and I was stupid in it. I thought a doctor would not be unkind.
One wouldn’t wait for a laboring woman to dilate to ten cm.
He’d brace one hand up his patient’s vagina,
clamp the other on her pregnant belly, and force the fetus
through an eight-centimeter cervix.
She tore, of course. Bled.
Stellate lacerations extend from the cervix
like an asterisk. The staff nurses stormed and hissed
but the head nurse shrugged, He doesn’t like to wait around.
No other doctor witnessed what he did. The man was an elder
in his church. He chattered and smiled broadly as he worked.
He wore the biggest gloves we could stock.
It was my first real job and I was scared in it.
One night a patient of his was admitted
bleeding. The charge nurse said, He won’t rip her.
You take this one.
So I took her.
She quickly delivered a dead baby boy.
Not long dead — you could tell by the skin, intact.
But long enough.
When I wrapped him in a blanket, the doctor flipped open the cover
to let the mother view the body, according to custom.
The baby lay beside her.
He lay stretched out and still.
What a pity, the doctor said.
He seized the baby’s penis between his own forefinger and thumb.
It was the first time I had ever seen a male not circumcised
and I was taken aback by the beauty of it.
Look, said the doctor, A little boy. Just what we wanted.
His hand, huge on the child, held the penis as if he’d found
a lovecharm hidden in his grandmother’s linen.
And then he dropped it.
The mother didn’t make a sound.
When the doctor left, she said to me in a far flat voice
I called and told him I was bleeding bad.
He told me not to worry.
I don’t remember what I said. Just that
when I escorted her husband from the lobby
the doctor had already gone home. The new father followed me
with a joyful strut. I thought Sweet Jesus Christ
—Did the doctor speak to you?
— No ma’am, the father said.
I said as quick-as-I-could-so-I-wouldn’t-have-to-think–
The baby didn’t make it.
The man doubled over. I told him all wrong.
I would do it all over again.
Please, sir. Sit down. I’m so very sorry to tell you–
No. It’s been sixteen years.
I would say, I am your witness.
No. I have never told the whole truth.
It was my first job
and I was lost in it.