There is a Bear who will follow if you ask her.
She ambles beside you over the green sward
as you drop your daughter at the roundhouse
for a stay with the wise women and their horses.
Shanti with the two long braids
waits outside with the other daughters
and yours moves with catlike grace
from your arms into her own.
Her eyes follow you as you diminish against the horizon
and you leave a part of your heart behind.
There is a garden
on the other side of the plain
to which you return after the tearful goodbyes
to sway in a rocker on the flagstone path
and dabble your feet in the ferns.
Surrounded by ivy and the soft leaves of lamb's ear,
you call the names of the flowers,
your voice rising above the trickle of the fountain on the wall.
These walls move with you.
You can take them solid,
or just the ivy, a living latticework
to surround you.
A path leads out from the garden to a tower
and high in the tower a princess sits.
You do not know the way into the tower.
Over the hills, the forest gathers,
becoming so deep you cannot penetrate on foot
you must trust yourself to Bear,
clinging to her fur as she runs faster than your sight.
She delivers you into the wind where you soar
over the tops of the trees to the clearing beyond,
at the foot of the mountains.
In the clearing begins the path.
Turn left, and left again,
and you will see the opening.
To pass, you must first remove your pack,
your coat, your knife, your hat, your gloves,
your shoes your belt your shirt your pants
you bra your underwear
and even your necklace
and the ring around your wrist.
Then step into the waterwarm and heated by a fire
from deep within the Mountain.
Put on the robes set out for you
and follow the sound of the drums.
Turn left, then left again,
descending on a stairwell
cut from the Mountain herself.
You'll descend for days
and never reach the bottom
not until you give up ever reaching it.
Then, when you least expect it,
The Council awaits you.
You've known their faces all your life
but they slip from your vision like water
when you climb the stairs again.
What remains is only the thrum of the drums
and a deep understanding of what was said.
There is a Wasteland.
You never go there.
But Hawk flies you safely to the other side,
to the Plateau at the edge of the sea
where your daughter awaits you.
You take her in your arms again
and cross to the other shore.