Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Tag: Trinity Grammar and Prep

Things I Didn’t Do

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The Things I Didn’t Do

 

(for Maggie Perry)

 

“Diverse lingue, orribili favelle,

parole di dolore, accenti d’ira,

voci alte e fioche, e suon di man con elle

facevano un tumulto.”

 

I most regret the things I didn’t do,

The things I didn’t manage to convey.

Infernal speech was just the thing for you—

 

And only Dante really had a clue

About the phrases that the damned might say.

I most regret the things I didn’t do,

 

The grammar points that might have rung as true

As cries in the abyss from shades gone gray.

Infernal speech was just the thing for you—

 

The gnawing conversation of the crew

Who from all hope at last had crept away.

I most regret the things I didn’t do,

 

Not those I did – though justice does pursue

Our misdeeds day on unrelenting day.

Infernal speech was just the thing for you—

 

And I its proper spokesman when the cue

Was given.  What a duty to betray!

I most regret the things I didn’t do.

Infernal speech was just the thing for you!

 

–Tom Riley

Late Gift

Late Gift

 

(for Grace Bozyk)

 

A day late and a million dollars short,
I’m giving you a kind of birthday gift.
My meters I align, my rhymes I sift.
The Muse indeed I do not need to court—
For, next to you, she’s quite a common sort.
Those she entices always end up stiffed.
Her breath depresses me, but you uplift
With good looks, clever brain, and true support.
What gift will please? Oh, I’m a puzzled cat
Facing the question that this moment poses!
If you had enemies, I’d break their noses.
Your husband, though, can better handle that.
I give you words, though words at last fall flat:
A dozen (plus two more) poetic roses.

 

Happy Birthday, 2017!

 

“Gramps” Riley

Golden Realm Unearned

Golden Realm Unearned

 

 

(for Bailey Sciambra)

 

 

Och! Was it Bailey Sciambra that I saw?
It was! It was! The world was overturned.
Its dull ruled surface shone with joy and awe.
At its core was a primal state discerned,
Brilliant and pre-lapsarian. I learned
That weighty fog and clouds of endless gray
Can part to show a golden realm unearned,
And long years yield to one unending day.
Och! Was it Bailey Sciambra? So I say.
Italian painters of the Renaissance
Never knew such a glorious display.
The wine of life sprang up from marble fonts.
My startled soul could only say amen.
(This happens to me every now and then.)

 

 

Love,

T.R.

Thanksgiving Day, 2016

Liked

Liked

 

 

(for Julie Brumley)

 

 

Did Julie Brumley like my latest verses?
Hey! That’s what Mr. Riley calls success!
For the next hour, I need not load with curses
the clear and breezy air, need not address
my fundamental gripes — which more or less
constitute my sustained philosophy.
Though on with life I be obliged to press,
I can, for right now, do it joyfully.
You’re telling me it can’t last? I agree.
Pretty soon, circumstances will revive
my gloom. When friends and passing strangers see
my face, they’ll ask what’s wrong. “I’m still alive,”
I’ll grunt, tired of the dismal paths I’ve hiked.
For right now, though, I’ve never felt so liked.

 

 

–Tom Riley

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

Enter the Leprechaun

Enter the Leprechaun

 

 

(for Colleen Carter Duncan)

 

 

For dragons they are ready, all those Micks–
and, after all, dear film fans, Bruce Lee’s dead.
The Big Boss is himself skilled — not at kicks,
but at the kind of brawling that instead
his countrymen prefer. He’ll bust a head
and chug a foaming Guinness both at once.
Though you might say he looks a bit well fed,
he always does his own impressive stunts.
But he and his whole gang, giants and runts,
are no match for Colleen’s well-tutored feet.
She stomps it out of them, all that affronts
what’s right and just. They only know defeat.
The art of Irish dance she understands.
She tells Our Lady: “Mother, look: no hands!”

 

 

–Tom Riley

King of the Franks

King of the Franks

 

 

(for Frank Navarra)

 

 

Were I to bring a man-bag into Mass,
there is no doubt that I’d be tempting fate.
I would look like a hopeless candy-ass,
the kind of punk that Mars can’t help but hate.
But such cannot be said of Frank the Great.
His T-shirt’s striped; he’s wearing shorts, not pants.
And man-bag? Yes — but don’t you deprecate!
He masters every challenge, every chance.
Like Genghis Khan, he conquers an expanse
of territory no one would believe.
His loyal armies every day advance.
Snicker just once and you will shortly grieve.
Impending doom he punches on the nose–
and fills his man-bag with the skulls of foes.

 

 

–Tom Riley

Prelude to a Defeat

Prelude to a Defeat

 

 

(for Regina Phelps)

 

 

I missed your birthday, Supergirl. The weight
of villainhood was heavy on me then.
A list of petty evils was my fate,
none of them such that you, bright citizen
of solar skies, would need to fight me. When
that list was done, another list ensued.
To drudgery I had to say amen.
I reined in an expansive attitude.
But now it’s time our battles were renewed.
I’m planning to destabilize the space
in which all words exist. I know it’s rude–
but I so want to see your earnest face!
You have to stop me, right? The same old story:
defeated, I shall gaze upon your glory.

 

 

–Tom Riley

 

 

(Second place, Napa Town & Country Fair, 2015.)

800

800

 

 

(for Cate Harmon)

“Students with a perfect 800 may have missed a question or two.”

–Susan D. Blum, My Word!

 

 

So — did you miss a question or two?
I consider my doubts through and through.
Oh, it’s possible. Sure.
But my faith remains pure–
and I find I can’t bet against you.

–Tom Riley

Lucky Winner

Lucky Winner

 

 

(for Bailey Sciambra)

 

 

Fondly I call to mind that fateful day.
Whom unto Mrs. Williams would I send?
You volunteered then in your helpful way–
but so did someone else, some other friend
of noble service. Through my mind I wend
in an attempt to draw that other name
out of my memory. Oh, I intend
to dig it out! But I fail in my aim.
Entropy is impossible to tame,
and chaos in the end kicks all our asses.
My brain, once swift and sharp, is growing lame.
Who was that kid, amongst those lads and lasses?
Sadly I say I do not have a clue.
To everyone’s surprise, oh, I picked you!

 

 

Happy birthday!

T.R.

6 February 2015