom to write this, this will probably be my longest stretch of a review yet. The words are interesting, but they don’t really generate images as much as they excite emotions or stir thoughts. The poem is disjointed and the flavors of it are varied. Its most prevalent color is—surprisingly—purple.

The poem touches on a bit of paranoia and restlessness. “a barking dog behind every corner” has a feeling of contempt for nasty surprises. A “barking dog” can be any old run-of-the-mill authority. Dogs are used in searching criminals, guarding houses from criminals, and assisting the blind—as well providing companionship for lonely people. In this poem, they aren’t “man’s best friend”, but rather, a mere extension of something bothersome or annoying to the narrator.

Things about the horseradish:1) When cut or grated, enzymes from the damaged plant cells break down sinigrin (a glucosinolate) to produce allyl isothiocyanate (mustard oil), which irritates the sinuses and eyes. Once grated, if not used immediately or mixed in vinegar, the root darkens and loses its pungency and becomes unpleasantly bitter when exposed to air and heat.

2) It has been speculated that the word is a partial translation of its German name Meerrettich. The element Meer (meaning 'ocean, sea', although it could be derived from the similar sounding Mähren, the German word for Moravia, an area where the vegetable is cultivated and used extensively) is pronounced like the English word mare, which might have been reinterpreted as horseradish. On the other hand, many English plant names have "horse" as an element denoting strong or coarse, so the etymology of the English word (which is attested in print from at least 1597) is uncertain.

3) some imitation wasabi makers, such as S&B, call horseradish "western wasabi".

The “spicy horseradish” image can be taken on its own, or as another option to what could be “behind every corner”. To modify “horseradish” with “spicy” is redundant, but key. In order to be spicy to others, it must dance on its own tongue. It is an imitation kind of spice—it is not really spicy as much as it is strong and coarse. The horseradish is bitter and lacks true flavor. If broken, it irritates the visual and olfactory senses, which are among human beings’ most keen aesthetic senses as well as intuitive. She has ‘a good eye’ for art. The nose was the primary sense of homo sapiens before they evolved. It’s extremely unclear to me how one proposes a dog and a horse radish, and whether one might find a dog or horse radish more dangerous, I guess, is the real question. I can’t suppose anymore for this stanza.

The second stanza is an appeal either to freedom or mischief. This narrator sounds desperately bored or threatened with his/her immediate environment. It’s not clear whether “God” is being addressed or whether the name “God” is being used as a colloquial expression, but in favor of the poem, I will vouch for the latter—since, to me, the poem seems quite godless.

The image of “a man behind the door” brings to my thoughts something secretive or seedy. A man who doesn’t open a door for someone else either hates the person on the other side, is afraid of the outdoors, or is hiding things, so he talks through the door. Like in mafia movies, when the pizza boy knocks on the door, the person on the other side doesn’t open it, but rather, slides the eye-viewer cover out to see who is there. This man is addressing the narrator, and it isn’t clear who he is, but whoever he is, he is asking an important question. If the second option is true, and he is afraid of going outside, it would be a viable question to ask the narrator—who seems young, or at the very least, impetuous. Maybe there’s like, an insanely large meteor heading for earth and the man’s like: ‘Why the hell are you running away?’ The author doesn’t say what the narrator’s response is, but just calls it a “boring” one. ‘Oh, you know. For groceries.’ Or even: ‘I’m bored.’ The second “Why are you running away?” comes along with an image of the narrator sneaking out at night. Even the night is curious. The impetuous nature of the narrator is apparent in the way he curses the night with his mouth full (of food)? People who curse the night usually are ones that are the most lonely. The night is extremely quiet, and is the perfect time to think. Too much thinking can make a person feel lonely and confused and even resentful.

