Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis






(for Ben Hatke)




He’s smiling, and he wears a jaunty cape.

The “S” there on his chest is shining bright.

He may be stronger than a giant ape—

But still the engine of his heart is light.

The lasers of his eyes, his soaring flight,

The never-ending battle: it’s a game

That he enjoys, in spite of kryptonite.

Call him a fool – but never say he’s lame.

Good cheer is what he’s striving to proclaim

As he saves lives.  I say that Santa Claus

Has a more solemn air, a grayer aim.

If Supes has flaws, they’re clear and happy flaws.

And, when he laughs, the laughter isn’t canned.

Still, I’ll be careful when I shake his hand.



–Tom Riley




Wise Doctor Calvin


Wise Doctor Calvin thought decapitation

adequate, but the hotter heads prevailed.

Servetus had denied the Trinity:

the flames would have this tasteless heretic.

It was an unexpected mercy: he

would feel no flames; before the red points nailed

his nerves, he would enjoy asphyxiation–

and, afterward, whatever he was due.

Now history declares all burnings sick

except in utero: though understated,

history, there for everyone to read,

is something we must pay attention to,

even accept. So now we’re all agreed:

Servetus should have been decapitated.

–Tom Riley

(First appeared in Art:Mag, November 1988.)