Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Month: November, 2012




(for Ben Hatke)


The alien who comes from ocean deeps

Is far more distant than the one who came

From Krypton.  Where the Kraken waits and sleeps,

The Sea King is at home – and whales proclaim

His chilling glory.  Think you know his name?

You know it not who hear it on the air.

An ancient strength, impossible to tame

Has made his heart its own forbidden lair.

Work out his motivations if you dare.

Remember, though, that he can breathe through gills.

Remember that his hope is your despair.

What the Flood promised, he in truth fulfills.

There is no doubting that he serves the good—

But are you in his moral neighborhood?


–Tom Riley


(http://letflythecannons.blogspot.com/2012/11/journal-comics-jl-sketchbook-and-more.html )






(for Ben Hatke)



The Batman doesn’t trust that little freak.

The Batman doesn’t much trust anyone.

But his distrust in this case is unique:

The brat has the capacity to stun

The Batman with his canny stunts.  Undone,

The cybernetic forces all around

Yield to this little loser’s work/tricks/fun:

Just when the Batman needs them down, they’re downed.

Well, let him stay!  He’ll soon cease to astound

The Batman, who acknowledges hard facts

And knows the smell of mystery.  No sound

Proceeds from Robin’s lips.  And, ah, his acts—

Tiny acts with effects of giant size—

Are still as enigmatic as his eyes!



–Tom Riley



(http://letflythecannons.blogspot.com/2012/11/boy-wonder.html )

Johnny and the Monster

Johnny and the Monster



(for Ben Hatke)



Even Supes seems to play at being hero—

So Johnny’s free to see this stuff as fun.

Last of your kind is pretty close to zero

In the delight department.  Anyone

Would seek some other option, try to run

Some other course – so Johnny’s now the Child

With Gnarly Powers.  He has drawn the sun

Closer: his daily climate’s almost mild.

But, when the unexpected gets him riled,

When criminals won’t play, as he plays, fair,

When affront on affront is rudely piled,

Why, then you’ll find a monster waiting there—

Which the perceptive Batman ought to see

As that which Johnny’s chosen not to be.



–Tom Riley


(http://letflythecannons.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-child-stranger.html )

Zeroing In

Zeroing In




(for Ben Hatke)




His targeting is not like yours and mine—

For that which zeros in is thrice-enhanced

In him.  As part of tyranny’s design,

His genome has been tweaked, refined, advanced.

But out of tyranny’s domain he’s chanced—

If chance it can be called – and now he’s free.

The fierce and servile dance his fellows danced

From childhood on was never meant to be

His fate.  Now Oliver, at liberty,

Has chosen to confront all that puts chains

On endlessly-enslaved humanity.

He plays his hand.  To him there still remains

His accuracy – tweaked, advanced, refined.

Against him are arrayed four of a kind.



–Tom Riley




Manger Scene

Manger Scene


They object strongly to your manger scene.

They organize to make you take it down.

Their absolutist views they keep pristine.

Your compromises they will never crown.

The tyrant often doubles as a clown—

And these are no exception finally.

They mean to rule the whole surrendered town.

They know they’ll get the townies to agree.

But better their absurd vacuity

Than your alternative of empty show,

Than your slick, Herod-governed pageantry.

They keep their zeal, however low they go.

They don’t commit the dire crime of an art

That enshrines Christ in places not the heart.


–Tom Riley







(for Ashley Huss)





Ashley in glasses: she looks so mature

That ancient Mr. Riley is a child

Beside her knowing presence.  Insecure,

He looks for flaws – but no reports are filed.

Her former verbal indiscretions, wild

And innocent, are not in evidence.

In sheer sophistication domiciled,

She seems a paragon of common sense.

She models forth a braininess, intense

And yet restrained, that nobody expected.

It looks like she has mastered all events.

It looks like all her talents are perfected.

She seems insightful and supremely schooled.

Rejoice, Miss Huss: at last you have me fooled!




–Tom Riley





(for Mrs. Amador)



Oh, poor Marissa hasn’t exercised!

She’s worried that she almost weighs a ton.

I think at last it’s time she realized

She’s never in her life looked 21.

Self-deprecation may at times be fun,

My dear – but it is also tedious

To those who, under an oppressive sun,

Are mortal  and are burdened and are thus

Facing conditions you need never fuss

About.  If your looks suffer, they are still

Arresting to an ordinary cuss

Who only has his anguish to fulfill.

Those the gods favor never have to do

An exercise.  It’s clear they favor you.



–Tom Riley




Drink Responsibly

Drink Responsibly





(for Wendy and Bob Biale)





With lunch I had Biale Zinfandel—

The Party Line, 2010 the year—

And knew as I imbibed that, in my sphere,

This was a brilliant light, a sounding bell,

More promising than any wishing well

Or victory of causes I hold dear.

It didn’t make the dark world disappear—

But did prove that I was not yet in Hell.

Some time has passed.  It’s now mid-afternoon—

And the world is as gloomy as before.

Soon, I know, I shall sing the mournful tune

I hold within my serpent’s heart.  My lore

Is weighty, and I read a dismal rune.

It’s time, I’m sure, to pour myself some more.



–Tom Riley

Cop on the Beat

Cop on the Beat




(for Ben Hatke)




He knew the challenge of the dirty street,

Where even petty crime is wired to power.

He knew the skepticism that tastes sweet,

The lonely strength that never has to cower.

So he was ready for the crowded hour

Which found both crime and honesty revealed.

What had long crouched within became a tower.

A lantern and two rings: his fate was sealed.

His predecessor in the stellar field

Gave up the very ghost John Stewart shared

With him – and in that very death was healed

Of what this world had done to him.  Who cared

That life had fled?  For life was now complete:

Another honest cop was on his beat.



–Tom Riley






(for Ben Hatke)

You should have seen how fast he was before.

Globally, milers knew athletic fear.

He earned a negative cross-country score.

He was the fastest in the fastest sphere.

Then came the accident – and now he’s here,

Trapped in the realm of transhumanity.

Now for his lost ambitions shed a tear.

Before it lands, he’ll sprint across the sea.

The competition’s lacking – so to be

The Flash, O fans of speed, is loneliness

In motion.  On the endless circle, he

Must run.  Who’ll break the tape, you needn’t guess.

It’s creepy how bad spandex trunks can chafe.

The milers of the world, alas, are safe!

–Tom Riley