Las fuentes del Nilo / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

The Sources of the Nile

     The king would deliver his commands from the foot of a sycamore tree. It exalted the solemnity of the person with the spectacles and the pair of shoes, received from me on the day before. In this manner I repaid the courtesy of an ivory tooth.

     I witnessed the punishment administered by two ushers of the palace, a reed house, to a pastor of the sovereign’s flock. The victim’s resistance exhausted the hippopotamus leather belts.

     He followed the turn of the prisoners inhibited by their hands and feet with a hemp rope. An executioner threw them head first with a savage effort into the abyss. The most indocile one proclaimed himself a descendant of David, despite the soot and the mountain of hair. He served as an acolyte and handled the sistrum for a church in Abyssinia. He was sacrificed in front of a line of naïve bumpkins, whom he encouraged to complain about the king’s servers, about their taunts and robberies.

     We set off on a continuous journey in search of some Arab merchants, joined in caravan across the desert. The tumult of a flock of goats, soldiers’ loot, impeded the celerity of movement. The uproar simulated the delight of grape harvest, the clamor of a festival in honor of Ceres.

     The Arabs anticipated the combat and moved further away on their quick mounts, leaving a few camels and donkeys at our mercy. The spoils, wineskins of palm wine and potters cups, divided the victors and tangled them in litigations and disputes.

     The army arrived stumbling and falling down, enraptured by the spiritous drink, at the grove of a versatile mage and consulted him, in shouts, regarding the success of a hunt. The impostor, won over by the Arabs, drew a deep voice from his chest and wounded the ground with the semblance of a caduceus. A bird with excessive wings emerged from between his feet to darken the wheel of the sun and produced the discomposure and escape of the simple crowd.

     The author of the miracle courteously separated me from the frenetic company and invited me to take refuge in his home. He was removing from his ears the disguise of a fleece beard.

El cielo de esmalte (1929)

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

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