From the pen of Turlough Ó Maoláin ...

The Chronicles of Bulgaria

The Liberation of Stefan and Penka


We met in black and white.

Four eyes peircing dirt and spiders‘ webs

To escape their world behind the wood pile

In the darkest corner of an ancient barn

In what was once a peasants’ farm

To join me in mine.


Though they had been here all the time.

Long before my coffee machine,

My worldwide web and my affluent dream,

My online films and my pension scheme

Spilled into their house that in its time had seen

Occupation, revolution, devastation, liberation,

Right Wing, Left Wing, harrowing, more liberation,

One Cold War and two hundred long hot Bolyar summers,

Chickens and goats, deaths and births and a dearth

Of grief and sadness, song and dance and mirth.


Blowing decades of dust from the picture frame,

Hands smearing the filthy glass to let

Long lost occupants emerge from the past.

Now smiling on my kitchen wall

In their Sunday best, dressed to be blessed

On their wedding day.

Looking down on where they once cooked and ate

What they had sown and grown, skinned and plucked

Food from a field or forest, not a packet or can

Before super powers each sent their money man

Before supermarkets came and overran this land

Ending Zhivkov's final five-year plan.


From an antique flask rakia flows and

Floods my mind, warms my inside.

Sends imagination on a ride to a time long passed.

Makes me feel welcome in my own home.

Makes me feel that I’m not alone.


Winding up the gramophone

The needle ploughs a scratchy tune,

A polka buried deep in the shellac disc

As it jumps and spirals, lights up the room

Like the ghostly dancers on the kitchen floor.

Like they did so many years before

When the world revolved at seventy-eight.


Penka and Stefan

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