Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis





Demonax was the sage of pointed jokes.

Serious mumblers didn’t like him much.

The finest lecture ultimately chokes

if it goes long enough — or, out of touch,

stumbles into a ditch.  Was it a crutch,

the wit Demonax focused on the fools

of wisdom?  No doubt boneheads called it such.

A pleasure, then, to break their solemn rules!

Of course he never chose amongst the schools.

Of course he never joined the mysteries.

And, when they came, those haughty Roman ghouls,

and sought to peddle their atrocities,

he said, “Abandon Pity!”  It was good

that he foresaw his countrymen all would.



–Tom Riley



The Future



Things are different.  Do you like them so?

You expected the change to be slow–

But instead it was fast.

Its effects have been vast.

It’s already the future, you know.



–Tom Riley

Butt of My Jokes

The Butt of My Jokes



Did my latest rhyme give you a clue,

You unhelpful, unsightly old shoe?

Did you read it and say,

“Could be me?”  Anyway,

You should now cease to wonder.  It’s you.



–Tom Riley





She shows her legs and thinks that you are lusting.

Can anything on earth be more disgusting?



–Tom Riley

Beyond Pretending

Beyond Pretending



I have watched you – and seen the despair

In your eyes.  Play the man if you dare—

But your courage is shammed.

There is no doubt you’re damned.

I for one won’t pretend that I care.



–Tom Riley

Keep a Secret

Keep a Secret



Courage!  Courage, my lad!  There is hope

That you’ll finally manage to cope

With the challenges dire

That you face.  Lad, aspire!

(Don’t reveal, though, that you are a dope!)



–Tom Riley

What’s Important

What’s Important



A plane shot down.  Obama, though, remains

Focused on what’s important to the nation

And to the world.  He’s fixed his brilliant brains

On raising funds for Democrats whose station

Is just a little shaky.  Brief oration—

Well, maybe forty seconds – on the grave

Tragedy.  Must steer clear of indignation.

Now on to stand-up comedy.  Great save!

To unforeseen events he doesn’t cave.

He must remake America – and shall.

If Dutchmen end up slaughtered, he won’t rave

As Ronald Reagan might have.  Be a pal:

Acknowledge that our leader’s voice rings loud—

A shout-out to the Bidens in the crowd.



–Tom Riley


The Issue



If a meteor plummets from space

And presents an impossible case

For authorities here

To resolve and make clear,

Just remember:  the issue is race!



–Tom Riley

Guilty as Charged

Guilty as Charged



What?  You’re mouthing lame do-gooder stuff?

You’ve attempted, heart zealous and tough,

To make this, our world, better?

Well, you’re charged to the letter:

You’ve implied that it’s not good enough!



–Tom Riley

My True Love Hath My Head

My True Love Hath My Head and I Have Hers

    Scientists report that the human head transplant is now almost a reality.  What a glorious advance this development will constitute when it finally arrives!

For one thing, it will be the fulfillment of a long line of literary aspirations.  No, I’m not talking about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Though movies may portray Victor Frankenstein’s creation as a patchwork construction, sewn together from spare parts out of the graveyard, the classic novel says nothing of the kind.  All we know about the Fiend’s underlying substance is that it includes dead human tissues – and also animal tissues.  When you think about it, the Fiend couldn’t possibly be patched together in the fashion popularly conceived.  He is eight feet tall and perfectly proportioned.  Where in any graveyard would Dr. Frankenstein dig up parts of that size?

No, indeed.  It is not Frankenstein that supplies our model for this next stage in human progress.  It is that lesser-known classic, Chessmen of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Here we find a whole exotic race of humanoid creatures that are really bipartite:  the heads and bodies are separate species.  The heads scramble about like overweight tarantulas until they can get to the necks of the bodies.  Then they hop on and – bam! – they’re in the driver’s seat.

Burroughs presents this nifty arrangement, perhaps, as something a little bit nauseating.  But surely such an interpretation is highly subjective.  Heads without bodies may be inferior to heads with bodies.  But heads with interchangeable bodies are surely superior to both. And now, thanks to the miracle of modern medical science, we are there.  Why, there may come a day when high-powered heads will think no more of changing bodies than we today think of changing clothes!  If that’s not progress, what is?

In the meantime, a lesser degree of cephalic changeability will still make for enormous social progress.  Consider the hypothetical case of Derek and Daphne, two young people in love who want to be married. Well, since Derek is a guy and Daphne is a girl, that case wouldn’t be a problem even in a less-enlightened age.  Would it?

Dear reader, don’t jump to stereotypical conclusions!  Derek may be a “guy,” and Daphne may be a “girl” — but both Derek and Daphne are psychologically transgendered.  Derek is a “guy” on the outside but self-identifies, from his soul, as a girl.  Daphne is a “girl” on the outside but self-identifies, from her soul, as a guy.  Before today, Derek and Daphne were doomed to live in the wrong bodies forever, perhaps subject to minor cosmetic surgical alteration.

But today they have the option of mutual head transplant.  Derek isn’t stuck being Derek.  He can become Dereka!  And Daphne isn’t stuck being Daphne.  She can become Daphno! Dereka and Daphno can marry just as easily and just as equally as Derek and Daphne – and in the end they will be much happier.  No longer will Dereka be trapped in a male body.  Thanks to her bride/groom Daphne, she now has a female body to be free in.  No longer will Daphno be trapped in a female body.  Thanks to his groom/bride Derek, he now has a male body to be free in.  Both Dereka and Daphno can now be what they’ve always longed to be.

Now I know what you naysayers out there are thinking.  You believe in “traditional marriage,” not the new-and-improved modern item.  You haven’t even begun to accept the idea of gender self-identification.  You would probably be uncomfortable if a self-identified transgendered woman used the ladies room while your nine-year-old daughter was in there.  And you regard the whole notion of head transplants as just plain weird.  Admit it.  That’s how you think, isn’t it?

Don’t you realize how close-minded and unprogressive you are?  You are just against everything and everybody, aren’t you?  What you need to do is get with the program.  What you need to do is get on the right side of history.  What you need to do is stop your pointless devotion to irrational bigotry.  You stop right now, you hear me?

At any rate, you have no right to impose your bigotry on Dereka and Daphno.  Their self-identified gender happiness depends on that operation – and they’re going to get it.  In fact, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you’re going to pay for it.

What’s that?  More naysaying?  You presume to suggest that maybe Dereka and Daphno are only confused about their gender identities?  You presume to predict that, at some time after the operation, they will be unhappy with their choice and long to be Derek and Daphne again?

No problem at all!  If Dereka and Daphno retreat from their gender self-identifications, we can simply switch their heads back again.

Thanks, medical science!

–Tom Riley


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