Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Superbad

Superbad

 

(for Maria Martin)

 

The day for lousy verse is now at hand!
So you inform me, and I’m sure you’re right.
You urge me now to bring my worst to light.
Your wish, as long you’ve known, is my command.
Badness is one thing that I understand—
As inchworms understand the depths of height,
As fireflies understand enduring light,
As blueprints understand what’s bluely planned.
Confusion I produce, at your request,
Out of my foggy and abundant store.
What’s slack is strong. What’s horrible is best.
What’s clueless, since it ends in “less,” is more.
Like drums of triumph now I beat my chest.
(That’s how you mix a fucking metaphor!)

 

Love,

 

T.R.

 

18 August 2017

 

(The imperious Mrs. Martin ordered me to write a bad poem for National Bad Poetry Day, so I was compelled to do my worst.)

Slow Words

Slow Words

 

Words move slowly this morning, alas!
Seems you’re moving an infinite mass—
Or attempting the deed.
Still, I’m sure you’ll succeed
And bring wonderful new lies to pass!

 

—Tom Riley

Shakespeare’s Failure

Shakespeare’s Failure

 

“As a play, it displays what we hate.
It resists when our brains cogitate
and defies explanation,
earning sharp condemnation!”
“That’s exactly what makes Hamlet great.”

 

—Tom Riley

Dig In

Dig In

 

“I shall not,” he insisted, “give in.
I won’t lose, though perhaps I can’t win.
When my tortured brain reels,
I shall dig in sharp heels.”
Someone chuckled: “Your chances are thin.”

 

—Tom Riley

Barbarus in Roma

Barbarus in Roma

 

 

As captive taken to Eternal Rome,
As tall and ruddy slave amongst the free
And short and dark, he thirsted fearfully
For German beer and all the joys of home.

He saw no glory in the hippodrome
Nor on the sand where skilled slaves fought to see
Who would endure in vile utility
Under the unconcern of Heaven’s dome.

Civilization was, to him, disease–
Though the diseased were sure that they were fine
And gloried in their vain civilities.

In his lashed heart, he failed to fall in line.
In his fierce spirit, he was hard to please.
He was converted, finally, by wine.

 

 

–Tom Riley

 

 

(Second Place, Napa Town and Country Fair, 2017.)

Messenger

Messenger

 

 

The raven sitting on the vineyard fence
Brings wisdom from a distant deity.

“Does the world have it in for you and me?”

Not really, says the One-Eyed God. Events
Proceed with an indifference so immense
That mortals welcome frank hostility.
It’s a gift they will never truly see.
They fool themselves, and that’s their recompense.

“Does every raven answer just the same?”

My fellow, with a semblance of design,
Declares the opposite. It’s not our aim
To force consistency on the divine.
In evenhandedness there is no shame.
Now quit your questions. Have a glass of wine.

 

 

–Tom Riley

 

 

(First Place, Napa Town and Country Fair, 2017.)

Writer’s Life

The Writer’s Life

 

“You’ve achieved a position of note
With your scribbling? It just gets my goat!
You write hideously!
How can such success be?”
“Well, there’s one thing I did right: I wrote.”

 

—Tom Riley

Honestly, Though

Honestly, Though

 

Honestly, though, my conscience is at ease.
The lies I tell are always pious lies,
And I find refuge in those pieties.
Honestly, though: my conscience is at ease.
With me, your condemnation disagrees—
But disagreement sires in me no sighs.
Honestly, though! My conscience is at ease!
The lies I tell are always pious lies.

 

—Tom Riley

Speech, Speech

Speech, Speech

 

Mr. Tangle has something to say—
But his something is nothing, the play
Not of words but of poses
And of uplifted noses.
To express it will take him all day.

 

—Tom Riley

Shoe Size

Shoe Size

 

Here’s a boot up your monstrous patoot,
Mr. Mentz! May the pain be acute!
What a wall to assail!
My kick’s certain to fail.
They just don’t make that big of a boot.

 

—Tom Riley