Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Month: October, 2012

Mrs. Dracula

Mrs. Dracula



Well, we agreed upon an open marriage

The night he popped the question, and I see

The need for it on his side.  He can’t do

A lot about it: it’s deep in his blood

To chase the girls.  And it was only through

His unrestrained pursuit of girls that we

First met: I still recall his youthful carriage

The night my soul fell instantly in love

With him, a man much older than I could

Believe back then.  And, anyway, I’m sure

Those little trysts don’t really mean a thing

To him.  It’s me he wants the drinking of,

He tells me, and he’s not just posturing.

His lips are scarlet, but his heart is pure.



–Tom Riley


(First appeared in The Lyric, Fall 1986.)

Even the Monster

Even the Monster



Even the monster has to hide his face

When the right person steps into the room—

Or the wrong one.  She fills his raging space

And shows the levity of all his gloom

Without intending to.  Her friends assume

That she’s gone mad, that his unholy maw

Will open vast as craters to consume

Her soul, fresh sprung and all unseasoned, raw.

Instead, an iron and unwritten law

Crosses its muscled arms there at his core—

And those who cringed rise boldly to guffaw

At how his cloud of terror is no more.

She swiftly wins the unsought victory.

Into nonentity he has to flee.



–Tom Riley




Tros Anchisiade, facilis descensus Averno:
noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis;
sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
hoc opus, hic labor est.


Aeneid VI, 126-129.


As tourist in the country of the dead,

Of course you think you know the fast way out.

On certainty, not hope, your strength is fed.

Of your escape route you need have no doubt.

So when some drunks beyond the next hill shout

Words you imagine that they meant for you,

You charge with confidence to have it out.

And that, lad, is a foolish thing to do.

Now you are where the beautiful is true

No longer, where facts lie in wait like snares.

These gray environs do not cede on cue

Space to more comforting and stirring airs.

What you have lost mere effort can’t restore.

You can’t act as a tourist anymore.



–Tom Riley





Make sure the vampire’s lying on his face.

Make sure the stake has passed right through his heart.

Make sure his legs are bound.  Make sure his space

Is small.  Make sure of everything.  Be smart.

If then he wanders loose, by some damned art

Our experts haven’t yet quite understood,

Try garlic, simple garlic, at the start.

Advance to feces when you know you should.

Repulsive smells are, in this context, good:

The vampire stinks, so stench drives him away.

That’s why we’re stinking up the neighborhood

With the gab we maintain most every day.

Will it work?  Who can tell?  We have to try.

If all our efforts fail you, then you die.



–Tom Riley

It’s a Job

It’s a Job


(for Cate Harmon)


My job now is to disagree with Cate—

The only job for which I’m qualified,

Apparently.  To face unfriendly fate,

To triumph when philosophy’s applied—

To these tasks man is called.  Whoever lied

And told you that such things need never be

Served you a foe that could be well defied,

A foil with which the soul could disagree.

So, controversial Cate, lay into me

With all your sense and all your trenchant wit!

It may be you know better.  We shall see.

If you do, I won’t start admitting it

Till aging heart no longer dares to throb.

It doesn’t pay that much – but it’s a job.






18 October 2012

Creatures of the Night

Creatures of the Night


(for Colleen)


Now you’ve become a creature of the night.

But why are you unhappy in that role?

You harbor great affection for the light—

And that is self-deception, on the whole.

The light does not illuminate the soul.

Indeed, I say it chiefly blinds the eyes.

It doesn’t lead you to a worthwhile goal.

It preaches – but it doesn’t make you wise.

Come: there are daylight drones to terrorize!

Now that you share our nature, join our cause:

We serve a movement of expanding size;

We overturn all vain diurnal laws.

Destruction casts a shadow called creation.

Embrace the pupil’s glorious dilation!






18 October 2012

Late Inspiration

Late Inspiration


(for Andrew Cooper)


He looked upon the Great Trinomial—

The ladder toward a different paradise—

And didn’t shout: “I am Sir William Gull!”

All of his words were frozen in an ice

Through which no effort, though redoubled twice,

Could force them.  He had nothing then to say

To everything.  Such moments are not nice

And do not offer lovely games to play.

Still, Gull existed for this moment: day

And heavy night were finally made one

In this thrice-dreadful, thrice-adored display,

More blinding than that petty fraud, the Sun.

In that brief time, eternity was eyed—

And all Gull’s future crimes were justified.


–Tom Riley

End of the Game

The End of the Game



Some brainy babe has captured Brendan Quinn.

Trinity girls are gnawing out their hearts.

The game they dreamt for years that they might win

Is over now.  Now all their scheming smarts,

All application of their female arts—

All, all is wasted!  What a psychic wail

They give!  How they are hurt by fortune’s darts!

They’re lining up right now to take the veil.

But Brendan offers comfort: “Don’t grow pale,

Trinity girls!  Don’t throw all hope away!

The yearning of your hearts need never fail.

You’ll happen on a substitute someday—

And at last know enough felicity.

Of course, your dreams will still be filled with me….”


–Tom Riley




You keep them really busy: that’s the key.

You give them junk to eat and lies to read.

You give them limitless activity

To limit them.  They don’t have time to heed

The signals – so they mindlessly proceed

Into the nowhere realms you’ve worked to plan.

It is a simple strategy indeed.

It does all that a system really can.

The tactics you must manage like a man

All by yourself.  Don’t worry: you’ll do fine.

You never struck us as an also-ran.

We chose you in accordance with design.

The trials you’re soon to face won’t make you dizzy.

Keep in mind what we’ve said here – and keep busy.


–Tom Riley

The Will of Gawd

The Will of Gawd


He made his living as a fraud.

Fooling himself, he ceased to know

He only did the will of Gawd.


In him, no stubborn conscience gnawed.

He freed himself from truth – and so

He made his living as a fraud.


He heard his followers applaud.

Why let his critics get him low?

He only did the will of Gawd.


He mouthed dead sermons, heavy-jawed.

The servile found it quite a show.

He made his living as a fraud—


And never dreamt his plan was flawed.

His wits rejoiced to move so slow.

He only did the will of Gawd.


And when the harpies, iron-clawed,

Descended, he let no tears flow.

He made his living as a fraud.

He only did the will of Gawd.


–Tom Riley