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, October 3, 2011

Elegy 1: First of October 1995 (Elegía 1: Primero de Octubre de 1995)

Juan Manuel diffused in the light

This weekend, sixteen years ago, my four year old nephew Juan Manuel left our world to become a little angel. He was under the care of a family friend that fateful afternoon, playing with other kids in the pool. Only God knows exactly what happened, but it only took a few minutes for him to drown. He was rushed to hospital and immediately put in intensive care, but unfortunately there was nothing they could do. They informed my father straight away and he had to give the horrible news to my sister and her husband. The doctors were trying to revive him one last time as my sister got to the hospital.

Juan Manuel was a cheeky little boy with blondish hair and big brown eyes. Unlike his older brother, he loved soccer and playing rough with his father. He was the youngest member of my family, and the first one to leave us.

The events that followed this tragedy were almost as awful as Juan Manuel’s passing. My poor sister had a terrible few years after, but I will share these details tomorrow and the day after, with parts two and three of this poem from my Dad’s book The celebrated afternoon (La tarde festejada).

Elegy 1: First of October 1995 (Elegía 1: Primero de Octubre de 1995)

A few hours ago
we put the little lifeless body
of the boy in a white wooden sarcophagus
three metres deep
in a garden in the outskirts of the city;
we covered the excavation of black soil
with a layer of green grass
and we begged the birds
inhabitants of the old guardian tree
that they make him company
and caress him
when they feel that he is scared
of the shadows and the loneliness.

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