Stolen Voices

The worst kind of thief there is,
is the one who steals another’s words
then speaks them silver-lipped
and serpent-tongued
or writes them with crooked finger
and poisoned pen
without appreciating their weight
or realising their value
only seeing inked shapes on paper
not the skill it took in crafting those shapes
so when you’re caught
and our expressions of love,hope,pain & hurt
are reclaimed by us
the ones who have enough courage
to share our story with the world
I hope you are wordless, you are voiceless
a blank piece of paper blowing in the wind.

This poem was written following an issue where a few people were being plagiarised. The last straw was when war poetry was stolen from the pens of others , their name displayed as the original.

This is my feeling towards people who steal the words of others and say they are their own.

Take It Easy

Paul

Operation: Snow Leopard

The air was ice-dry under the coal-black Siberian sky; his ears were blistered from his snow-mask . He glanced at his watch, illuminated by the bright winter moon, only five seconds until an amber glow fell over his camp. The camouflage had worked well so far. He wasn’t worried. He was a professional. He clicked a button in his right hand. The lens on his scope snapped shut. He knelt in a prone position looking down waiting for the security light to wash over him. 

He waited thirty minutes in his camp, set behind two rocks jutting out the earth like death-grey battlements. He took the time to check his tactical backpack and weaponry, it was a habit. A habit that had saved him several times before. Once he was happy he had everything he’d need he took one last look at the map of the compound. He decided on going through the front gate. It didn’t have to be complicated. 

There was a slight wind carrying drifting snow. Right on schedule the lamp went out. The clink of heavy boots on metal, it took the guard between two and three minutes to walk through the wrought iron archway and into the warmth of the safehouse. He’d spent three nights doing recon. He was going to wait another couple of days before the assault but a call came through from Deputy Director Gorschev. It had to be done tonight. 

He remembered the mission briefing back in the mouldy room they had designated Operational Command. A nondescript base used by the GRU to train their agents. It was the closest to Ali bin Yadeen’s Snow Leopard’s compound. The Snow Leopard, a beautiful creature now tainted with the association to the jihadi terrorist he had been tasked with killing. He is responsible for the death of over fifty Russians and is a recruiter and trainer of deep-cover terror cells. He fled Afghanistan and has been running ever since from Russian and the US.

At the sound of a slamming door, he crouched and made a dash to the perimeter wall, then sticking close to it, followed it four hundred metres to the wrought iron gate that was never closed. Arrogance was a great instiller about false senses of security. And there was nothing more arrogant than a terrorist leader who’d managed successful attacks against the Motherland, he thought.

He walked through the iron gate. There were no guards on duty at this time. He still clung to the wall, keeping his trigger-finger ready on his rifle. The compound to the left consisted of two single-storey, opposing L-shaped buildings, one lit and filled with noise (which was closest), the other still and silent black. To the right was a large metal barn, which was also night-dark. He approached carefully, there was no front covering but he saw several vehicles including a tractor, bullet-proofed 4×4 and a couple of snowmobiles. Only the 4×4 and one of the snowmobiles were open with keys; he cut the fuel lines on everything else. He had planned on the 4×4 when he saw it pulling onto the  Returning to the rear of the 4×4, he unzipped and climbed out of his arctic camouflage ghillie suit then pulled up the tactical backpack on to the back seat. Leaving the mask on he laid out his kit. A block of C4 with some blast caps and receivers were ready to go. His SR-3 rifle was in good order, he no longer needed the scope. The GSH -18 pistol slid into its holster with ease. Quickly, he fastened his ammo pouches to his body, picked up his rifle hanging it over his shoulder and held the C4 and blast caps in his hand. He took one final item from the bag and placed it in his pocket. 

