March 30, 2021

2020 Medical Humanities Section Writing Award Winner – Poetry Category

Pothole or Portal
Jay Kaplan MD, FACEP



The streets of New Orleans

            are known for their potholes

                        ever present         varying in shape and depth

                        often not seen until too late

walking or driving along without a care

 you are caught off guard


            just how much injury has happened

you’ll discover that with your next move


you are told to stay at home

and think you might be safe

but inside you begin to recognize there are similar difficulties

internal potholes that seem to have been hidden

amidst the busy-ness and speed of everyday life

            now temporarily that noise has been silenced

                        and you are left with the ruts in your road

and given the stress of your isolation they deepen

and become harder to see and avoid

you fall into fear

and then into anger

                                    and then into grief

                                                and then into regret

you’ re not good enough

you ‘re not doing enough

it’s your fault

you chose the wrong path


look to your left

            look to your right

are you with people alongside you 

arm in arm

or do you feel alone

and lonely


what can be done to transform your potholes into portals?

what I mean by this is

instead of tumbling into hurt

                                    and having to climb out

you pass through

            to a new place where you’ve not been before

                        where your fear becomes your nerve

                        and your worry becomes your hope

            where that which has been holding you back

now urges you on

where the jolt is now two elbows touching

            encouraging a connection that is flexible and strong even if momentary

where injury and pain are expected because you care as you do

as you stride on with humility and daring

the road remains the road

you are different

            you see the difficulties as challenges

            you feel  the ground and do not doubt its ability to support you

            you accept that with all that you are not you can still inspire

                        and bring hope and love to those around you

Inside this portal you will not be deterred

Portal 1.jpg

[ Feedback → ]