Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Tag: gods

Cryptic Truth

Cryptic Truth

“Deus laudem meam ne tacueris.”

Apollo would have spoken cryptic truth.
Omnipotence, however, holds its peace.
The Oracle was not a kissing booth.
Apollo would have spoken cryptic truth
In the thrice-wearied world’s untutored youth.
Now all such tortured revelations cease.
Apollo would have spoken cryptic truth.
Omnipotence, however, holds its peace.

–Tom Riley

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Dementia in High Places

Dementia in High Places

The deity he
imagined forgot human transgressions – and
declined to exist.

–Tom Riley

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In Caelo Regnat

In Caelo Regnat


What reigns in Heaven can’t be written down.
No text can bind that all-pervasive fire.
For what’s above some feel a fierce desire—
But composition, lad, makes you a clown
Wearing an idiotic parchment crown.
If you would hear the Gods’ transcendent choir,
From literary efforts please retire!
In alphabetic oceans cease to drown!
Cease to indulge your yen for definition:
What can be put in writing shouldn’t be
If actual enlightenment’s your mission.
Don’t dare encumber immortality!
Be wordless in your pertinent contrition!
Sign here, lad, if at long last you agree!


–Tom Riley





The fire god, roasting virgins on a spit,
Refused to warm our innards as we passed.
The conflagration raged, already lit.
The fire god, roasting virgins on a spit,
Turned to us as we shivered, took a hit
Of heavy smoke, and told us: “Vanish. Fast.”
The fire god, roasting virgins on a spit,
Refused to warm our innards as we passed.



–Tom Riley

Damballah Day

Damballah Day


(St. Patrick is syncretized in Haitian Voodoo with the serpent god Damballah.  He could have done worse….)



They recognized him as the Lord of Snakes.

What else were those things writhing at his feet?

At catechism, they were no great shakes—

But saw the image verdant and complete

And recognized the god.  Snakes in retreat

And in advance look pretty much the same.

The powers that men recognize, they greet.

And that, friends, is the syncretism game.

The savage in a man is hard to tame.

I’m sure St. Patrick recognizes this.

Plus, ignorance is not a cause for shame

Unless it’s willful.  Let the image hiss!

Go ahead, lads, with what you meant to do:

St. Patrick’s smiling as he nods to you.




–Tom Riley

May 16th

May 16th





(for Rachel Nelson)





On what a day was Rachel Nelson born!

The gods of seven pantheons were thrilled

By the first light of that tremendous morn.

In seven skies, celestial calves were killed.

And such a flood of praise transcendent spilled

Over the dam of man’s mundane concerns

That chatter over trivia was stilled.

“Oh, look!” folks cried.  “The Golden Age returns!”

Now still the flame of salutation burns

On May 16th: it happens every year.

Bit by progressive bit, dull mankind learns

To make its celebration more sincere.

Heaven advances toward a bluer blue.

Rachel, my dear: we owe it all to you!






–Tom Riley

Kitchen Gods

Kitchen Gods




The kitchen gods are gods of unseen fire.

I’m sacrificing to the microwave

This morning.  Full of fury and desire,

The kitchen gods are gods of unseen fire:

They sometimes hide, but they do not retire;

They hoard the things we need, the things we crave.

The kitchen gods are gods of unseen fire.

(I’m sacrificing to the microwave….)




–Tom Riley


The Possibility






The gods come in disguise, as well we know.

So maybe Jesus was a mighty god.

Maybe eventually he’ll bring them low,

His foes, and make his judges reck his rod.

To this as possibility we nod.

Helios knows that it would be a scene

Worth watching: golden-visaged, iron-shod

Angels advancing as vain courts convene!

What’s that you say?  This isn’t what you mean

At all?  No unexpected retribution

Visited on officialdom unclean?

Vengeance is not your deity’s solution?

Your revelation brings no satisfaction.

We like our slave shows filled with bloody action.






–Tom Riley