September 2023

Back to Issue 14

Beyond the frame

By Vasilka Pateras

(Solun/Солун/Salonika/Thessaloniki/ Θεσσαλονίκη/ Saloniki/Selaniku/Selanik)

This place has another story 

beyond prologue and epilogue 

in the seams, extras of history 

waiting to be cast

in the shadow of the white tower 

a subtext looms in the libretto of enosis 


врба ми изникнала, врба ми изникнала

врба ми изникнала во Солунско поле


a lament as ubiquitous as church incense 

fall and conquer of empires 

in the splash down 

of victim narratives even by victors 


A drive to Yedi Kule 

old ottoman prison 

mortar primed with suffering 

in the adjoining field 

amongst springy grass 

lie tombstones

Jewish and Muslim 

beheaded graves 

the indignation palpable 

dissociative pieces that just don’t fit 


white gloved hands

show me a collection

black and white photographs 

clicked proofs of

people waiting  

an unpublished history 


How strange this city feels 

I immerse myself but cannot read the words

a fiction of struggles and glory 

invasions, collapse, exodus 

I pick the lint off my t-shirt 

with precision 


Families gather in summer evening 

by the water’s edge

I breathe the Aegean

walk the pavement 

into the call of vendors 

the smell of roasting corn 





  • Fragment of a Macedonian folksong from Aegean Macedonia – Врба ми изникнала/The willow has sprouted

                    The willow has sprouted (x2)

                    In the valley of Salonika (x2)