Excerpt from Lake of the Drowned Women by Vasiliki Katsarou

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The following piece appears in our Autumn 2016 issue. The entire issue is available for immediate download.

I returned to a northern lake in a southern country for the wedding of a cousin. In that lake floats an island where once lived Vasiliki, Greek wife of the Ottoman overlord Ali Pasha. Lake of the Drowned Women, it is called, for in that lake he drowned those in his harem he found troublesome.

At the turn of the twentieth-first century I stood in the house of Ali Pasha. A French guide was leading a group of tourists through the story of Vasiliki. She turned my head with her français and it was the story of a namesake, so I listened carefully, thoughtlessly. To my surprise, she spoke in favor of Ali Pasha who earned her sympathy since after all, Greek soldiers violated Ali’s mother, and so it was natural to swear vengeance on all Greeks. And Vasiliki was his favorite, the one he didn’t drown after all, or force to abandon her infidel faith.

VASILIKI KATSAROUVASILIKI KATSAROU is the author of a poetry collection, Memento Tsunami, and co-editor of two poetry anthologies: Eating Her Wedding Dress: A Collection of Clothing Poems and Dark as a Hazel Eye: Coffee & Chocolate Poems. A Geraldine R. Dodge Festival and Teaching poet, she works with artists and poets at Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey.