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, April 7, 2011

Faint but firm shadow (Leve y firme sombra)

Continuing with the air of nostalgia for my grandparents, here is a poem from my Dad’s book Under the shadow (Sombrabajo).  It brings me fond memories of my grandma, with her sweet little voice, her guitar and her ukulele, which she learnt to play in her seventies.  She made paper flowers and felt dolls, walked Pachita, her Saint Bernard dog, and cursed the day the youngest of my sisters married “that bastard of a husband” regardless of her advice not to.  She gave me packet chips because she knew how much I disliked boiled potatoes and let me sleep in her room, as I was terrified of the night squeaks in her wooden floored house.  She welcomed me in her home in the nation’s capital during my school holidays and sent me beautiful love letters while I was in school.  I hadn’t missed my grandma for a while.

Faint but firm shadow (Leve y firme sombra)

The house had a patio
full of sun and winds.
In the simple life of the village
it gave the idea of being the most beautiful
and the largest
although this was only because
inside there was a garden
and in it lived
all the birds in the region.

Time used to go by without loudness
and just like it, so did the urban farmers,
the house inhabitants.

Suddenly, a gust of violent winds came in
through the same patio.

Mother loved beautiful things and hopes
and in everyone of her children she wanted to see
a horizon of unsuspected prodigies.

Her hands sewed wool
and dreams
and always before the first light of dawn
she would be running around the corridors
infecting with plenitude
the budding day.
Beyond twilight,
now in the night,
from her hands sprouted in lyrical mass
paper flowers and songs
that she muttered for herself, without disrupting the sleep
of her man, the children and things.

She never gave up to the monotony
of her daily labour.
Work was for her
a form of prayer.

So then, now,
threatened by time,
she distracts her loneliness, her sorrows
with paper flowers, with songs,
with the guitar that she learnt to play
to accompany her memories.

And she diligently reflects, like a shadow
pious and firm beside each one
of those inhabitants of the house in the village
who were children back then
and now write memoirs.


  1. Oh, this is so lovely. I just love reading it...as well as your introductory memories! Grandmas are so great - they can get away with more than mothers, sometimes not being so harsh. It makes me miss mine! I look forward to seeing her this July when she'll likely be busy tending the garden.

  2. Lovely. Hands of work, and love, and wisdom. These things I see each time I visit my grandmother.