#216 v15,08:086

JOHN HORVATH Jr : Chameleon
LAURIE JOHN : Now You See It
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JOHN HORVATH Jr  
Chameleon

Sitting on the screen all dressed in gray thinking himself unseen when I noticed him. Damned things think themselves invulnerable because they go through fire-- or is that the salamander? I stepped up to eye-level and we stared (He blinking his morse-code, saying, catch me, you fool!). I raised my hand so he moved to the right. I feinted attack and he ran into the left. There, I said loud enough that the wife asked "Huh?" Caught a chameleon, I said nonchalant. Then the kids come running squealing their OH-LET-ME-SEEs and I said "Sure". With their hot little breaths heating the hairs on my thumb so I swung away hand. Where had he gone to? Isn't it a crime to bring children from play only to see the palm of a hand? I'm serious, I swear, he was there just then you gotta believe, when I pulled back my hand that lizard done run off so fast we can't see Oh He's quick as a fart, as slick as the sea; He's smarter than crabgrass; you'll never believe, down from the window and up into that tree that lizard done run off so fast we can't see.

from North Florida Poems by JOHN HORVATH JR
POETRYREPAIRS #216 v15,08:086





NOW YOU SEE IT…

If a picture paints a thousand words then a moving picture demands a tremendous amount of information.
If you aim to transmit this information, in a t.v. broadcast for example, you can quickly hit the limits
of what is known as bandwidth because the picture information, already huge, has to be continuously updated.
All kinds of dodges are employed to squeeze all the updating information required through the
transmission pipeline.

One such was the idea that if the only moving things were, say, the players in a cricket match,
the only information you needed to update was their movements. Most of the picture, the pitch,
remained the same.

As is often the case, this idea was borrowed from nature. Most frogs and many lizards have to make
do with tiny brains so how on earth can they ever move fast enough to catch their rapidly moving prey?
The answer is that a frog or lizard will typically and literally only see something if it moves. This
cuts down the picture analysing requirements enormously. Add to this the fact that the little beast
weighs practically nothing so that it has almost zero inertia and you have an animal that lives and
drives comfortably and skillfully in the fast lane. Far and away faster than any bulky, lumbering
human being.

All this is delightfully explored by John in his poem about catching, or trying to catch a chameleon.

The language John uses is feather-light. Here is an inconsequential story with virtually no
content and the approach reflects this from the start. He is not even sure whether we are talking
about a lizard or a salamander. All the chameleons I have ever seen have no eyelids, just a fleshy
eye covering with a pin-hole to see through and with the un-nerving ability to point these in
opposite directions. John’s is evidently a different species with eyelids that blink (arresting
metaphor, this) like morse code. By clever feinting he manages to catch it. “There!” he exclaims.
“What?” says his wife. “Caught a chameleon!”

If lizards are good at detecting the slightest movement, kids can hear a pin drop a mile away and
come running in. Not easy to impress kids, but here’s his chance. Unfortunately the lizard has other
plans and by the time the poet opens his hand to show his catch, quick as pressurized flatulence,
it has gone. Was it ever there?

Unfortunately, seeing is believing. The kids don’t see the lizard so it was all made up. Wasn’t
it? And the poem fizzes to a finish in a burst of indignant expostulation.

Quite apart from the fact that this is a work by a skilled practitioner and so is a delight to read,
this poem just goes to show that poetry can elevate a mere, airy soufflé of almost nothing into a
work of art.

Thank you, John.

Laurie John, 10 February 2015


POETRYREPAIRS #216 v15,08:086





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POETRYREPAIRS #216 v15,08:086






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