El familiar / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

The Relative

The peasants were abstaining from noting the passage of time. They would begin, with the day, the tasks of the earth and they would gather and make appointments lighting a bonfire in the flat countryside.
     I was distinguishing from my balcony, a retreat for soliloquy and idle pursuit, the inconstant cloud of smoke born over the line of the horizon.
     I was enjoying, after my intemperate youth, the tranquility of an extinct city.
     The rainbow, jewel of the celestial forge, was the perpetual diadem of its mountain.
     I would traverse its avenues, perceiving the grief of the cypress and the marble. I would ponder in its opaque and humid plazas, matted with leaves. I would divine, in the mirror of its ponds and fountains, profuse heads of hair holding vigil over naked fluid bodies.
     I was defending the water’s repose. I heard it sing, on a certain occasion, a scale of lamentations when it felt itself wounded by a branch fallen from a tree.
     Once, I was watching the voluptuous images, when upon my left shoulder I felt the touch of a cold, aduncous hand. The importunate one was interpolating me, at the same time, with a deep, hoarse voice.
     The pond of my contemplation had moved to an abyss.
     From then on I was followed by that imperious man. I dared not face him, his tall and disjointed body promised too irregular a countenance. Under his steps the floor of the street was resounding deeply. He stepped dragging disproportionate shoes. He provoked, when he passed, the barking of superstitious dogs.
     I cannot recall the topic of his conversation. His ideas were vague, referring to a forgotten age. Only once did I make a vain effort to provide shape and logic to his unpleasant words.
     The inhabitants of my city, capital of an abolished kingdom, began to speak of scarecrows and marvels. They would note the escape of equivocal forms when they woke from matutinal sleep.
     They insisted on the resentment of the ancient kings, forgotten in their catacomb.
     They were reposing in a valley, at the foot of hills carpeted by slight vegetation, where light and air would amuse with variations of green velvet.
     I joined the host of animated youths, who were hoping to reduce the dead, by means of reproach, within the limits of their undecided kingdom.
     We approached the door to the crypt and doubted whether to enter. My fateful companion supervened and moved resolutely ahead of us.
     He joined the company of kings and heroes incorporated from their stone urn.
     We were mute with terror.
     I then observed, for the first time, his lean face, whitish from lime.
     I ascertained his dreadful origin.
     He had deserted from among the dead.

La torre de Timón (1925)

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

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