Photograph via Flickr by Helga Weber.

I watch el médico tong a new birth out in loose appendage. An arm, a leg, a head with wetted hair. Scoop toes and fingers like baby carrots from a garden-variety bag.

“Cubo,” the doctor says to me. It’s one of two, three commands he’ll give when masked and gloved and in my delivery room.

The bucket is above the transfusion fridge, where space is maintained among blood bladders for staff lunches and cheap liter cola. The bucket is stained like an old coffee mug at the bottom. Near the door you hear screams doppler up and down the hall. There are seven rooms in this hospital and only one doctor.

I set the bucket on the cart the doctor pushes room-to-room.

Last, a little potato torso still corded to that ropey, rotten dumpling. El médico snips the cord like a shoelace. I must look sickened because he shakes at me the bloody finger he’d scooped out all the toes with and says, “Ser compasivo es estar dispuesto a ayudar inmediatamente a aquellos que lo necesiten.” He tosses it, the torso, into the bucket. The emptied mother shifts dreamily under heavy anesthetic.

Later a nurse will bring the cleaned-up head swaddled in hospital blankets. She will display it briefly to the mother, Ves?, then wrap it up and throw it away.

Andrew B. Eisenman

Andrew B. Eisenman teaches in the Undergraduate Creative Writing Department at Columbia University. He is from Columbus, Ohio, and lives in New York City.

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