Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Month: April, 2013

Prince Vlad

Prince Vlad






At last I understand you better, Prince.

I know the enmity that boils within,

The anger no appeasement can convince

To set aside its boundless quest to win.

I know the wrath that pleads it is no sin.

I know the point that doesn’t need a sword.

I know the force that moves me to begin.

I know what mind and body can afford.

And I acknowledge you were royal, lord,

In every way a commoner can grasp.

Make peace with all my foes?  See smiles restored?

I smile to think I’d rather kiss an asp.

Those bastards live – and all my being aches

To see the lot of them impaled on stakes.






–Tom Riley

Praeses Scholae Optimus

Praeses Scholae Optimus



(for Frank Navarra)



Planned – though unplannable – piano riffs.

Announcements from a sky not yet constructed.

You supplied life – and we, the lucky stiffs,

Enjoyed the symphonies that you conducted.

I will not say that we were thus instructed—

Though maybe there were some of us who were.

Our schedule was the brat that you abducted—

And for his absence now we thank you, sir.

Rarely does such a mad event occur.

Rarely does chaos end in such elation.

Of just such rarities the minister,

You made us cheer your wild administration.

You were indeed, ungovernable lad,

The best damn president we ever had.





–Tom Riley


(Nota: No slight is intended here to Sean Thornton, who was student body president at a later date.  Sean was an example to us all.  But Frank alone of all students ever seized the title “President of the School” — the way Alaric seized Rome.)

Faith and Works

Faith and Works



(for Grace Cortright)



Now Faith and Works are arguing again.

Brethren, it’s up to us to make them get

Along and shout a unified amen!

It’s up to us – but money we won’t bet

On when we’ll get it done.  For Faith won’t let

Us get a word in edge- or anywise.

Ah – and with what heroics we are met

When we dare to affirm what Works denies!

We often cannot tell what name applies—

Nor can the theologian that we hire.

Plus, do we want to cut them down to size?

Won’t we be risking God’s transcendent ire?

Here is the fact we truly have to face:

If we succeed, it’s all because of Grace.





–Tom Riley

Tender Heart

Tender Heart







You mustn’t say what hurts his tender heart.

However true it is, it isn’t right.

You mustn’t exercise satiric art.

You mustn’t say what hurts his tender heart.

He likes to think he’s principled and smart.

He will not see the sharp, unfriendly light.

You mustn’t say what hurts his tender heart.

However true it is, it isn’t right.




–Tom Riley

What’s Done Is Fun

What’s Done Is Fun






“You have done what you shouldn’t have done—

And you cannot undo it, my son.

     What you’ve just dared to do

     Sits in judgment on you.”

“Maybe so – but I sure found it fun.”






–Tom Riley

Smart Phone

Smart Phone






“You take pride in your phone?”  “Yes, I do.

If it has faults, they’re awfully few

     And delightfully slight.

     I could use it all night!”

“It’s too bad your phone’s smarter than you.”






–Tom Riley

Perfect Pairing

Perfect Pairing



(for Erik Freelin)



Booze I turn to with relative ease:

Every cell in my body agrees

     To indulge in potation.

     But there’s this complication:

I need cheese!  I need cheese!  I need cheese!





–Tom Riley

Bible Tamers

Bible Tamers






“We believe in the Scriptures!” they said.

“Other claims on us make us see red.

     They don’t really mean beans.

     But the tamed Bible means

Only that which it means in our head.”






–Tom Riley

You’re Fine


You’re Fine





The betrayals you think that you fear

Are not coming: they’re already here.

     You’re betrayed – but you’re fine.

     The betrayers’ design

Hasn’t squeezed from your eye one small tear.





–Tom Riley

Life of Meyer


The Life of Meyer

(for Nick)

I hear you have a brand new favorite place,

More favored than your favorite from before.

I know you look good fortune in the face

And, without hesitation, ask for more.

I’m different: I am constantly at war

With all my sources of dissatisfaction.

I fight hard for a higher happy score—

But circumstances don’t yield to my action.

My memory’s not subject to redaction—

And yours, I’m certain, doesn’t need to be.

Unhindered by unbearable distraction,

You progress, with a smile, infallibly,

To things far more agreeable and higher.

That’s the life not of Riley but of Meyer.

–Tom Riley