The catalyst comes in many forms:
tomorrow’s deadline circled in thick ink,
a skidding car’s metallic screech,
the antiseptic stink of rubbing alcohol.
The reaction balls its fist and
strikes a blow to my brain stem.
Suddenly, I can only see the world
through pinpoint pupils.
Tar-dipped lungs refuse to inflate as
a necktie nooses around the windpipe.
Blood lurches through arteries in a panic.
Millions of needles prick at ashen skin.
Five senses all meld into one:
the primal urge of flight, the
sensation of drowning above land.
No matter how the feeling arrives,
it always leaves me—
—clawing at my face,
trying to lift the scarlet veil.
Tom Dies at the End of This Poem
I lie here, Vicks slathered and dead dog tired
with lungs of molasses and sinuses annexed
by an enemy force. My immune system has
gone Benedict Arnold and surely, I’m dying.
In the event of my demise, please direct yourself to my
final thoughts and actions in the form of a to-do list.
retweet picture of cute animal
favorite meme about socialism
block Russian bot
read a relative’s timeline post
cough up my insides
listen to Sicko Mode
realize that you are sick and
listening to Sicko Mode
laugh at own pun
indulge in self-loathing
start math homework
stare at textbook
throw textbook on ground
bring up Google Docs
write this stream of bull—
—poem, I meant poem
think of an ending
© Tom Franken
Bio: Tom Franken is an undergraduate student at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio. He is the co-founder of bone&marrow, an upcoming online literary magazine. His work has been published by Penguin Review, Havik, and Volney Road Review. Tom hopes to eventually write something as beautiful as the song “Africa” by Toto.