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).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I speak to God from the ground under the flowers (Hablo a Dios desde la tierra bajo las flores)

Life and death were recurring themes in my father’s creation. In tonight’s poem from his book Commemorations (Conmemoraciones), he juxtaposes faith, gratitude and a little stoicism, in a time in which, as a practitioner of criminal law in Colombia, his life was truly on the line.

Dad passed away one year ago today but the love he irradiated to his wife, children and grandchildren remains…and his literary legacy, well, that’s my job to keep alive.

To my Dad, my rock, my hero, on his first anniversary:

I speak to God from the ground under the flowers (Hablo a Dios desde la tierra bajo las flores)

…and I commemorate myself.

From the bottom of soil and cement
where you placed me this afternoon;
under the surface
that you covered with flowers and grass;
and from the stone with only my name
and the date without epitaph
and still dazed by all the praise
of the speeches never thought of
prior to the posthumous eloquence,
and certain of the future life and the present,
and because the priest said in loud voice
that the one who believes in Christ,
will never die, if to die
is this covering with soil the fragility
of being and of not being and knowing it,
I thank you for everything that you did
on the boundary of my new residence
and for the long years shared
with so much love spent without measure,
for the things that we never discussed
and for believing in me
and for my belief in you in the same fashion,
because together we achieved victory
over the anguish of the vain dreams
and we were walkers of a road
made so short by its beauty.

When the sobs stop,
I will still thank you.

Then my people
will allow the smile to change the typical bitter expression
of the pain of the absence.
You must attend to its handicap
on the initial days.
But, yet, the principal task is to defend them
of all shadows including the memories
and to try and forget and to show them,
certainly at a new pace,
but vivaciously and exempted from bad memories
or from good memories clouded with bitterness.

Know that I am happy, that I thank you,
and that I ask you for an applause
for those who were glad that I died
and who did not know that in their resentments
they finally agreed with me.


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