Autobiography in Five Short Chapters: a poem by Portia Nelson

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
            There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
            I fall in.
            I am lost … I am helpless.
                       It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II
I walk down the same street.
            There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
            I pretend I don’t see it.
            I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
                        But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III
I walk down the same street.
            There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
            I see it is there.
            I still fall in … it’s a habit.
                       My eyes are open.
                       I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.
            There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
            I walk around it.

Chapter V
I walk down another street.

Source: Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk, Simon and Schuster21/02/2012, accessed via Google Books on 15 July 2018.

[One of the fascinating things I discovered while trying to track down this poem is that the author was also an actress who, among other roles, played one of the nuns in The Sound of Music.]

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