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Goethe's Palm


[Listen to the poem]

I dreamt I was in Padua, staring at the oldest living palm,

in a greenhouse made of glass but full of spores. Or was I

back in Weimar, in the poet’s Sommergartenhaus?  Was he

showing me a diagram of the origins of life, expounding

on the primal plant, saying its seed had will and its stem

inched out to form an odd duality that was mind and soul,

its calyx being more like love and its corolla burning what

could only be the passion of your sex? He seemed to think

this archetype was key to every living thing that breathed,

as well as song and dance and fairy tales and epic poetry.


The dwarf fan palm grew from the banks of the river Ilm,

holding earth and sky together, its leaves were everything,

he said, to trap the sun and deliver us our needed oxygen.

Don’t forget the roots, I exclaimed, don’t forget the roots!