Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Month: August, 2012

A Pencil in the Hand

A Pencil in the Hand



(for Alvin Guevarra)



“Smith sat very still, staring into the calm brown eyes of death across a polished table of Vietnamese rosewood.”


–William Gibson, Neuromancer.



A pencil in the hand of Alvin, folks,

Is ninety times as deadly as a gun

In the hand of a lesser man.  Love jokes?

Well, don’t laugh now – because this isn’t one.

Onto that point he focuses a ton

Of force.  That guy can kill an elephant.

Indeed, we know of greater deeds he’s done.

The wise man never mutters: “Alvin can’t.”

And now there’s no more need to rave and rant.

If you do not believe, these words in lines

Won’t make you.  Shall I waste my breath?  I shan’t.

I’ll fix my mind on loftier designs.

The pencil’s in his hand.  Don’t get the shakes.

Remember: Alvin doesn’t  make mistakes.



–Tom Riley

Caring Point of View

Caring Point of View



We’re grateful for your caring point of view.

We’re sure that your intentions are the best.

We just won’t let you tell us what to do.


Caring at last is magic human glue.

The sum of its effects cannot be guessed.

We’re grateful for your caring point of view.


Your interest in us makes us feel like new.

Your concern is the peace in which we rest.

We just won’t let you tell us what to do.


We mean, dear helpers, no offense to you.

Our mutual concern is here expressed.

We’re grateful for your caring point of view.


We’re truly grateful.  Truly.  Oh, it’s true!

In gratitude, we pass the toughest test.

We just won’t let you tell us what to do.


If you have other options to pursue,

Pursue them: by your actions we’ll be blessed.

We’re grateful for your caring point of view.

We just won’t let you tell us what to do.



–Tom Riley





Romeo and Allison

Romeo and Allison



“Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here!
Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear,
So soon forsaken? young men’s love then lies
Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.”



I was the girl appointed to succeed

Juliet in the heart of Romeo

As Juliet succeeded Rosalind.

It didn’t quite work out that way for me,

However.  Both those earnest lovers sinned—

If suicide is sin, and we all know

It is.  They wouldn’t think.  They wouldn’t heed

The warnings.  Now I’m left at long last out.

Now I shall marry sanely, sensibly.

Now I shall live to see a ripe old age.

The madness grasped by foolish Juliet

Will never grasp my soul or make me doubt

The cold gray platitudes he’s mouthing yet,

That  ever-preaching, sly Franciscan sage.



–Tom Riley

Feast of Pigs

The Feast of Pigs




“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”




George Orwell’s pigs were scheming little guys

Exploiting every other Commie beast.

With farmers they enjoyed a fat old feast

At the end of the book — and nursed sly lies

That should have come as no undue surprise.

To comprehend, you need not look due east.

The game pigs love to play has rarely ceased

Anywhere since heads first raised doubtful eyes.

Real pigs are just as smart as Orwell’s were.

But we who bid on them have learned at last

That porcine attitudes are not an upper.

Let auctioneer now serve as minster

To all in us that wouldn’t be outclassed!

We see it’s good to have a hog for supper.




–Tom Riley

All for One and One for All

All for One and One for All






If we could only lie in unison,

The echoes of dishonest syllables

Would stifle stubborn truths not one by one

But all at once — and fill our living skulls

With peace.  The edge of truth, we all know, dulls.

The charm of truth fades faster than a smile–

And, in the end, we’re charmed to be the gulls

Of any sturdy lie, however vile.

Oh, let’s not wait that long and weary while!

By joining voices in a single force,

We cast aside the need for patient guile

And take the far-more-satisfying course

Of overwhelming everything that’s true

With oceanic falsehood, vast and blue.







–Tom Riley

Role Model

Role Model



You only have to give up what you are

And work real hard – and you can be like me.

It doesn’t help to wish upon a star.

You have to pay attention, look, and see—

Then imitate, my child, unceasingly

The inner greatness that has made me great.

Master my study habits and you’ll be

On your way.  No, I cannot guess the rate

At which your neurons will assimilate

The lessons that I manifest each day.

Those who resist may never graduate.

Don’t be like them!  Be humble, child – and say

Your lessons!   Chew them carefully and swallow!

I lead the way.  You only have to follow.



–Tom Riley

Terms of Salvation

Terms of Salvation



And damn’d be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!’





He well defined the terms of his salvation,

The deadly terms of his damnation, too.

In the face of prophetic  refutation,

He would press on, as once he used to do

Against the foes of Duncan.  So they knew

The future, did they, those three hags who lied

Even as they spoke true?  Given their cue,

The words that really couldn’t be denied,

He wouldn’t yield.  The glory he had eyed

From under his abundant flaming hair

Was vanished – and the witches, satisfied,

Joined Macduff as they urged king to despair

And pelted him with scraps of their foul art.

He kept a manly, though a wicked, heart.



–Tom Riley

Examination of Conscience

Examination of Conscience



He looks inside and always sees the best.

What noble motivations he’s displayed

For all his choices, passing every test

That he has set himself, making the grade

While others have been selfish and afraid,

Full of wrath, sloth, and all those other ills!

How often, in his heart of hearts, he’s prayed

That God too wills what he, our hero, wills!

How often, with his principles and skills,

He has impressed the angels gliding by!

He can see clearly now that he fulfills

Some prophecy: he’s just that kind of guy.

Of sinners he’s the perfect antonym.

Oh, what a conscience God hath granted him!



–Tom Riley

Relationship Status

Relationship Status



I think that our relationship is neat

And simple and completely satisfying:

Your species is among those that I eat.


Communication’s often incomplete

Despite a lot of angst and aimless crying.

I think that our relationship is neat


Compared to all these others.  What a treat:

Between us there’s no risk of hurtful lying!

Your species is among those that I eat.


All flesh indeed is grass – and often wheat.

No body lasts – though not for want of trying

I think that our relationship is neat.


Neither of us can steal.  Neither can cheat.

All those suspicions simply aren’t applying.

Your species is among those that I eat.


Right now you’re wary, unconvinced, and fleet.

But finally there’s no way of denying

I think that our relationship is neat:

Your species is among those that I eat.



–Tom Riley




(for Matt Thornton)


His greatest challenge isn’t kryptonite

Or Mr. Luthor’s latest ruthless scheme.

It isn’t falling from a lunar height

Or being on a troubled superteam.

For Superman, the challenge is to seem,

In a world full of weaklings, slow and frail,

One of us, not in any way extreme.

Clark Kent is always just about to fail—

And, if he does, then Terran types will wail

The lamentations feared by superears.

Broken by accident, they’ll rise to rail

Against him, supercause of all their tears.

The thanks I offer him are vast and free:

He hasn’t yet annihilated me.



–Tom Riley