He crouched and left the barn, heading for the safety of the wall at the far end. He stood upright and made his way around the perimeter until he was at the wall closest to the front of the compound and started laying C4, blast caps and receivers. He set two on the wall, crept around the corner, placed one adjacent to the door frame and another further along under a shuttered window. He heard singing in a language he didn’t understand but one he’d heard years ago in the Bora Bora mountains. The scent of mutton, spices, hashish and cigar smoke was permeating through the bottom of the door. He thought they probably never reckoned they’d be found especially out here. But, their time had come. 

He heard the distinct rattle of the door, quickly he darted up and around a corner, staying out of sight. A man in robes was beating his chest, walking to the darkened building. He watched as the bearded man slid the door open, entered and left with two girls, both shrieking, gutturally in two different languages; Russian and German. He spat at them as he dragged them violently by the shackles on their arms. They cried and cried, the look of impending threat and dread etched into their hollow faces. This complicated things. He couldn’t kill these girls along with the jihadis. 

He ran back to the 4×4 and took two pepper bombs and two concussion grenades from the tactical backpack. He heard violent voices in the building. He ran back to the shuttered window and tapped on it five times and ducked. No response. Then another three taps and he heard metal scrape against wood he ducked quickly and watched as more light escaped out into the world. He pulled the pins from the pepper bombs and concussion grenades, stood up quickly then shot out the window watching as splinters of glass painted the face of the man looking back at him. He threw in the grenades and ran to the wall next to the door. 

He held his rifle level to his body. The way he’d trained near Averyeko. It was muscle memory. His finger was twitching on the trigger. He heard the door heave open and two men ran out in single file, covering their eyes and choking. They took bullets through their necklines. Their scarlet spilled out, staining the purity of the fresh snow. Then another man this time using the door for cover, ran out again. His eyes were covered by one of his hands but he held a revolver in his other hand. As the man twisted his arm to take the shot, a bullet plunged through his elbow, the power of the subsonic round mangling the tendons. He fired another bullet through the man’s cheekbone. Another one down. By his count he only had another five to get rid of. Nobody was coming out of the front door for a while but as he approached, his boot made a crunch in the snow alerting the terrorists to his proximity. 

He heard the footsteps from two men get closer to the door. One fired a couple of tracer shots out into open air warning him their guns were ready. Their training camps must be poor these days, he thought as they jumped out back-to-back their AK 47’s, trained at chest level. The terrorist facing him looked full of spite and hatred, then had the blank look of death in his eyes as a bullet went through his forehead. The other man spun around and fired a shot that he felt nip the outside of his knee, then nothing. He thought he was being toyed with for a second then realised this next victim’s AK was jammed. He let a glint of a smile wash over his face as he approached the man shot out his legs then his head. There was only the leader and his bodyguards left. They never left his side. He heard shouts in different languages until he heard a shout in Russian saying they would pay him to go away. He can also have the girls. They are willing girls. He heard the Russian girl tell him he was dead; then, he heard a slap.

The two bodyguards walked out with the slight young girls who looked even worse close-up. He spoke to them in both their languages asking what had happened to them as his main target stepped out with a holdall. It was grim listening. Kept as slaves. They had been physically and sexually abused. He said he would get them help immediately and asked for their trust. He stepped back a few feet, telling the terrorist to release the girls saying his vehicle was hidden behind the compound walls. His gun was aimed straight at the main target. He knew they’d release the girls. These men were cowards; they were in hiding. Being a martyr for Allah didn’t appeal. He stepped back further, waited a minute then the girls stumbled past him. He asked in English what was in the holdall. The target replied with ‘five million dollars US, give or take ‘. He started moving his body to his left, the bodyguards and the bin Yadeen followed suit, keeping the space between them. He watched smiles cross their faces as they realised they were close enough to retreat into the house and if he stormed it again they’d easily take him out. He asked for the holdall and as Bin Yadeen threw it, slim bricks of paper money slipped out. He didn’t attempt to catch it, that gave them another advantage. The three men were speaking in the language he couldn’t understand. Not glancing at the cash, he screamed at them to go back inside the lodge. They retreated, back and inside. The last bodyguard heaved the door shut. It was almost silent. They had a perfect sniper position from the window. He heard the instruction to take it up. Then an explosion. A big explosion. 

