Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Tag: D.C. comics

Sonnet on a Scene from the Zack Snyder Cut

Sonnet on a Scene from the Zack Snyder Cut

Jittery Barry suddenly seems still.
This presages a shift to super speed.
The dog’s bark stretches, thus does not grow shrill.
Now gorgeous little Iris is in need.
The Flash’s shoes can’t hold his feet. Indeed,
Can anything? The fluid known as glass
Is scattered by a single touch. World, heed:
The speedster chooses now to move his ass.
Touch her hair first – a tribute, not a pass.
The hot dog pocketed for later use.
And now, as member of the smitten class,
Make safe that perfect face, that fine caboose.
A final glance exchanged, warm intimation.
Such is the realm of mortal adoration.

–Tom Riley

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No Compromise

No Compromise

“Because there is good and there is evil, and evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon, I shall not compromise in this.”

The end looms large. You hunt a murderer
Before the day of universal loss.
You put no faith in any saving cross.
You put no hope in any minister
Beyond yourself. Disasters will occur—
And will not be served up with chocolate sauce.
Acknowledging no deity as boss,
You question and, as death comes on, infer.
Your partner is a reasonable guy.
His paunch is of a reasonable size.
His zeal is thus as mortal as a sigh—
And it’s in you that readers recognize
Heroic dignity they can’t deny.
Tearful, you shed your face. No compromise.

–Tom Riley

Who Is Like unto God?

Who Is Like unto God?


His kids mistook him (Mark Shea says) for God.
That is an unbelievable mistake.
He looks a lot more like Gorilla Grodd,
Maybe a tad less hairy. As a flake,
He’s tops — and can blab on for blabbing’s sake,
It’s true, to an unparalleled degree.
At volubility he’s not a fake—
But that’s no God-like feature finally.
Still, I believe him. How could small tots see
The flaws in his impostor’s presentation?
A human soul requires maturity
To view Shea with the proper detestation.
His kids, when small, saw Shea as God. I’d say
Shea himself makes the same mistake today.


—Tom Riley

Superman Sorry

Superman Sorry


Muses Superman: “Those who can’t fly?
To them super rules do not apply.
Their unsuper condition
excludes super contrition.
Brings a crystalline tear to my eye….”


—Tom Riley





“It’s just so hard, reaching him. I mean, all this stuff, this horror and madness, he attracts it. It’s his world. This is where he lives, in this sordid, violent twilight zone, under this shadow.”


Under this shadow, here indeed he dwells.
An easy-going fellow he is not.
He’s calm surrounded by concentric hells.
Perspective is the only thing he’s got.
Surfaces, polished, don’t conceal the rot
from him. Beyond the show of things, he sees
the things themselves. He doesn’t have a lot
to say to them. He doesn’t strive to please.
And if, in consequent hostilities,
he ends up beaten by the brainy Veidt,
nevertheless, what’s strong in him agrees
to no conditions. Facing endless night,
he’s equal to the least-forgiving task.
When the bolt strikes, he casts aside his mask.



–Tom Riley


De Cervicibus Kryptonianis

De Cervicibus Kryptonianis




(for Larry Maxson)





Only Kryptonians can break the necks

Of other damn Kryptonians – like Zod.

A furious Tyrannosaurus rex

Could never even make Zod shrug – or nod.

No, a Kryptonian is not a god—

But, when it comes to scrapping, he is better.

It’s hard to hurt his solar-powered bod.

You’ll note how thoroughly he fills his sweater.

At super speed, he’s more than a go-getter:

He goes and gets and goes and gets and goes

More times than you can count.  Solve for the letter

“K” and you’ll get an answer no geek knows.

That’s why I’m glad that Clark said what-the-heck

And broke the general’s bull-stubborn neck.





–Tom Riley

Biters to Santorini

Biters to Santorini



(for Mainak Dhar)



In Santorini, where the vampires are,

Zombies have not inspired tremendous fear—

Until now.  Who’s arriving?  Mainak Dhar!

The homegrown monsters sense that he is here.

“What is this strange disturbance to our sphere?”

“Don’t you know?  It’s the guy who made them rise—

The Biters!  He’s the top imagineer

Of the age, scribe of tales both fierce and wise.

If he is here, we have to recognize

That Alice, spunky Queen of the Undead,

Is also on the island.  From her eyes,

No glamour can conceal us.  Flee instead!”

“I’m sure his mortal blood would taste just fine.”

“Don’t be a bonehead!  Leave him to his wine!”




–Tom Riley


O lector, nota, te amabo

Line 1:  Santorini is one of the Cyclades and is traditionally known in Greece as the place where vampires prowl.  In fact, a Greek idiom – translated as “vampires to Santorini” – corresponds to the English expression “coals to Newcastle.”

Line 7:  I’d love to take credit for the word “imagineer,” but in reality I stole it from Mark Millar’s graphic novel Red Son, where the infant Superman lands in Ukraine and becomes a Soviet superhero.    

Line 13:  I’m stretching the limits of folklore here: the Greek vampire rarely drinks blood. 

Sex and the Superman

Sex and the Superman




In Man of Steel, there’s very little sex.

Somebody messes with a waitress?  Clark

Stops it, disguised as Wimposaurus rex.

After that, there’s no lusting fierce and dark.

The villain is a sort of programmed shark

Who kills us flimsy folk to serve his own.

Lois and Superman do share a spark—

But never far beyond the comfort zone.

O sages of the silver screen, the lone

Hero can be a fascinating sight!

Omissions may make Flynt and Hefner groan—

But in that vacuum I perceive a light.

Women of Kleenex, dread that man of steel!

From such a broken heart, you may not heal.



–Tom Riley

Good Influence

A Good Influence




(for Anna and Ben Hatke)





This morning: Wonder Woman at my door!

(She said she’d run.  Of course, she really flew.)

She was what all her fans insist – and more.

My heart accelerated right on cue—

And from my plans of evil I withdrew,

Governed by fear but also admiration.

My supervillain soul had not a clue

About its next destructive calculation.

Daughter of Paradise, Child of Elation,

If only I could see you every day,

I might not feed my raging indignation

On thoughts of making all the cursed world pay.

I might serve decency as bard and sage.

After all, Ben’s the hero of the age.




–Tom Riley

Bizarre Mathematical Crimes

Bizarre Mathematical Crimes





(for Paul Rogers)





“You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,


Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.”









Crimes against algebra?  Professors sneered.

Crimes against calculus?  They said: “No way!”

But Mr. Rogers, just as students feared,

Has done it – and he’s doing it today.

The League of Super Math Brains in dismay

Retreats before his genius, fierce and wild.

And Mr. Rogers laughs at the display

Of math that he’s established: math defiled!

Next to him, Archimedes was a child.

Next to him, Einstein was the slave of rules.

As he surveys the blackboard, Joker-smiled,

He shakes the desks in all the little schools.

His plan is stark and subtle, dark and deep.

He’ll make the world of mathematics weep.




–Tom Riley