El buhonero de Gálata / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

The Peddler from Galatia

     I was resting from my fatigue in the recess of an attic. A businessman of Armenian race had encouraged me in the career of perfumer. I would fascinate the gullible by abusing Cleopatra’s name and overrating her marvelous recipes.

     A treacherous old hag and an Ethiopian messenger, accustomed to servile punishment, would insinuate the prestige of my rouges and drugs in more than one fanatical harem.

     The woman would point out the originality and terrain of the muslim world and pause during moments of anxiety, peremptory, of some deplorable tragedy. A captive of Persian origin, content with her kind form, had been bold with the sultan’s sister, wounding her face with the guide of a feathered fan and she was subdued and strangled by the her owner’s assassins, executioners of sinister abilities. The sultan chose for the tomb the blue-veined marble lavished on buildings and pavilions of the Bosphorus, and in the circle and by his hand myrtle and jasmine.

     The Ethiopian messenger would refer to his childhood captivity, showing me the vestige of the rude whip, and he would amuse himself by decanting the panic of his escape through the drowsy, febrile sand. He would mitigate the bitterness of his memories by describing his establishment in the grove of a Ladino dervish and the progress and bonanza attained with the habit of following an apparent devotion.

     My dealings with the Ethiopian and the astute woman ceased in a sudden manner. I carried out, according to their advice, a distinguished adventure and from then on I waged my health on a return home, to the flags of Christ. I agreed to hide, far from the infidels, the infant of a Greek odalisque, threatened by the rage of her rival, and I deposited him at the cabin of some Albanian farmers.

     The odalisque had required that I take the poor child from her arms. From the ground, where she had fallen to her knees, she inspired a perennial compassion in me, illustrious faithfulness. In her person she gathered the face and name of Ismene, Jocasta’s inconsolable daughter.

El cielo de esmalte (1929)

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

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