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, March 7, 2011

If the great-uncle existed (Si el tío abuelo existiera)

This is the first poem I translate from my Dad’s book Commemorations (Conmemoraciones).  I guess the name of the book says it all.  Read on…

If the great-uncle existed (Si el tío abuelo existiera)

If the great-uncle existed
you would have an epitaph and an elegy.

Pilar used to have an incredible uncle
who used to say the most beautiful things
in the most beautiful language in the world,
but he always did it conjugating words
of immaculate consonance and proportion.

His name was Rafael and he would have
painted your violent death.

Between the typed lines of his duty,
of his daily battle,
the fine, even letter, would have
reconstructed in hendecasyllabic verses and strophes
your little angel face, your last moment of joy at the circus,
what your amazed eyes saw
in the final seconds of the function that, for you, Pilar,
was also the last of your obligations,
of your duties as a happy child.

Rafael the Parnassian
would have used his own verse in protest against himself:
a master in laws helpless against the aggressive hand,
a nobody! in the riot of those who ask for justice
but do not find it and have no chance of foreseeing it.

Pilar had an incredible uncle
and I can almost hear him
slow, gentle, doctoral and affectionate,
reading aloud, at the café that he used to frequent,
his verses to Pilar, the immutable niece,
by then the most beautiful
because he would have to remember her forever
just the way she was.

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