One definition for "death" is to become senseless, to lose one’s bearings. In Claribel Alegrfa’s Sorrow—her first collection of poems since her husband, Darwin Flakoll, died in 1995—she unearths the many ways one becomes lost when the bonds of love are loosed by death.

Death is something we all share, and yet often don’t share enough. Sorrow is a good companion for those walking in the darkened valley. The poems are short and simple, and they move at the pace of the human heart—from the companionship of absence to the desperate desire to rearrange time. Alegrfa rails against becoming a "king of desolate lands." She begs not to be left with only a ghost, "it’s you/you I love/the light in your eyes/in mine/your lips naming me." As translator Carolyn ForchT puts it, Alegrfa makes her way through this passage of grief by "seizing hold of the beloved’s light."

Employing the Greek myths, Alegrfa explores that twilight land between the living and the dead. In "The Lamentation of Ariadne," she begs her lost Theseus to seize the golden thread of her love and return to her. "Hermes" reveals the way Alegrfa’s wedding ring becomes a winged messenger. The unpredictable nature of grief is poignantly portrayed when Sisyphus is sent tumbling back to the mountain’s base, not by a boulder, but by a grain of sand.

Alegria is best known for her book Sobrevivo ("I Survive"), which received the Casa de las Americas poetry prize in 1978. Her themes are love poems to the land and people of El Salvador—where she grew up—and testimony to Latin America’s tortured and disappeared.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine January-February 2000
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!