Introduction

Claribel Alegría’s poem “Accounting” was first published in English by Curbstone Press in 1993 as part of a collection of poems in her book, Fugues. Although only twenty-six lines in length, the poem is saturated with a collection of autobiographical images as diverse as her happiness as a child, playing in puddles of water, and her grief at her mother’s death. Alegría refers to the vignettes in her poem as “electrical instants.” These snapshots of her life are only brief moments, but they tell the poet’s own story. The title, “Accounting,” can refer to the systematic presentation of the data that comprises her life. That is what accountants do. They examine financial data, list and interpret it, and balance the account. This is what Alegría has done with this poem. Her poem is an elegy that provides an accounting of her memories over a large span of years. The events and people mentioned in the poem are representative of several of the locations in which she has lived, and thus her memories become the source material for the poem. When Alegría wrote “Accounting,” she had been writing poetry for sixtytwo years. This poem appears in one of her latest collections of poetry, and so its publication also serves as a reflection of her creative life.