The snow was disturbed by chunks of wood, burning money, bricks and concrete. There was a fire in the middle of the freeze. He heard wailing and moaning from three voices. He saw limbs detached from bodies. He approached the debris, a mental map of the interior in his mind. He found the body of bin Yadeen tangled in brickwork. Saw the tears streaking through the dirt on his face. Heard the gurgle come from his throat. Then heard the bullet from his SR-3 shatter his skull as it travelled through his head from the optic nerve. 

He moved all of his kit into the front of the 4×4. You could never be too certain of your safety. It started immediately, the engine purring as he pulled out of the compound onto the gravel track. The two young girls were shivering with shock and cold next to the wall. He slit open his gilly suit to make a blanket as best he could, then turned the heating up as much as possible. He had a couple of protein bars and the remains of a bottle of vodka which he gave them. He heard them devour the food and within ten minutes of being on the road, heard the girls sleeping.

He drove back to Operational Command, the 4×4 handled the snowy conditions well and it had a good top speed. The journey was quiet, apart from the restlessness of his passengers in their sleep. He had to take them back to Command. They’d be questioned about anything they’d heard. He knew they’d never be able to give anything of value. But you never knew, especially with trauma. They would, at the very least, be reunited with their families and be given a medal by the state. And some money. The Politburo would use it as a positive story between Russia and Germany. His name would be kept out of it at the very least. 

Artyom Garin, the Snow Leopard killer.

Thanks for reading the first story in the Artyom Garin series. I hope you liked it.

Take it Easy

Paul

I Can’t Believe It, I Came 3rd!

On Sunday (Halloween), I entered Black Bough Poetry’s #BBMicro2 contest.

The premise and rules were to create an original 4-line poem about Autumn or Halloween, post it on twitter using the above hashtag.

There was a panel of judges working throughout the day, all of whom are really talented poets.

A shortlist was announced on Monday and that’s when I got the first shock! I had made the shortlist! I couldn’t believe it as I’d read some of the other entries and I thought they were outstanding.

On Tuesday evening, the winners were announced. I came in 3rd. I will be celebrating this achievement at the weekend with my wife. It hasn’t really sunk in because I never imagined I’d get anywhere near the shortlist or finalist. It has given me a lot more self-belief in my writing! Hard work pays off.

You can see all the winners on by visiting @blackboughpoems on twitter. Or visit their website (blackboughpoems.com) to view the current books and anthologies they have for sale. Their Christmas/Winter edition has just been released and has some stunning artwork alongside incredible poetry.

Take It Easy,

Paul

The Sculptor

My palms are worn leather
handling hammer and chisel
the sinew in my forearms is taut
carrying marble creates strength
my neck stands tired yet agile
from always looking upwards
but my days of crafting pedestals is over
so I’ll wait for my body to reset
and return to an even keel
the cost of marble is too much
once it’s been etched
it can’t be returned
even though I probably value the material
more than the people I’ve placed upon it
I’ll craft myself an armchair
to rest and read on
and watch the pedestals crumble.

—————

Thanks for taking the time to read my poem. If you want to read more, feel free to browse the site.

Take It Easy,

Paul

Autumn & I

I welcome Autumn
as she drapes me
in a blanket of bronze and straw-gold
whispering seductive sweet promises of
late lavender sunrises
and delicious red sunsets
she mentions velvet night-skies flecked with tiny diamonds
and an occasional silent symphony by the Northern Lights
even the rain softens under her presence
guiding acorns to ground
while winged sycamores float safely down
and when the wind wraps itself around her
it whistles happily
carrying her scent of blackberry and pear
feeding my nostalgia of years gone by
everything about Autumn is chaos
everything about Autumn is just so
I long for her and her embrace to return
by the time Winter shakes my hand
with his icy fingers.

Thanks for taking the time to read this poem , I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to leave any comments you may like.