Hm. This next stanza about Jack and Jill. The appropriate phrase is “curds and whey”, but the poem offers “curds and way”. It most likely is a typo, but the suggestion that the poem subconsciously brings up is a strange one. Curd is the dairy product that happens when you strain the liquid part out, or “whey”. To strain a “way” from curd poses a few problems. Or, to strain ‘away’ from curd—phonetically, to ‘stray away’ from curd is to diverge from the actual tale. I don’t recall if they “steal” the curds and whey or just go to retrieve it, but the word “steal” adds something (again) that is very seedy to the poem. “rolling fakes” suggests that Jack and Jill are actually a diversion for something else. Maybe the “grinning in the shadows” are the people who made the story; maybe they had a different intention when they created it, and didn’t expect for it to be told as a child’s nursery rhyme. Nursery rhymes are pretty disturbing, as are cautionary tales.

Here’s the poem’s ACTUAL question. It isn’t exactly “why run away” but “Why dash the truth/ Away from words/ You already know?” To “dash the truth from words” is a violent image. The idea is a lot like someone dashing another’s brains out with a shoe. The two questions, “why are you running away” and “why dash the truth…ect” go hand-in-hand with the title with this poem, which I will discuss in just a moment. And the next two lines that come after “My feelings want to escape/ The shadows on the page” [but I can’t seem to find the words to express myself so I…] show the ANSWER to the two questions, except the answer is a bit unfinished. It is also something I will talk about, along with the clever title of this poem.

She = Mary? A girl “behind the door” is inaccessible. Almost like a damsel in distress waiting to be saved, or at least, a girl kept from the narrator by her father or some other authoritative figure—or it could even just be a mental-emotional block between her and the narrator. When she asks the question, it could express reluctance or anger: “are you sure you want to run away?” or “why are you running away [from me]”. Or, like the other times, she could be expressing curiosity. In afterthought, the man behind the door might not even be a stranger, but someone who has shunned the narrator… that’s a stretch. Scratch that. “I can only reply with a boring answer” is repeated again. Is it that, he/she has nothing else but a boring answer, or rather, isn’t at liberty to say what the real one is? The narrator seems to be the curious, dark allure that everyone else is afraid of. The narrator is the night, the dog—even the horseradish everyone is so threatened of. Everyone talks to the narrator behind a door. He/she wants to lure Mary (Mary from “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or Mary from the Bible) into the dark, unanswerable unknown—he/she wants to take her “into [his/her] shadow”.

In afterthought, the poem sounds much better without logic attached. It’s great to listen to, but its meaning is unclear.

There’s a big reason for this, and the title is its biggest giveaway. It is a “Chameleon Dance”, a big distraction or diversion away from the truth, so that all that is left is words that once had meaning. The question is “Why run away” or “why dash the truth”, which is to say “Why run away from what you really want to say”, “why dash the truth out of words you already know”? And the narrator says frankly—or, HALF-truthfully—‘well…’ “My feelings want to escape/ The shadows on the page”. Or, meaning to say, ‘I have something I want to say/express’ and the thought that isn’t mentioned but is somewhat implied is: ‘I have something I want to say/express but… a) I don’t know how, b) I can’t find the words I’m looking for, c) I don’t know how I’m really feeling, d) I don’t have the capacity to…’ SO I “can only reply with a boring answer”. Or better yet, a vague answer. The poem supposes a very deep problem akin to writer’s block, or maybe even just writer’s reluctance. The thought might be so elusive or so deep and abiding that it is almost impossible to distinguish and render. So the whole poem does this chameleon dance to hide itself—in shadows, behind corners and doors—it runs, it dances, it rolls down the hill, it does EVERYTHING except expose the real truth.In short, the real reason for the poem’s extreme vague and abstract nature is because the writer feels the same. The anecdote about Jack and Jill expresses the speaker’s sentiment for stories— ‘maybe that person in the shadows intended different, maybe that person is grinning. I want to be that person that knows what everything really means. I want to jump the fence and escape this (mental) enclosure, and I want to take others with me. I want my words to be solid, not just elusive shadows of thought.’ “My feelings want to escape/ From this broken glass”—a shattered mirror, or a bottle that a spirit has been trying to shoulder-ram for years. Escape, escape, escape.But is this escape into the shadows an escape from the truth or into truth?Exhausting analysis, I know. This was a pretty good read, but again, inserting logic or images into it just totally destroys the first impulsive sense that one could get from hearing a resuscitation from it or reading it without thinking. Even then, it was still a fun read to interpret.Rock on, Monochrome Lovers!

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