Say ‘please’ before you open the latch,
walk down the path.
A red metal imp hangs from the green-painted front door,
as a knocker,
do not touch it; it will bite your fingers.
Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat nothing.
if any creature tells you that it hungers,
If it tells you that it is dirty,
If it cries to you that it hurts,
if you can,
ease its pain.
The deep well you walk past leads down to Winter’s realm;
There is another land at the bottom of it.
If you turn around here,
you can walk back, safely;
you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.
The trees are old. Eyes peer from the undergrowth.
Beneath a twisted oak sits an old woman. She may ask for something;
give it to her. She
will point the way to the castle. Inside it
are three princesses.
Do not trust the youngest. Walk on.
In the clearing beyond the castle the twelve months sit about a fire,
warming their feet, exchanging tales.
They may do favours for you, if you are polite.
The river can be crossed by the ferry. The ferryman will take you.
(The answer to his question is this:
Only tell him this from a safe distance.)
witches are often betrayed by their appetites;
dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always;
hearts can be well hidden,
and you betray them with your tongue.
know that diamonds and roses
are as uncomfortable when they tumble from one’s lips as toads and frogs:
colder, too, and sharper, and they cut.
Do not lose hope – what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.
Favours will be returned, debts be repaid.
Do not look back.
Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall).
Ride the silver fish (you will not drown).
Ride the grey wolf (hold tightly to his fur).
you will recognise it, although it will seem much smaller than you remember.
Walk up the path, and through the garden gate you never saw before but once.
And then go home. Or make a home.