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, October 21, 2011

The Bishop (El prelado)

The Spanish word Prelado [pray-lah’-do] refers to an ecclesiastic of the highest order and dignity; the superior of a convent or religious house. From my Dad’s book poetry (Poesía).

The Bishop (El prelado)

In memory of Monsignor Luis Pérez Hernández.
“Just like that he placed the pure air,
the candid clouds, the sun and
the stars…” Francisco Luis Bernárdez.

The Bishop ascended
the sweet ladder of his death
certain of future clarities.

He had lived intensely
and he had to die with the same humility
with which he made his loved ones
children in humility – and in the victory
that his word promised.

His noble human clay
spoke without shame
in the promiscuity of his flock.
And in his eyes
and in his word
and in his hands,
people saw
the indescribable symbol
of his divine lineage.
It was resemblance of his shield
- red and gold,
under which a heart found shelter
and a torch,
to light up
and to love
and to burn.

Many times we saw him on the skirts
of the hills in Cúcuta
standing up next to the twilight.
From there he used to imagine a city
rebuilt over pillars of love
where all had bread on their table,
where there would be no children without a home
nor women begging on the streets,
or fabulous faces sporting hypocrisy,
where his children loved each other as brothers and sisters,
where the nights were not dark
and the days were fertile.

He loved the city
with that deep paternal abnegation
with which he used to feel things.

He used to sing to Nature
and in it to the Supreme Wisdom.
This is why his voice became perennial
in the praise of the tree.
He wanted to see the earth
populated of men and trees
because he knew that under their shade
men would find a place of brotherhood without bitterness,
and he wanted to see everyone with firm roots
to ascend, without tumbles
toward God.

There was an instant in which things
used to seem to stop around him.
He would get rid of all human ties,
he would forget about himself,
there was a break in his anguish,
a semicolon in his elemental pleasures
of grave man,
when the music of his fraternal violin
would get lost beyond the stars.

The pain, the dark shadow
that surrounded his congregation
was lit up by his shadow.

Behind him his congregation marched.
And on his missionary journey
he found land for the dispossessed.
He gave them a place to die in peace.
He shared with them the grieving days.
And in the huts the slim shape
of the man and apostle
was a dam to the anguish
of insatiable hearts.

The Bishop ascended
the sweet ladder of his death
certain of future clarities.
He arrived at the threshold
dispossessed of himself, strange to his urgencies,
without ties that to hold him,
because his heart had reached
the plenitude of eternal realities.

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