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