Take It Easy,

Paul

Reincarnate

The last of the dahlias
were picked last week
ruby red, imperial, majestic
they ruled the garden
so to let them drown
in the relentless October rain
would have been sacrilege
instead, we slipped them into a glass-vase coma
keeping them alive
until scarlet turned to rust
and petals slipped away
and we were ready to say our farewells

softened stems were carried
and placed among the compost pile
so memories of their life
can grow a new family of flora
and their majesty return.

———

Thanks for taking the time to read my poem. Please feel free to have a look around my site for more of my work.

Take It Easy

Paul

From Your Brothers

There it is again
that distant gaze
powerful, it pierces faraway sandstorms
looking for the memory
of where that long lost piece of you
may be buried
and the Afghan sun can’t even burn your eyes
because you’ve stared so long, so often.

That subtle curl of lip
and your eyes wander softly
back in to the room
amongst the lads, lagers
and a few over-under dressed lasses.

There’s no sand here
and you know the rain
is always close-by
– like us –
we just hope we can help
to find you some hard-earned peace.

Thanks for taking the time to read this poem. It’s dedicated to my friends who’ve spent time fighting for the country on faraway shores.

Paul

Hope, Bottled

I remember how
my hand fit into yours
with welcoming ease
and the warmth of your skin
heated my tepid fingers
as we walked along the beach

the North Sea was trembling with chilling intensity
– as we skimmed stones
plucked fresh from champagne-gold sand
they wisped over waves
their light friction warming the water
and calming the sea

I told a joke about blushing lobsters and seaweed
you laughed because it was so bad
and the frame of your face
lit up the dusky sky
better than the distant hilltop fire beacons
could ever hope to

I’m hoping this has all has gone to plan –
that some years have passed –
and our hands still fit each others
that the message I buried in this bottle
is not lost to the tide
like so many other romances
and we’re reading this in the spot
where we sat and snuggled that night
stargazing at the peach-kissed setting sun on the horizon

      – because I know that I will love you forever.

Thanks for taking the time to read this poem dedicated to my beautiful wife, Christine.

Take it easy,

Paul

No Sense Of Summer


The string is delicately coarse
between my fingers and palm
when I pull
the blinds need a heavy touch
to open this morning

I’m expecting hues of
poached peach & rhubarb
to welcome me to Monday
but the sky is chalk-grey and despondent 

My ears crave the tranquility
of a blackbird & sparrow choir
when all I can hear
is the drowning of the day
the rain pelting the paving slabs

And I can’t smell the jasmine
that normally waltzes its way
from the raised bed in the garden
beyond my bedroom window –
but the scent of damp mown-grass
is refreshing

It’s bittersweet
that mid-July’s sun won’t be seen today
because on the bright side
I’ll savour this rainy day
with you.

Thanks for taking the time to read my poem. I hope you enjoyed it and at least some of it resonated with you. While you’re here, why not check some of my other work?

Take it easy,

Paul

The Stranger

The New York night was bleak, cold and solemn. Even the moon concealed itself in the comfort of clouds so it would not bear witness of what was to come. Tonight, death felt inevitable.

Carter Samson’s stomach rumbled as he got out of the elevator at basement level. His senses took ten seconds  to adjust as he stepped out of the soft lighting and droning muzac into the pitch darkness of the subterranean garage. Clumsily, he pulled out his keys and used the mini torch on his keychain to light the path to his car, clicking the remote central locking. He climbed in, started the engine, then felt the firm crush of steel on the back of his shaved scalp. He checked his mirror and stared into the eyes of a face he didn’t recognise. 

‘Where did you hide the bodies Carter?’ the Stranger asked calmly, in a thick Russian accent.

‘W-w-w-what do you mean? I think you have me mixed up with someone else’ he snivelled.

‘Carter Samson, or should I say Cesar Samsonivich you’re not going to get away with murder any more, I know who you are and what you’ve done. This is the last time I ask, where did you hide the bodies?’

