Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Month: July, 2012

What’s Right

What’s Right


What’s right is right — and that’s what gets him pissed

About the iron world of right and wrong.

Inflexibility’s what he’d resist

If what was right were not so sure and strong.

He hates the way it hurries right along

And yet seems, in its way, to stand stone still.

He hates the clear notes of its endless song.

Its underlying silence makes him ill.

The spittle that it never has to spill

Spells horror in the tunnels of his ears.

Of what is right he’s clearly had his fill.

It’s the foundation of his gnawing fears.

Yet he can’t help but keep what’s right in sight.

Oh, how it twists his nerves!  It isn’t right!


–Tom Riley

Her Smile Lights up the Room

Her Smile Lights up the Room


Her shining smile indeed lights up the room–

Much like a fierce bulb burning overhead.

You sit bound to a chair.  Torturers loom–

And promise you will wish that you were dead.

You wish for that in seconds — but instead

Receive hour after hour of searing pain.

You’re long past hope.  You’re long past mortal dread.

Adrenaline is gnawing at your brain.

It’s more than any mere man can contain.

Your every cell is bursting from within.

Through the mist of your tears you look in vain

For mercy — and behold the Devil’s grin.

But wait: that’s not the Devil.  All the while,

It’s been our heroine’s enchanting smile!


–Tom Riley

The Highest Standards

The Highest Standards


The highest standards, people, I maintain!

It is your duty to appreciate.

In spirit and in body and in brain,

I’m doing — by the highest standards — great.

Mean-spirited, you’re striving to deflate

What you describe as ego, I as soul.

It is a hateful mission — one I hate.

But I forgive your meanness, on the whole.

I’m working toward a high and knightly goal.

I am today the height of chivalry.

My soul is white — but yours is black as coal.

Your failure is a hurtful sight to see.

I’ve found superiority is fun.

I’m sorry for the things that you have done.


–Tom Riley

A Truthful Place

A Truthful Place


You tell the truth we told you not to tell.

You shout the words that no one ought to hear.

For you there is a truthful place in Hell.


In you self-righteousness appears to swell

Because your voice is faultlessly sincere:

You tell the truth we told you not to tell.


You have evaded our irenic spell.

You have ignored our whimper and our tear.

For you there is a truthful place in Hell.


You ring an iron and obnoxious bell.

Your note is too persistent and too clear.

You tell the truth we told you not to tell.


We have declared that everything is well.

Why won’t your observations disappear?

For you there is a truthful place in Hell!


We cannot stand your pure and piercing smell.

We cannot bear this ozone atmosphere.

You tell the truth we told you not to tell:

For you there is a truthful place in Hell.


–Tom Riley

(First appeared in The Lyric, v. 91, n. 3, Summer 2011.)




We celebrate the victory of fraud.

What’s genuine is, after all, a pain:

Its hard teeth leave our falsehoods cruelly gnawed;

Its vision makes us see we’ve lived in vain.

How we despise the products of a brain

In which our foggy doctrines find no place!

Unfettered neurons endlessly complain:

We read rebellion in that silent face.

But, on the side of fraud, what poise, what grace,

What wise restraint is manifested there!

Oily and sneaky truly win the race.

Unity in a lie defeats the stare

Of disapproval fixed on us by foes

Whose ayes are ayes, whose noes are always noes.


–Tom Riley


Ad Infernum

Ad Infernum


Et vinum laetificat cor hominis….”

–Ps. 103:15.

Justice is better, lad, than alcohol.

It warms my heart to know you’ll go to Hell.

You protest that’s a tough call?  Not at all!

You’ll go — and, when you do, a golden bell

Will ring forth in my heart; bright hymns will swell

Within me; I shall know true happiness.

No longer will time’s rough and ready spell

Govern me.  “God repays!” I shall confess.

What happens next is anybody’s guess.

That is a joy I dare not look beyond.

It may be I’ll deserve those flames no less

Than you, who of your lies are so damn fond.

It may be I’ll be placed right next to you.

Get your ass ready for a kick or two!

–Tom Riley

A Spade

A Spade

We hate it when you call a spade a spade.

A spade can be a diamond, club, or heart.

And innovative suits can now be made:

A spade can be a rider, horse, or cart.

Perceive that obfuscation is an art–

And you’ll rejoice at last to obfuscate.

A spade can be an ending or a start.

A spade can be indifference, love, or hate.

A spade can reconcile free will and fate.

A spade can sever truth and verity.

A spade can be there early — yes! — or late.

A spade can choose to be or not to be.

Against you, simpleton, the world’s arrayed:

We never choose to call a spade a spade.

–Tom Riley

You With Your Thunder!

You With Your Thunder!

You with your thunder, fathering defeat

On those who dare to tell you that you’re wrong!

Your formula, I must admit, is neat:

Strong is right because right’s defined as strong!

But effortless equations can’t last long.

You hurl us howling from your lofty height.

We plummet, quite as tragic as King Kong.

But we will rise –- and we will rise to fight.

We’ll tell disruptive truth all through the night.

Our dreams, though torturous, will be our own.

We’ll make a fruitful orchard of this blight.

Lacking bread, we’ll acquire a taste for stone.

Never indeed will we admit our blunder–

Though every atom echo with your thunder.

–Tom Riley

The Claw

The Claw

(for Tim Brumley)

Severian was sure he had the Claw.

The Pelerines were dubious and smiled.

To raise the dead, perhaps, is just to gnaw

At ropes that will be soon replaced.  Reviled

Since prehistoric times, death still is styled

A conqueror — and means to conquer all.

If for a little while he is beguiled

By the Claw, it means only that we stall.

Lictor, you raised the dead.  Fresh from their hall,

The dead had nothing of the dead to say.

Their dreams among the dead they could recall

Hardly at all.  They’d lost their dying day.

And you?  Your only hope was your despair:

You truly didn’t fit in anywhere.

–Tom Riley



I think of you, it’s true, as bearing lice.

In thinking so, I fail in charity.

I am not kind.  I am not even nice.

You don’t have any lice that I can see–

And, if some linger, imperceptibly,

In the repulsive ghetto of your beard,

It’s not a fact that ought to bother me:

I wouldn’t notice if they disappeared.

Your parasites should not by me be feared

Or hated, for the way they get their dinner

Is natural, although a little weird–

Nor does their presence render you a sinner.

Worse are the things that crawl across your mind,

Parasites of a more destructive kind.

–Tom Riley