Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Tag: Star*Line




(for W. Gregory Stewart)


Of course you want to smash them. So did I

when my hand, independent of my will,

splattered them all around you, the sick spawn

of something not my own imagination,

babies with wings. Like you, I wished them gone

in words I now hold unrepeatable:

I begged wings of my own, that I might fly

to where such images could never be.

But then they spoke to me, and, in elation,

I understood at last: this wasn’t how

they’d always look, but just their larval stage.

Give them, at most, another century,

and they’ll be full-grown agents of God’s rage,

world-rending kerubhim. Feel better now?



–Tom Riley


(First appeared in Star*Line, May-June 1987.)

Poe’s Dead Ladies

Poe’s Dead Ladies



Though they were never Ivory girls, they’re clean

As wind-washed, rain-rinsed marble: I have grown

To love them and to love the way they stay

Forever out of reach of Poe and me.

Though they are past the point of speech, they say

The damnedest things in silence: I have known

True love – ill-fated, somber, and pristine—

Only in sight of them, outside their arms.

Though they are virgins now, though they will be

Virgins forever, they pronounced the doom

Upon my precious, pimply innocence.

And though I spend my life counting their charms,

I see their chief attraction: ever since

I’ve known them, they’ve been safely in the tomb.



–Tom Riley



(First appeared in Star*Line, May-June 1988.)