Scarlet Veil

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.


peruse Twitter

retweet picture of cute animal

favorite meme about socialism

block Russian bot



            open Facebook


            read a relative’s timeline post

            close Facebook

            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.