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The Fiddler

by William Miller


Hardy’s father played

by the winter fireside—

tunes his son danced to, shoe leather

tapping on the stone floor.

He listened to the fiddler

at the country dance,

knew the Devil’s music

was a simple reel that whirled

a couple in a ring of fire:

broken vows, scattered rings,

lonely graves on the heath.

He bowed himself

on an odd Sunday, hymns

to a God that belonged

in ruined churches, Gothic windows

without stained glass.

His ballad ended badly

for a country girl with

an ancient name who slept

her last night on a stone older

than time. At the end

of his story, another fiddler

stood at the foot of his bed,

tall, emptyhanded.

“What is this?” he asked

and heard an unknown music

in the sick room air,

a tune without a name.