The Argentinian poet Juan Gelman died on January 14, at the age of 83.

In an attempt to escape Tsarist Russia, Gelman’s Jewish family emigrated to Buenos Aires in the early 1900s, where Juan was born in 1930.

Gelman wrote poetry from an early age, but earned his living as a journalist. He played an active role in the Communist party and was a political militant. Following a coup by a military dictatorship in 1975, Gelman’s son and daughter-in-law ‘disappeared’ during a raid. Gelman’s son’s remains were found in 1990 in a cement filled barrel.

Gelman wrote of the event, which was to haunt the rest of his life:

on August 25, 1976

my son marcelo ariel and

his pregnant wife claudia

were kidnapped in

buenos aires by a 

military commando,

like in tens of thousands

of other cases, the military

dictatorship never officially

acknowledged these who 

“disappeared,” it referred to

“those absent forever.”

until i see their bodies

or their killers, i’ll never

give them up for dead.

The following poem is from Gelman’s 1980 collection If Gently:


you’re alone / my country / without

the comrades you lock up and destroy / you hear

them slowly being emptied of the love

they have left / they loosen their grip

on their turn to die / dream they’re being dreamed / quieted /

they’ll never see other faces growing /

leaning out / continued / in this sun /

some day in the sun of justice

Dark Times Filled With Light

The Selected Works of Juan Gelman

Translated by Hardie St. Martin