Spanish Dancer

May 27, 2006 at 6:07 pm Leave a comment

Rainer Maria Rilke

Listen (to Hatshepsut read)

As on all its sides a kitchen-match darts white
flickering tongues before it bursts into flame:
with the audience around her, quickened, hot,
her dance begins to flicker in the dark room.

And all at once it is completely fire.

One upward glance and she ignites her hair
and, whirling faster and faster, fans her dress
into passionate flames, till it becomes a furnace
from which, like startled rattlesnakes, the long
naked arms uncoil, aroused and clicking.

And then: as if the fire were too tight
around her body, she takes and flings it out
haughtily, with an imperious gesture,
and watches: it lies raging on the floor,
still blazing up, and the flames refuse to die –
Till, moving with total confidence and a sweet
exultant smile, she looks up finally
and stamps it out with powerful small feet.

Hatshepsut writes,

'So I took this Flamenco class with this crazy Spanish lady from Juilliard for six months of my life last year. She was an incredible dancer and if I can execute a dramatic and flawless Sevillanas, it’s thanks to her sound, fury and insistence on form. This poem is her. The fire metaphor is just perfect. It’s poems like this one that make me wish I knew German. Come to think of it, I wish I knew Rilke. But I would be settle for just being able to pronounce his name (Honestly, the way it’s written is nothing like the sounds my German friends make when pronouncing his name).'

And the original in german,

Wie in der Hand ein Schwefelzundholz, weiss,
eh es zur Flamme komt, nach allen Seiten
zuckende Zungen streckt -: beginnt im Kreis
naher Beschauer hastig, hell und heiss
ihr runder Tanz sich zuckend auszubreiten.

Und plotzlich ist er Flamme, ganz und gar.

Mit einem Blick entzundet sie ihr Haar
und dreht auf einmal mit gewagter Kunst
ihr ganzes Kleid in diese Feuersbrunst,
aus welcher sich, wie Schlangen die erschrecken,
die nackten Arme wach und klappernd strecken.

Und dann: als wurde ihr das Feuer knapp,
nimmt sie es ganz zusamm und wirft es ab
sehr herrisch, mit hochmutiger Gebarde
und schaut: da liegt es rasend auf der Erde
und flammt noch immer und ergiebt sich nicht –
Doch sieghaft, sicher und mit einem sussen
grussenden Lacheln hebt sie ihr Gesicht



Entry filed under: Black Mamba, English, German, Hatshepsut, Rainer Maria Rilke, Stephen Mitchell.

The Layers Ash Wednesday – I

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