Why do this?

My father, José Luis Villamizar Melo, passed away in my home town of Cúcuta, Colombia, in August last year. The law and economics were Dad's profession, but literature, history and academia his passion. He wrote and published several books, articles and book chapters. The thing is that so many people have missed out on his work, particularly on his beautiful poetry, which he wrote in Spanish prior to the world wide web. So I thought, what a better way to keep Dad's legacy alive than to bring his writing beyond his world and share it with mine. That is why I am translating over 250 of my Dad's poems to English and publishing them here, one a day, Monday to Friday during 2011 (Dad, a family man, always believed that you shouldn't work on weekends).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fugacious vision of the northeast border (Visión fugaz del límite noreste)

A little fun fact to better understand this poem from my Dad’s book Urgent poetry (Poesía de urgencia).  The Raizals are a Protestant Afro-Caribbean ethnic group, speaking the San Andrés-Providencia Creole, an English Creole, living in the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina, presently the Colombian San Andrés y Providencia Department, off the Nicaraguan Miskito Coast. They are recognised by the Colombian authorities as one of the Afro-Colombian ethnic groups under the multicultural policy pursued since 1991.

Fugacious vision of the northeast border (Visión fugaz del límite noreste)

In memory of the sun and the desert.

Up north, in the northeast extreme, beyond
what the imperfect word calls the nation,
where the roads advance with a different gentilitious
right and left,
the notion of Fatherland acquires resonance.
Then the senses awake.  We take a handful of sand
as our land but the eyes
follow near and foreign horizons.
We stomp strongly on what is ours
and the echo is perceived in disputed holes.
We speak a language similar to our interlocutor’s language
and he infects us with it or ours impregnates him.
The river licks the sojourner’s footprint
and the thirst of men and beast
dries out the throats near the eyes
that see the forbidden water flow.

The desert.  The grey vegetation of the sterile land.
Animals looking for refuge from the sun under their own bodies
every now and then take their thirst to the
muddy lagoons of forgotten winters.
At the end, the sea, blue, greyish, harsh.
The burning sands protect the
resonant and salty water from temptation.
Is like there is a certainty of not returning alive
from the coals surrounded by algae.

The Fatherland could not be recognised
in the native fire-fork
constructed under the coconut palm’s shelter.
Neither could the crying of the little peasant hanging of the haunch bone
of the beautiful black woman on the side
of the road.

With the desert, the sea and men
a notion of beginning, of start, should be constructed,
the idea that the Fatherland starts here
with kind allotments of hope.

A Fatherland that the ‘raizal’ can mark
with something else besides the sacred cloth that ornaments
their huts four times a year.
The Fatherland is the path to the definite light that frees,
not the limit between sea and desert,
neither the solitude and hunger.

January 1975

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