By Joe Corcoran, M1
In the winter, North Philadelphia is slick with ice.
It shortens your stride,
and limits your movement.
on their way to class.
They don’t notice what goes underfoot.
Sometimes… they slip.
But even when they fall,
others help them up.
They continue as though nothing happened.
One more block means time for one more song.
Volume cranked up. Eyes straight ahead.
Heads tilted back ever so slightly.
Holding eye contact long enough to get by,
just not long enough to make any connection.
Ahead, our destination looms above
brightly lit and well-shoveled sidewalks.
Much of the ice is gone,
and salt litters the cement in its place.
Our pace quickens now with longer strides,
as we seek to leave the cold, the wet,
the icy and unforgiving behind.
We enter the golden door,
to keep our worlds separate.
We pass through:
11 gleaming floors of
windows that do not open.
Barriers to insulate us from the ice.
We strip off our hats and our mittens — our common-man layers,
and insulate ourselves in new wrappings:
white coats and latex gloves,
the sterile swaths of our profession.
We diagnose idiopathic cervical radiculopathy.
Because how could we say
something is wrong with your neck
and I don’t know what it is,
when that would reveal imperfection,
When that would strip away all the dressings
we so carefully applied?
When that would melt all the ice?
Michael Vitez, winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism at The Philadelphia Inquirer, is the director of narrative medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. Michael.email@example.com