One Afternoon

One hot Arabian afternoon a boom
reverberated through my flat and woke
my napping wife and children; in each room
the windows shook, but not so much they broke.
Two cars with insurrectionists aboard
had tried to breach the oil field’s back gate
and when they failed, the bombs they carried roared
and sent the guards and them to meet their fate.
What blinds a man to purge another’s life?
What deity would sanction such an act?
Removing heads from shoulders with a knife
is making an eternal Devil’s pact.
That day, those months, those years insurgents filled
our hearts with fear are gone, but never stilled.



Paul A. Freeman is the author of Rumours of Ophir, a crime novel which was taught in Zimbabwean high schools and has been translated into German. In addition to having two novels, a children’s book and an 18,000-word narrative poem (Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers!) commercially published, Paul is the author of hundreds of published short stories, poems and articles.

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8 Responses

  1. Brian Yapko

    Paul, I can’t even imagine the horror of what this must have been like. It’s difficult to imagine using a sonnet form for such a horrific subject but it works perfectly to place boundaries around a subject that would otherwise be unbearable. As for the subject itself, the barbarism you detail makes me sick and angry. I well remember the bloodthirsty murder of the journalist Daniel Pearl, not to mention countless other acts of murder and destruction. Yet few will call out the violence of jihadists and their sick willingness to destroy lives and civilization itself. This is a brave poem.

    • Paul Freeman

      Thanks for reading, and for the comments, Brian.

      I’ve been wanting to relate some of what happened happened in Saudi, in the early to mid 2000s. They were scary times.

  2. Cheryl Corey

    Paul, this poem is very timely. I just read an item about how the new ISIS leader has declared a global offensive to avenge the death of the previous leader that we killed back in February. He’s calling for attacks against Europe and Israel while “crusaders” fight each other, to take advantage of our distraction over Ukraine. With an up-tick in violence by Palestinian militants, N Korea testing rockets, and China’s push for hegemony, we’re seeing a world on fire – all because the US doesn’t have strong leadership.

    • Paul Freeman

      Thanks for reading, Cheryl.

      You’re right. This really is a bewildering time we’re living through.

  3. Margaret Coats

    A very powerful poem, Paul, and beautifully constructed. The octave gives the title event: first quatrain, family shock; second quatrain, news report explaining it. After the turn, the third quatrain provides strong defining reflections as question and answer. The final couplet expands time from the “One Afternoon” title, showing the indefinite extent of terror as long as it could possibly repeat, and in the final line, still longer in the hearts of those who experience it. I didn’t think I had a memory like this, but you’ve brought one up: a bomb blast in Lima that took out the local power station when Chinese-backed guerrillas were trying to de-stabilize Alberto Fujimori’s presidency in Peru. Bad things were frequently reported elsewhere, but this was the single one that took place near me in my four months there.

    • Paul Freeman

      Thanks for reading and for commenting, Margaret.

      It is quite amazing if we trawl through our memories the unlikely and unusual events that lie half forgotten.

  4. Jeff Eardley

    Paul, a bone-chilling and very frightening piece. I remember being sickened at all the beheadings and the sickening referral to the perpetrators as “The Beatles.”
    You may have read of the recent knifing to death of one of our most popular politicians, reminding us all that these maniacs are out there.
    A powerful and most disturbing read, thank you.

    • Paul Freeman

      Thanks for the comments, Jeff.

      The murder of David Amess was indeed horrendous, made worse by the fact that he was such a hard-working, old school constituency MP.

      I read this poem at a writers club meeting and was greeted by shocked silence, the shock maybe more pronounced than it might have been because I usually read out light pieces of prose and verse.


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