Spanish Dancer

As a match when struck will sputter white,

before flames break, licked with hot

phosphorous tongues – so tonight

volatile, explosive, the audience watch

while her dance starts to flicker into life.

And all at once the whole place is ablaze.


A flash of the eye and she ignites her hair

then whirling faster fans her dress

into ferocious flames. Now she’s a furnace

from which two startled rattlesnakes dart

hissing and clicking, her naked arms.


But now the fire has gone too far

clinging to her waistline, she flings it down,

holding her head disdainful and proud,

watching it blaze upon the ground –

flames that rage and refuse to die.


Then, with in a slow sure step and a sweet

triumphant smile, she looks up one last time

and stamps it out with small momentous feet.

Version by Peter Jukes from Rilke’s Spanish Dancer


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