Three Poems from F.M. Lupinetti

Flavian Mark Lupinetti, a poet, fiction writer, and cardiac surgeon, received his MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, december, Redivider, Sheila-Na-Gig, and ZYZZYVA. Mark lives in New Mexico.

Back to by healthcare workers

Rejection Speech

that you can’t trust a teenager

is a lesson I learned the hard way

because I trusted Tommy who was

thirteen when I met him but with

the physique of a four-year-old

thanks to a heart the size of a

half deflated beachball and just as robust

when it came to pumping blood and

although some of my colleagues said

he was too sick for me to do anything

I transplanted his heart and

by the following spring he played

Little League–not well; it turns out

that hitting a curve ball can’t

be transplanted–and over the

following years he took his antirejection

drugs and made his appointments

and developed a side hustle talking

to civic groups to raise money

for the hospital until five years later

when he decided taking meds

sucked so he quit taking them

(rejection, obituary) and if Tommy

was the only teenager who did this

that would be tragic enough but Charlene

age 14 did the same thing because

the drugs grew hair on her forehead

and her back–talking Lon Chaney

wolfman pelt here–and Derek at 16

moved out of his mom’s house

to live in the trunk of a friend’s car

before giving up and that shit happens

over and over and over so don’t say a

fucking word to me when I transplant

kids who are mentally challenged

because one thing I can count on is

they’re supervised so closely they never

miss a dose and the other thing I can

count on is I never have to ask myself

should I have put that heart into somebody else

-Originally published by Sheila-Na-Gig

Operating Theater

When I give the order to start        the pump, and the maimed

heart muscle collapses like the rotten    rubber of a busted out two-ply tire,

I face the possibility that my meager vein grafts won’t get this patient

out of the room alive.  He could die on the table, right in front of me.

Or he might succumb later tonight, following a brief struggle.  Or

linger a few days more, until my siege of drugs and machines

and consultant opinions prove futile.  The answers must

await the climax of the operation and the denouement.

When I think about this stage, these special effects,

and the remote possibility of a happy ending,

I wonder why it took me so long to grasp the

meaning of the words Operating Theater.

In this drama I play two roles,

protagonist and spectator,

actor who does not

know the ending,

audience member

who cannot find

the exit. 

-Originally published by The Autoethnographer

Doctor Ruiz didn’t quit his job today

but he must have thought about it when we came in for our morning shift,

and Jim, who pulled nights this week, signed out the ICU patients–

eight on ventilators, ten stable off them, six who could go either way.

Oh, and Mrs. Bowen, the one you intubated yesterday?

She boxed last night.

I bet he thought about it again when the coding clerk

asked him to revise his progress notes on Mrs. Bowen,

whom he’d taken care of for a month.

Can you add more diagnoses? the clerk asked.   For accuracy.

Doctor Ruiz translated:  For jacking up the reimbursement.

Maybe he thought about it again when he intubated room 23. 

I asked, Is that the guy? and we both knew who I meant–

the guy who didn’t practice distancing,

the guy who said only pussies wear masks,

the guy who learned that Doctor Ruiz

was a Dr from the DR and from then on

referred to Doctor Ruiz as Sammy Sosa.

I know he thought about it when he told me over lunch,

This place treats us like the fucking janitors.

I showed him the Espada poem,

the one about the janitor who quit his job.

He said, Write a poem about me.  

Call it Doctor Ruiz finally quits.

Yet I can tell all thoughts of quitting are forgotten

by the time our twelve hours end

 and we drag ass out to the garage.

Last year nights like this we went home and texted

each other while watching Cubs highlights.

But in this spring of 2020 only the virus is catching,

they may not play any baseball this season,

and the only ones I can say for sure

will step up to the plate tomorrow

are me and Doctor Ruiz.

-Originally published in december and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Flavian Mark Lupinetti, a poet, fiction writer, and cardiac surgeon, received his MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.  His work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, december, Redivider, Sheila-Na-Gig, and ZYZZYVA.  Mark lives in New Mexico.

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James Higgins
January 8, 2024 4:31 pm

Really excellent writing!

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