Copse and Robbers
No Bulgar children, women or men
Can recall the day exactly when
They first strode into forested lands
With an axe on a shoulder or a saw in a hand
And a cart on which there would be drawn
Cut logs to burn to keep them warm
And cook and maybe fill the bath
During a Balkan winter’s icy wrath.
Since time began they’d only fell
The trees they’d need, unless as well
Some toothless Baba, wretched and old,
Or raw boned Dyado paralysed by the cold
Would want a few sticks to keep them alive.
Taking only this, poor people survived
And woodlands regrew to how they’d been
In an annual eruption of verdant green.
Just a small pile of logs was all that was needed
To fire up the petchka but now superseded
By new-fangled machines with instant hot water
Pumped through the big houses to heat every quarter.
But modernity burned such vast mountains of wood
And hills became bare where great forests once stood.
The Ministry men said this had to be stopped
With restrictions in place on what trees could be chopped.
All of a sudden their fuel ceased to be free.
Obtainable by means of a stiff licence fee.
No problem for those who could afford central heating,
But disaster for poor folk shivering and beating
Back the harshness of winter with a meagre supply
Of wood for the stove and a fear they might die.
The control of the logging had left them bereft.
Knowing to keep themselves warm they must turn to theft.
As darkness envelopes a late autumn day
The backwoods’ near silence drowns in an array
Of calls from a fox or a boar or an owl
And sometimes a chainsaw’s menacing growl.
With children at home all with bellies to feed
They only fell the trees that they need.
With no money to buy what once was theirs
The copse has the answer to their wintry prayers.
I’ve used a few Bulgarian words where the English equivalent just didn’t seem right.
Baba (Баба) = Grandmother, or a general term for an old woman.
Dyado (Дядо) = Grandfather, or a general term for an old man.
Petchka (Печка) = Simple wood burning stove of cast iron construction. These have been the prime source of heating in many Bulgarian households since the day cast iron was invented.
From my own personal catalogue and showing the forest I see from my kitchen door.