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).

Friday, August 26, 2011

The village (La aldea)

Here is another tribute to Cornejo, the tiny town where Dad grew up before the times of electricity, telephones or television. A simple life with, as he called them, minuscule dreams, when the joy of attending the Sunday mass with all the family and later a bath in the river, together with a barbeque with all the neighbours, were the highlights of the week.

From my Dad’s book Commemorations (Conmemoraciones). Photo from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/5605408

The village (La aldea)


Two dozens of modest houses aligned
on both sides of the road.
The orderly rows expanded parallel
and used to disappear, every now and then,
in the dusty path of the vehicles
with hasty destination always beyond the main square,
far away from the servants
who barely had the chance to wave at the travellers.
The main street branched out from that whirlwind
and took an oblique path like if it was heading to the river.
It would take a detour to then peep out of any small alley
onto the organised symmetry of the huts along the road.
Ranches were built on the abandoned savannahs.
Nature surrendered to tin walls,
roofs made of straw
and cardboard doors.
The house master proclaimed his territory, made this public,
felt his roots growing deeper, planted to his tenured land,
prepared to fertilise bitterness and honey in his ground,
under the sun, at night,
his life immovable.
Each neighbour, stranger to the rest,
invented their own craft
as a way to keep their hands and thoughts busy.
From the rustic loom came out the hemp sacks,
the sleeping mats and the whipping-tops.
And others made ceramics
or clay tiles and bricks,
fired on consecutive candle nights
accompanied by a guitar, a flute,
‘Fiery water’ spirits and women,
everything lit up with the light
of the combustion in the ovens.
others had fishing nets
and made the waning moon keep them company
to try their luck upstream,
retelling legends that are usually born
in the confluence of night and rivers.
The waned light
gave the town a sad tone.
Later in the afternoon people leaned stools
against the main doors,
and lit up a cigar and their spirits.
Into the night
they would retire, to rest in the intimacy
of their minuscule dreams
accompanied by the nearby
music of the river.

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