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).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Memory of my people (Memoria de mi gente)

On February 14, 2001, I came to Melbourne to study at Monash for three years.  Well, it has been 10 years...and I never left Monash!  Although this poem from my Dad’s book Under the Shadow (Sombrabajo) reflects once again the melancholy that accompanied him through life, I want to share it as a way to celebrate the most wonderful ten years of my life.

Memory of my people (Memoria de mi gente)

I remember my people, our people,
the people who have a place in my memory;
I remember my own; those who shared
my table, our table, the common backyard, our roof,
the years that passed.  I remember those who walked long distances in life
with me, with us
without knowing it, as if it happened the way it happened  
just because it was meant to happen that way.

I reconstruct them in the daily question
of “how are you today?”,
with genuine interest in hearing “I’m fine, thank you”,
before walking away,
it does not matter, in separate ways.

Each did their own chores
but there was always a common task, friendship,
getting closer, sharing joy,
frivolous sorrows and
those that leave a footprint.
Unity in the labyrinth of the city
and in the serenity of the gentle sun in the countryside,
amongst the roses in the family garden,
and in the distance of travels and the messenger postcards
the harmony of different lives.

Every instant dilutes the reserve a little,
what remains of earthly possessions.
But my people never cared about saving themselves,
always the same, just like before.
A wealth of energy spilled from them
unlimited like in every beginning.

Death took each of them without asking
the uninhabited days and the remaining ones
and us suddenly;
and when it took the old grandmother we protested
and when it took the youngest one, always, always.

Memory is a way to renew
old, denied companies.

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