Meeting Goethe in Heidelberg

In a field of yellow I see a man
with a handful of ginkgo leaves.
He discards one, picks up another,
examines each for its shade and shape,

feels their texture on his face and fingers
before pressing them in his black notebook.
He sits under the tree, back against its trunk
with eyes closed as if to feel its essence.

Now he opens his eyes to the deep blue sky
sketching and writing in his journal.
Coming closer I'm surprised it's Goethe
and tell him how much I admire his works.

He shows me his "Ginkgo Biloba" poem
how this tree from the East and its leaf
symbolize duality in oneness like
our body and soul rooted in the One.

I ask him about the craft of writing
and he takes me to the Alchemy Museum
in the Heidelberg Castle where I'm awed by
a unicorn's horn hanging near the ceiling.

"It's not the mythical creature" Goethe
assures me, "just a tusk from a narwhale."
He asks me for my views of the painting
at the entrance— Christ the Alchemist.

I tell him that anyone who can change
water to wine and feed five thousand
would have no problem in transmuting
lead into gold. "Precisely" smiles Goethe

"that's what to aim for in poetry—
the power of pen and paper turning
words to wonder— to write with joy
to inspire your readers with delight.

The papers we write on and in the books
we read are a sacred trust for writers,
coming from trees born of Mother Earth
and Father Sun. Such gift of grace

should be returned each time you write."
Suddenly the Tree of Life took on a new
meaning and I thank Goethe for instilling
in me to write— returning light for light.

          — Peter Y. Chou
               Mountain View, 12-13-2007

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (12-13-2007)