Calves on fire, feet blister on wood,
they dance. They dance, sweating,
fevered, another circle to the left
holding hands, another set of high
kicks, more do-see-do-ing.
Muscles break down, searing, longing.
Elder bones break, pressure against
foreheads and between ears. Pounding.
Lungs willing to give up breathing.

The fiddler won’t stop:
he brings bow forth and back across
strings, slow then quick,
quick then slow, changing chords,
jumping notes. Fingers bleeding
along the neck, yet still pressing
down tempos, then plucking
pizzicato. A bold show off,
all the lessons learned behind
waterfalls, having exchanged
mutton for music.

Timid. Then confident.
Then daring. Then, well,

the River Sprite’s Reel, the 4th,
reserved for only the sprite himself—

the fiddler plays and plays, grinning,
as if punishment would not be dealt.

Now the sprite’s puppet, he plays and plays, the crowd unable to pause their jigging and jaunting, the fiddler unable to rest even when the sheet music calls for it, everyone moving and moving beyond exhaustion and hurt until

the River Sprite decides
the most important lesson
has been learned.