Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Tag: neurons





“Granted, I’m no genius….”



Let nobody deny you there, Miss Smile!
You put it just as clearly as you could–
and all who know you line up in the aisle
to say amen, as certainly they should.
If geniuses are evil, you are good.
If geniuses are troubled, you’re serene.
And, if there is a genius neighborhood,
you’re on the other side of town. How keen
your wits became when that one truth was seen
so perfectly! Of course, such moments fade.
It’s hard to keep your primitive machine
of neurons on the route of that parade.
If evolution’s true, Darwin agrees:
you left your own brain stranded in the trees.



–Tom Riley

Prophet of Decadence

The Prophet of Decadence






“What a powerful brain you’ve displayed!”

They exclaimed.  “Ah,” he said, “I’m afraid

     That my neurons won’t last:

     My best thinking is past!”

In a year, he was sorely decayed.





–Tom Riley

Back to Normal

Back to Normal






“We’ve got your neurons back to normal, sir.

Think really hard and then agree with us:

Of truth is each of us a minister.

We’ve got your neurons back to normal, sir—

And judgment’s not an act we can defer

A moment longer.  Now we’re serious:

We’ve got your neurons back to normal, sir.

Think really hard – and then agree with us.”






–Tom Riley

Curse of the Cyberneticians

Curse of the Cyberneticians






The chipmunk’s brain is full of information

The blacksnake’s belly can’t appreciate

As it digests the neurons.  Ah, creation!

The chipmunk’s brain is full of information—

Forever lost to serpentine predation.

Cyberneticians curse – but such is fate:

The chipmunk’s brain is full of information

The blacksnake’s belly can’t appreciate.






–Tom Riley






(First appeared in Magic Realism, Issue #6, Summer 1992.)

Role Model

Role Model



You only have to give up what you are

And work real hard – and you can be like me.

It doesn’t help to wish upon a star.

You have to pay attention, look, and see—

Then imitate, my child, unceasingly

The inner greatness that has made me great.

Master my study habits and you’ll be

On your way.  No, I cannot guess the rate

At which your neurons will assimilate

The lessons that I manifest each day.

Those who resist may never graduate.

Don’t be like them!  Be humble, child – and say

Your lessons!   Chew them carefully and swallow!

I lead the way.  You only have to follow.



–Tom Riley




We celebrate the victory of fraud.

What’s genuine is, after all, a pain:

Its hard teeth leave our falsehoods cruelly gnawed;

Its vision makes us see we’ve lived in vain.

How we despise the products of a brain

In which our foggy doctrines find no place!

Unfettered neurons endlessly complain:

We read rebellion in that silent face.

But, on the side of fraud, what poise, what grace,

What wise restraint is manifested there!

Oily and sneaky truly win the race.

Unity in a lie defeats the stare

Of disapproval fixed on us by foes

Whose ayes are ayes, whose noes are always noes.


–Tom Riley


Water of Life

Water of Life

(for Erik Freelin)

Water of Life, you’re still the only thing
that I put in my coffee!  Milk and cream
are for small babies when they’re wearying
the bones of those more solid and extreme.
Sugar’s for girls — and I ain’t on that team.
Now as for all that other piss folks add,
I do not judge — not much.  I simply deem
such feeble fluids infinitely sad.
But whiskey, lovely whiskey: that’s no fad
or fashion, no mere temporary taste.
It’s great when good and pretty good when bad.
Against that stuff my neurons long have raced.
The end result will hardly come as news;
my neurons are delighted when they lose.

–Tom Riley