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 24, 2011

Luminous captain (Luminoso capitán)

Eduardo Cote Lamus, poet, diplomat and politician, was the 43rd Governor of Norte de Santander, of which Cúcuta is the capital city. He did an external law degree at the University of Bogotá and studied Hispanic philology at the University of Salamanca, Spain. He made many contributions to literature and culture, placing Colombia on the contemporary world map through the journal Mito (Myth), Colombia’s first cosmopolitan literary publication. He wrote five poetry books between 1950 and 1963. His piece Estoraques is considered one of the most successful long poems in Latin American poetry.

From my Dad’s book Commemorations (Conmemoraciones).

Luminous captain (Luminoso capitán)

In memory of Eduardo Cote Lamus.

I turn piles of old newspapers upside down
with their useless pages and faded ink
and among the confusion of the universe in flames
I still encounter the breaking news of his death.

The daily paper of that fateful morning never knew
that its message was curse and grief
entering through the hinges of the closed doors
in the early dawn of the sinister night.

He arrived at the break of day on the hard tombstone
a body made of warm silks and poppies
where time will perhaps grow spikes of corn
or a tree where the birds without a master can nest.

I did not arrive to the peak of his high intentions
nor did I share secret paths of his life,
others saw the splendid light that illuminated him
in his hard battle on his profession of a man.

He must have deeply loved his poetry
that was his wife’s, his parents’, his friends’,
the people who used to come out to shake his hand
and to see him take shade in the peace of their ranches.

Honest like every farmer,
he had certainty in God and was there
for the children, growing around his kindness
and his name already immerse in the of his town.

Captain of countless battles he was.
Smith with his bellows stoking up the flame.
Of disobedient flocks keeper and shepherd.
Labourer in the factory of his own existence.

Fighter without fear and a heart of iron.
Owner of the upright word, bold and strong.
The verb used to flow out of him like a spring.
He could write rose and war with the same pen
with which he wrote woman, love and death.

Now only the marble and the tree remain against time
and the wind in the ruins of the noble memory.
His poetry is still current around the world.
His name is pronounced with tears by friends.
The darkness of every anniversary of his death.
His seed in the lines of his face is still fruitful.
The convening echo of an unwritten testament.
The goatee that he stole from some painting by El Greco.

To Luis Roberto
Parra Delgado.

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