Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Month: December, 2013










Proud of his idiotic plan,

He chuckles at your criticism.

Sure that at this time he’s the man,

Proud of his idiotic plan,

He boldly tells you: “Yes, I can!”

All light is fractured by that prism.

Proud of his idiotic plan,

He chuckles at your criticism.








–Tom Riley

Last-Minute Shopping Show

The Last-Minute Shopping Show





On Christmas Eve, it’s way too late to shop.

Nevertheless, you see them stepping out,

The desperate and careless.  “Till we drop!”

They cannot say, for everything is doubt

And pressure.  Plans they failed to plan now shout

An empty message, fill the winter sky

With hopelessness.  Our shoppers rush about

And wish that they could drop.  Their haste’s a lie—

For really, fans, they never dared to try

Canceling this repeated yearly show.

As vapid as Kardashians, as sly

As slugs, still they were always in the know.

By despair measured out, their joy’s increased.

Vacuity becomes their Christmas feast.





–Tom Riley





He has charity, folks, toward the poor.

Of his righteousness he’s triple sure.

     What therefore will he do?

     Push more taxes – for you!

His fierce charity’s hard to endure.




–Tom Riley

Lizard in December

A Lizard in December





I saw a lizard in December, friends:

My disappointment goes too deep to tell.

My love for creeping creatures never ends—

As those of you who know me know too well.

But in December?  That’s a real hard sell.

A lizard needs a temperature too high.

I guess I’m back in California hell.

Now I am one resentful Lockport guy.

When I was young, I never had to try

To feel the advent of the holiday.

The snow, as I recall, rose up chest high.

On Christmas Eve, I’d shovel half the day.

Now reptiles mock my loss cold-bloodedly:

That lizard grinned as he blinked up at me.





–Tom Riley

Non Introibo

Non Introibo



(for Paul Moser)



“Anastasio papa guardo,

Lo qual trasse Fotin dalla via dritta.”


–Dante, Inferno, Canto 11, Lines 8-9.



When I’m amongst the churched, I must confess,

Of churchmen I can take a dismal view—

And body forth in all contrariness

The sort of stuff that might make doubtful you

Chuckle.  When learned bishops give the cue,

I do not rush to give the common cheer.

To me, such unity’s an old left shoe.

To me, such doctrine’s flatter than flat beer.

But, when I’m with the doubters, my sincere

Dissent melts just as certainly away.

As Grand Inquisitor in my own sphere,

I strive to rule for God the wayward day.

The clubhouse opens.  I do not go in.

I’m not sure – but it’s probably a sin.




–Tom Riley

Under Pressure

Under Pressure



You will play under pressure.  Refuse

And you’ll soon read a lot of bad news

     That’ll ruin your day.

     Under pressure you’ll play—

And, despite all your caution, you’ll lose.



–Tom Riley





Some guys speak from the heart – but that’s crass

In the eyes of our hero.  Alas,

     That the heart is so small!

     It will not serve at all.

Our guy tries to speak straight from the ass.




–Tom Riley

Lot of Sense

A Lot of Sense







“Self-hatred makes a lot of sense to me.”

“To me as well, considering you’re you.”

“Abomination of identity!

Self-hatred makes a lot of sense to me:

It’s hard to be the thing I’m bound to be;

I snoop around and never get a clue.

Self-hatred makes a lot of sense to me.”

“To me as well, considering you’re you.”






–Tom Riley





(First appeared in The Lyric, v. 93, n. 4, Fall 2013)










They play a constant game of Let’s Pretend.

They’re pretty much impervious to facts.

Into a hell of pleasure they descend.

They don’t recall their failures or their acts.

If you present a list, they say: “Relax!”

If you insist, their friendly eyes grow cold.

You’re forcing them to cover up their tracks.

You’re telling tales that never should be told.

Why can’t you just assume their lead is gold

As all their many fans serenely do?

Why can’t you just accept the stuff they’ve sold

To everybody else?  You loser, you!

Why can’t you get some simple common sense?

Reality is rooted in pretense.








–Tom Riley

(First appeared in The Lyric, v. 93, n. 4, Fall 2013)

Spider Heaven

Spider Heaven


(for Teresa)


The spiders that I’ve slain down through the years

Because their presence made you cry, “Dad!  Dad!”—

They wait in Spider Heaven now.  In tears,

I think of it and find it more than sad.

Arachnids in the afterlife are mad

As hell at me: their heaven is my hell!

They’ll give me worse than I have ever had.

They’ll bite my flesh and up my flesh will swell.

Or will it be my soul?  I dare not tell.

Confusion settles, deadlier than dread,

On my heart, for I’m under Shelob’s spell.

Paralyzed, I can hardly move ahead.

All that I know is that you need to pray.

Let me from Spider Heaven stay away!



–Tom Riley

(First appeared in The Lyric, v. 93, n. 4, Fall 2013)