Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Month: June, 2014








“I shall be a productive little bee!”

She said.  The hive, though, gave her everything:

All of the honey she could manage – free!—

And then a drone who could have been a king.

The music played.  She didn’t have to sing.

She was led through museums full of art.

Police protected her: no need to sting—

Although she could have stung with all her heart.

Her fierce career just never got a start.

Her sweet career was all consumer lax.

Having been coddled, she came quite apart

When envy executed its attacks.

Bees blamed her for their problems: “You’re obscene—

Both an oppressor and a welfare queen!”






–Tom Riley






(First appeared in The Lyric, v. 94, n. 2, Spring 2014)

Under the Surface

Under the Surface



Ha!  She’s living her life to the full!

To her, never a moment is dull.

She is looking for fun—

And she finds it:  a ton!

(There are spider webs inside her skull.)



–Tom Riley


The Seductress



Ah!  Her womanly figure she shows

With a long skirt that clings.  The skin glows

At her ankles.  Oh, see

How she slinks – perfectly!

(That she’s not human all the world knows.)



–Tom Riley





“For convictions I formerly had

I apologize, now not the cad

That I was in the past.

My repentance will last

While it needs to….”  And isn’t that sad?



–Tom Riley


The Star



Into sin, sir, you’ve fallen again.

Devils gather and all say amen.

In their show, you’re the star—

Or they say that you are.

They’ve been known to tell lies now and then.



–Tom Riley

Futility of Rhyme

The Futility of Rhyme



The futility, people, of rhyme
Is my subject: it’s almost a crime,
How rhyme promises sense
And then serves mere pretense.
I resort to it all of the time.



–Tom Riley

America’s First Black President

America’s First Black President



(for Chris Brumley)



Our first black president?  Ah, quite a guy!

(If “guy” indeed is adequate locution

For any person rightly to apply

To such a guy.)  I brace my constitution

And put myself through unrestrained ablution

In order to prepare to praise the name

That offered our sad country a solution

To profound problems causing boundless shame.

Who else, I ask you now, could hope to tame

The ghost of slavery, ravening for blood?

Who else, I add, could even dare to aim

For justice, raise our nation from the mud?

I’m on the verge of tears – and can’t grow calmer.

I’m really going to miss that David Palmer.



–Tom Riley




Deal with the issue in an honest way—
But never show that mean dead baby stuff.
Nobody needs such evidence today.
It only makes a tough choice twice as tough
When once as tough is clearly tough enough.
Plus, you can’t photograph morality,
Can you? Though priests orate in voices gruff,
Dead baby photographs that eyes can see
Mean nothing to the likes of you and me.
We stand aloof from anything called proof.
It’s how we feel that makes us finally
Choose that from which we think we stand aloof.
Dead babies out of sight disturb no smiles.
Abortion has us rolling in the aisles.


–Tom Riley








Ma’am, I will bring your order to birth.

Will I charge you?  Ha!  No way on earth.

What I shape ain’t just nice.

It is way beyond price.

You cannot pay me, ma’am, what I’m worth.



–Tom Riley

Making Conversation

Making Conversation



“May I make conversation?”  “You may—

If you truly have something to say.”

“I’m not sure that I do.

May I still chat with you?”

“Make it snappy.  I don’t have all day….”



–Tom Riley