I’ve been waiting for a guide—for Virgil, Dante, Jesus Christ, anyone—to take my hand and show a path through these dark streets. I’ve been thinking about the sensation of touch, of another hand cupped in mine, a hand not so worn by a rough-edged world, softer, younger, maybe even my own from thirty years ago. How would I look at myself now from then? How would I feel? I’ve been thinking about how I should feel about my sister, about her birth cord wrapped around her throat, choking forever, about her solitary days at home. I’ve been thinking about family, distance, what life I might live out. About my death. I’ve been thinking about thinking too much, about rote movement as alternative, just keeping myself going like a shark that swims to breathe, evading conscious thought. I step up from the desk and walk around, but still can’t shed the stillness at the core. I’ve been walking dark streets of memory, waiting for a guide to show the way through the gates of hell’s walled city, where shrapnel litters the parade route and children test sharp metal with their tongues, where sirens shriek from dusk to daybreak, where my sister dwells. I hadn’t been born when she tried to breathe. I couldn’t have cut that cord. But the child now holding my hand tugs at it with guilt. I’ve been trying to find my mother’s ghost, wanting to apologize to the air. I’ve been trying to see what’s never there. I’ve been thinking about my father’s stare cutting across the table at breakfast and boring his frustration and anger straight into my sister’s face as she wiped the tears that ran from her eyes like two streams, moving one disintegrating tissue from left eye to right, unable to stanch the flow, my mother looking straight ahead into the blank, silent space between them. The streets are dark, as are the roads, the paths, the trails, the untouched fields. I want a guide to extend a hand, help me take a step into the air, show me a sunset’s light over the horizon, give me order. Or, if not order, at least momentum. If not a path through the woods, then movement. If not a cure for the soul, then movement. Just pure thoughtless movement, movement, movement.

DAN ALBERGOTTI is the author of The Boatloads (BOA Editions, 2008), selected by Edward Hirsch as the winner of the 2007 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, and The Use of the World (Unicorn Press, 2013). A new collection, Millennial Teeth, was selected by Rodney Jones as a winner of the Crab Orchard Series Open Competition in 2013 and will be published by Southern Illinois University Press in September 2014. Albergotti’s poems have appeared in Blackbird, The Cincinnati Review, Five Points, The Southern Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and Pushcart Prize XXXIII, as well as other journals and anthologies. A graduate of the MFA program at UNC Greensboro and former poetry editor of The Greensboro Review, he is a professor of English at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.