Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Tag: Napa Valley

Big Disappointment

Big Disappointment

January storm in
the Napa Valley: no, it
doesn’t rain wine.

–Tom Riley

Drink like a Fish

Drink like a Fish

Did the sardines
I had for lunch enjoy
their sauvignon blanc?

–Tom Riley

Napa Valley Heat Wave Sacrificial Urge

Napa Valley Heat Wave Sacrificial Urge

Sun above vineyards:
for cooler mornings, I’d almost
give up wine.

–Tom Riley

Gavin’s Latest Move

Gavin’s Latest Move


Even back at
the French Laundry, he was
planning this lockdown.


–Tom Riley


BUSTED! San Fran Mayor Had Her Own French Laundry Party with Socialite - the Night After Newsom ...

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.)





The raven sitting on the vineyard fence
Brings wisdom from a distant deity.

“Does the world have it in for you and me?”

Not really, says the One-Eyed God. Events
Proceed with an indifference so immense
That mortals welcome frank hostility.
It’s a gift they will never truly see.
They fool themselves, and that’s their recompense.

“Does every raven answer just the same?”

My fellow, with a semblance of design,
Declares the opposite. It’s not our aim
To force consistency on the divine.
In evenhandedness there is no shame.
Now quit your questions. Have a glass of wine.



–Tom Riley



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

Dona Meliora

Dona Meliora



(for Maria Martin)



“¿Habrá sentido que no estaba solo
y que el arcano, el increíble Apolo
le había revelado un arquetipo?”






I should, of course, have sent you better wine
From the land of your childhood, which you know
To rule in Cabernet if not Merlot.
If Bacchus is a god, then it’s divine
Here where I once compelled you to decline
Latin nouns. Bacchus is a god, although
I’ve often had too much to tell him so.
I’ll let him make the Maenads dance in line.
I should, perhaps, have sent you once again
A dagger with a handle emerald green.
Minerva would have loved your chances then.
Mars would have hailed you where the bold convene.
Instead you get this sonnet. Tell me when
The disappointment verges on obscene.



Happy Birthday!




23 May 2017

Seeing Rachel

Seeing Rachel



(for Rachel Bailey)



Rachel lives in the land of microbrews–
and here I linger, drinking cheap boxed wine.
Balloons rise in the morning, rainbow clues
to sunny lives that really can’t be mine.
The limits that we breezily define
grow into walls that Trump would celebrate,
praising their altitude. Groans form a line.
It is the line, and not the groans, I hate.
Seeing that girl again, of course, was great.
Oh, it was even better than champagne!
But I know chance on sight: it isn’t fate.
The aging heart relies on chance in vain.
When we meet next, it won’t be soon enough.
I turn therefore to stronger drinking stuff.



–Tom Riley

Spoken Word

The Spoken Word



(for Delia Bisconer)



The written word of course is meant for speaking,

But most of us can’t give it utterance.

Our voices – groaning, droning on, or creaking—

Slaughter the word and finally convince

Folks to try silent reading.  How they wince

To hear us say a single verse aloud!

Our meter limps.  It’s crying out for splints.

Our former confidence is quickly cowed.

That’s why of Delia we’re supremely proud.

From verses she constructs a symphony

To please the most discriminating crowd.

The judges have consulted and agree:

Delia has done what only Delia could!

Now even Margaret Atwood’s sounding good.



–Tom Riley




California Cold


California Cold





I got a taste of California Cold—

I, long an exile from the land of snow.

Some exiles may have cried out: No, no, no!

I rejoiced as the ice reached to enfold

My aging blood.  Why, if the truth is told,

I’ve missed the temperatures I used to know!

Just as the darkness sets my heart aglow,

So the cold warmed what in my heart is old.

Down from my fountain, icicles hung clear

And glorious.  This crazy Disneyland

Was real again!  Ah, entropy was here

Where very few can hope to understand

The emptiness that undoes all our fear!

My joy was keen because it came unplanned.



–Tom Riley