PERDITA Although I have entered the ancient heart of a wood – and have circled it for hours – I cannot find a source for this crying of a baby: a crying without a crescendo; without rest. Suddenly, a lake’s broad face peeps through the firs; and a white swan floats towards me, looking me in the eye: she climbs onto the bank as if to make for the lakeside well.  Thirstily, I follow. Willing the water to rub from awareness my nightmare of tears, I find myself staring through refectory windows: staring past meals at the hearth; right into the far, far corner – into the howls of an old baby. Instantly, as I become her, I am sucked into the loud light, the pattern of pains without centres…. Then, half separate, I stand at the refectory door – and walk towards her; and take her to the cradle of myself: to the room’s hearth: the cauldron, the ladle. Copyright © JENNY JOHNSON