Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Tag: games

Barbarus in Roma

Barbarus in Roma



As captive taken to Eternal Rome,
As tall and ruddy slave amongst the free
And short and dark, he thirsted fearfully
For German beer and all the joys of home.

He saw no glory in the hippodrome
Nor on the sand where skilled slaves fought to see
Who would endure in vile utility
Under the unconcern of Heaven’s dome.

Civilization was, to him, disease–
Though the diseased were sure that they were fine
And gloried in their vain civilities.

In his lashed heart, he failed to fall in line.
In his fierce spirit, he was hard to please.
He was converted, finally, by wine.



–Tom Riley



(Second Place, Napa Town and Country Fair, 2017.)

New Guy

New Guy



The new guy came – but, oh, the game was old!
The moves boiled up from ancient memory
And all the bogus warmth was tombstone cold.
The new guy came – but, oh, the game was old!
Reviewing hoary tales that Homer told,
The new guy strove to get us to agree.
The new guy came – but, oh, the game was old!
The moves boiled up from ancient memory.



–Tom Riley

Another Meeting

Another Meeting




They meet again, exchanging lies

That make them feel supremely good.

The whos, the whats, the hows, the whys

They wave aside, as liars should.

Would they improve it if they could,

The game that they pretend to play?

They wouldn’t.  They have understood

The spirit of the empty day.

All that is real they wish away.

All that is tough they do not try.

The easy region wrapped in gray

Renders secure their every lie.

Let the truth shake its bony fist!

It isn’t on their monthly list.



–Tom Riley

Celestial Chess

Celestial Chess


(In memoriam Jim Barrett, d. 14 March 2013)



I never knew that you were keen on chess.

If I had known, of course we would have played.

I hear you liked to win – and I, no less

Than you, am set on victory’s parade.

The checkmate I deliver doesn’t fade

Easily from my memory’s fierce hold.

On my mind’s screen it’s endlessly displayed.

And you were much the same – or so I’m told.

If amongst saints I too end up enrolled—

A prospect that is far from sure to me—

Then on a match I won’t need to be sold:

We shall play games that angels cheer to see;

We shall think clearer, having shed our sins.

Till then, don’t challenge God: He always wins.




–Tom Riley

Firm Foundation

Firm Foundation






As hero of his own unending play,

He plants his substance on a firm foundation.

He has a lot of gravitas this way.

He makes use of a lot of gravitation.

Now no force can displace him from the station

He occupies – and occupies so well.

He is secure from idle complication.

He is safe from vain truths that others tell.

He likes his own imagined look.  His smell—

Which he need not imagine – he adores.

He’s under this, his own entrancing spell.

In his own games, he earns impressive scores.

What matter that his head is solid bone?

It may be ossified – but it’s his own.






–Tom Riley