Matthew Sweeney

The Dance

Full moon, five minutes to midnight,
and my sad fiddle draws them
to the cliff top. They can't resist -
the fairies have bewitched it
and have taught me fairy tunes
that ensnare them. Here they come,
like the rats of Hamelin, but only one
of these will fall into the sea -
the others will survive till next full moon.
First the dance, look how they move,
twirling like dervishes but with eyes dead,
as if they're ghosts. One soon will be.
And the Devil's breeze raises skirts
but the men don't care. And they whirl
so close to the edge, then back again -
for now. And in my house on the hill
they move across my telescope lens
like bacteria in a microscope,
and I laugh, oh how I laugh,
for as soon as I stop my playing
one will stagger towards the edge
then fall. And the cry and splash
will echo for weeks in my brain,
till I take my fiddle out again.


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