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, May 30, 2011

Elegy 2 (Elegía 2)

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in my home town Cúcuta, as well as in Sweden, Algeria, Dominican Republic, France, Haiti, Mauritius, Morocco and Tunisia. To celebrate this occasion, here is a gorgeous portrayal of my grandmother, a wonderful woman who practised the honourable exercise of learning until her very last days. From my Dad’s book The celebrated afternoon (La tarde festejada).

Elegy 2 (Elegía 2)

When she died, Mum, who was opulent, left
a guitar, a sewing machine and one for embroidering,
a treble guitar, a mandolin,
a bobbin-like artefact that she devised to weave lace,
a small keyboard, a clarinet,
a room full of rag dolls and other animals
made of the same material she used to make herself.

She left these maracas that I was forgetting,
a pair of glasses that she used perpetually,
a poem to Arnulfo Briceño,
a letter to Caroline of Monaco,
a copy of the score of The Immortal,
and many of Garzón y Collazos
and a music stand where she used to place
her notepad for rehearsals.

Something else: the diploma of dressmaker
from the Latin American School of Buenos Aires,
a recorder, some cassettes with music
from the days gone by, a notebook with phone numbers
of her acquaintances, a clientele who
truly admired the wisdom
of her hands, her artistic finesse.

And a pile of papers that we did not manage to keep,
a picture from her distant youth
and another one from her mature years, some jewellery
of not much value, nevertheless genuine,
letters that she never wrote, drafts
of others which she did write and perhaps a few cents
in the savings account that she used to keep secret.

To me, her oldest son, she left a platinum watch
with a golden Colombian coat of arms on its dial,
stories of her time as a rural teacher
in the town of her adolescence,
a tape with nine songs which she not only sang but
explained bit by bit and a copy of the book
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway.

She did not want to leave us the Christ that made her company
all her life. She requested that it was placed in her hands
interlaced across her chest
when she was laid in her coffin.

                To my brothers Demetrio,
                 Julio and Jorge

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