La vida del maldito / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

Life of the Damned

I suffer an illustrious degeneration; I love pain, beauty and cruelty, especially the latter, which serves to destroy a world abandoned to evil. I constantly imagine the sensation of physical suffering, of the organic lesion.
     I retain pronounced memories of my childhood, recall the withered faces of my grandparents, who died in this same spacious house, wounded by prolonged ailments. I reconstruct the scene of their funeral rites, which I witnessed astonished and innocent.
     Since then my soul is critical and blasphemous; it lives at war against human and divine powers, impelled by the obsession of research; and this indefatigable curiosity declares the motive of my scholarly triumphs and my disorganized and criminal life once I left the classrooms. I intimately detest my peers, who only inspire inhuman epigrams from me; and I confess that, during the vacant days of my youth, my irritable and unsociable nature always involved me in vehement brawls and evoked the ironic observations of the licentious women who frequent the locales of pleasure and danger.
     Mundane pleasures do not seduce me and I spontaneously returned to solitude, long before the end of my youth, retiring to this my native city, far from progress, situated in an apathetic and neutral district. Since then I haven’t left this mansion of vines and shadows. Behind it flows a thin river of ink, extracted from the light by the density of grown trees, standing at the margins, constantly lashed by a furious wind, born of the arid mountains. The street in front, always deserted, at times sounds with the passing of an oxcart, reproducing the scene from an Etruscan countryside.
     Curiosity induced me to unfortunate nuptials, and I suddenly married a girl characterized by the traits of my physical person, but improved by an original distinction. I treated her with a superior disdain, devoting to her the same regard I would a doll with detachable pieces. I soon grew bored with that infantile, occasionally bothered being, and decided to suppress her for the enrichment of my experience.
     I led her under a certain pretext to an open excavation in the patio of this very house. I was carrying a piece of iron and with it I struck a great blow to her ear. The wretch fell on her knees in the pit, emitting feeble shrieks like a fool. I covered her with dirt, and that afternoon I sat at the table alone, celebrating her absence.
     That same night and the following ones, at a late hour, a sudden gleam would illuminate my bedroom and dispel my sleep irremediably. I grew thin and pale, noticeably losing my strength. To distract myself, I acquired the custom of riding from my house to the outskirts of the city, through the free and open countryside, and I would stop my horse under the same aged tree, appropriate for a diabolical encounter. In that spot I would listen to scattered and muddled murmurs, that weren’t quite voices. I lived in this manner for innumerable days until, after a nervous crisis that clouded my reason, I awoke nailed by paralysis to this wheelchair, under the care of a faithful servant who guarded my childhood days.
     I pass the time in a restless meditation, half my body down to my feet covered by a thick plush. I want to die and I seek lugubrious suggestions, and at my side this candelabra constantly burns, which had once been hidden in an attic.
     I am visited in this situation by the specter of my victim, who savagely reproaches me. She moves toward me with her vengeful hands lifted, while my continuous servant cowers in fright; but I won’t leave this mansion until I succumb to the rancor of the inclement ghost. I want to escape mankind even after my death, and I have left orders for this building to disappear along with my corpse, the day after my life ends, amidst a whirlwind of flames.

La torre de Timón (1925)

Translator’s Note: A version of this poem by Cedar Sigo and Sara Bilandzija can be read at the Project for Innovative Poetry blog (scroll down).

{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra completa, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }

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