Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Tag: metahumans

Hyperanthropus et Mater Sua

Hyperanthropus et Mater Sua



Superman and his mom were on my flight.

He himself was in toddler-sized disguise–

but, friends, there is a higher kind of sight

than that which passes only through the eyes.

I saw therewith the engines in the thighs

and shoulders, solar-powered yet powerful

beyond the power of mankind’s feeble tries.

I saw the diamond hardness of the skull.

Yes, I refused to be convention’s gull.

I looked a second time.  I saw anew

the bright red glow that blinking could not dull

behind those irises — and took the cue.

Superman and his mom were there that day.

He took a step.  I got out of his way.



–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

Die Verwandlung

Die Verwandlung





(for Charlie and Michael Maxson)





He cried: “I want to be a robot, Dad!”

His father gave a diabolic laugh.

If you’re an evil genius, life is sad

Till you receive the challenge.  Then you graph

Your mood and find it rising, epitaph

Upon the unendurable ennui

You have endured.  You cast aside the chaff

And grasp the wheat.  “A robot you shall be!”

He labored fiercely and unceasingly.

His son was by the process so transformed

That women shrieked and fainted just to see.

The cockles of the father’s heart were warmed.

The robot voice was glorious to hear!

(My own mad admiration is sincere.)





–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








What I got were inferior powers.

Heroes think that my dark spirit cowers—

     But they’re wrong, oh, so wrong!

     My black heart is still strong.

In the time to come, my revenge towers!






–Tom Riley






(for Maria and Kevin Klassen)




Are you living where Superman grew?

Though the landscape is flat, lucky you!

     Summer stretches.  Corn grows.

     You can take it, God knows.

You are part of a glorious crew!






–Tom Riley

Real Thing

The Real Thing




(for Matt Thornton)





Henry Cavill makes quite a Superman.

I once shook hands, though, with the genuine

And superhuman article.  My plan

Was unformed, but I wore a cocky grin

And challenged the serene Kryptonian

To a test of sheer strength.  The thunder rolled—

And he could destroy worlds let me win.

My victory, though false, was bright as gold.

I shall remember it while growing old.

Such fictions, fans, enable us to live.

Shamefully stupid, I was proudly bold.

From fact I may have been a fugitive—

But, after he had winced, he shrugged and smiled,

Happy to see me victor, though self-styled.





–Tom Riley