The worry on Carter’s transformed to a wide grin, a gold tooth glinting in the mirror’s reflection. ‘I didn’t hide the bodies, Comrade, I feasted on most of them and fed some to my wolves back in Saint Petersburg, well my Russian delicacies anyway. I am the embodiment of the demon, Bauk and tonight I will feast on you. It has been a while since I’ve tasted a Russian eyeball and heart. and I am hungry’

‘Oh, tonight you will only be tasting justice for the lives you’ve taken, zasranec. Turn off the engine. Now’, the Stranger replied angrily.

‘You can’t kill me here, there is security all around, you will never get away. Mmm, I  can smell the doubt on you now. A pity. It sometimes gives flesh a sour note. Maybe your blood will be sweet, though, we’ll see’ Cesar said matter-of-factly.

‘You talk of security, Comrade, but I got in here unnoticed. Very easily. I have no doubt I will be ending you tonight. So tell me, how many have you killed in total? I know of forty-seven in the Motherland and thirty-five in Finland, and for the last time turn the fucking engine off, ’ the Stranger demanded.

‘You are quite the investigator, aren’t you. Okay I’ll play along. You’re right about Russia and Finland, very tasty morsels there. Especially that young couple from Lieksa, they were pure, saving themselves for marriage. I gave them a taste of each other before they died, it seemed fair but they didn’t want to taste each other so maybe their marriage would have failed. There were only ten in England, I wasn’t there long. Then two here in America. The Americans taste of processed foods. My palate is more  refined, I can keep you alive while I gorge on you and tell you how you taste if you wish?’ Cesar replied with a maniacal look in his eyes, his lips being soaked by his meaty tongue.

Seeing the disgust in the Stranger’s eyes, Cesar used this as a distraction and pressed his foot down hard on the accelerator then braked. He no longer felt the gun on him. He turned his head, hoping to see the Stranger crumpled and disoriented in the back seat but his hope immediately turned to horror. The gun’s chamber met his eye and he felt the faintest glimmer of heat on his eyeball a millisecond before the bullet killed him.

The Stranger climbed through to the passenger seat and turned off the engine. He pulled a small axe from the back seat. It had nearly ripped him open when Cesar had tried to knock him off balance but now he was meticulously hacking through flesh, sinew and bone. He started with the head, it always took the longest time and the Stranger wanted to get this done as quickly as possible. Once the head was detached, the hands, feet, arms and legs quickly followed. It was a tight space to cut up a dead body and somewhat impractical but the Stranger had worked in tighter spaces before this. He knew once the remains were bagged up, there would be much more space. 

The Stranger drove Cesar Samsonivich’s car to the Russian embassy. He wasn’t worried about being caught; the tech team knew how to get the Motherland’s preferred candidate into The White House, so making a car disappear from traffic cameras would be easy. When he pulled into the gates, a man he recognised as Ilya took the keys and drove it to the hidden workshops where there was a team ready to change the car’s silver colour to something darker and remove the New York State license plates. The Stranger knew the plan; the car would be sent to Russia by plane tomorrow with the bags of Carter’s body laid out on the leather interior and be used in a propaganda campaign to arrest some foreign nationals the FSB had identified as terror cells. Some information would be leaked. The State media always needed fed and dead bodies and terror cells always kept them full for a few days. 

The night felt cold and pure as he walked through the embassy gardens toward the rear door. The guards on duty saw him approach and waved. The youngest asked him for his identification even though they had sat together at the breakfast table earlier that day. He appreciated the normality after killing that piece of scum. The Stranger looked up watching the breath escape his mouth. He caught a glimpse of the moon peering out from behind a cloud seemingly happy at what was going on underneath it as it grew brighter. He opened the embassy door and let the rest of the night swallow him up.

Thanks for taking the time to read this short story about The Stranger. I may do a crossover with the main character in this and Killing Time in NYC. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Take it Easy,

Paul