I hadn’t seen the word in years. The artist titled the painting and I knew what he meant. All of this apocalyptic shit that’s going down together. It’s a state of being near or in close proximity, kinship. Its use has dropped since the Sixties, which is when I learned it.
Mel sat behind me in Algebra Two and I let him look over my shoulder. He played guitar and sang in a band called Propinquity. If memory serves me well, he looked every inch the part. My vision of an artist.
I wrote the original poem, Best Slowly, forty years ago this July. It’s not all that different. “It is best to become slowly, like wind sculpts rocks and water channels valleys.” But I added a few lines. “And writes her mysterious on the cobblestones and marshes.”
“Best be like a bird who spends its whole life learning its song.” What does it mean, to be perfectly one’s self?
The second stanza starts out as remembered. “For if given the choice to change your face you would mistake the beauty.” But I added, “Best slowly let its will be done unknown to you.” I don’t remember that.
“A stone is polished patiently and a wise face ages. Pray to your deeper soul’s image.” But where did this come from? “Let the sun redeem…only what’s planted bears fruit.” That wasn’t in the dream and I don’t know why it’s there.
By way of propinquity, thirty years later, I encounter my draft for the poem before it was finally published. I was hesitant to let it go, but glad when I did. I watched as it drifted down the stream of time and turned into the blog.
This is one of those poems that came from a dream fully formed.
It was still wet from the waters of the unconscious when I pulled it out. I realized it resolved the tension in the strange dream that had birthed it. It’s about the slow progressive journey we take to become ourselves or artists. The wild detours and so-called mistakes are essential to the process. It’s about practice and staying on the path.
Chyako taught me a Japanese proverb early in our relationship, isogaba maware. “When you’re in a hurry, take the long way.” Sansaku follows a similar path.
In the dream, which is the context for the poem, I’m looking at myself in a mirror and I know I can sculpt my face in any way I want. I set to work on my reflection intending to improve it, a perfect fool in search of an affirmation. I had no idea.
After smoothing out wrinkles I refashioned my face with complete abandon and impulse. When I finally stopped and stepped back, I saw what I’d done and panicked. The playfully happy dream had turned nightmare. I looked like some abstraction Picasso might have painted.
I furiously worked to undo the damage and prayed to recover my original face which I was fast forgetting. In a frantic state of mind, I only made it worse. That’s when I woke to the poem, which came with a vow in a voice not my own. I signed with my name.
The poem was published with photographs of Chyako’s beautiful clay-colored hands throwing and trimming a pot. Now there’s an image for what it looks like to pray to the deep soul. It’s the inherent symbolic process. At the heart of the art is centering.
There’s propinquity between the poem I heard in a dream and the photos on page fifteen of Arts Perspective. Best to become slowly and slowly it all comes together. That state of being near or in close proximity, kinship.