Death In Paradise

By Christopher Zoukis   Image courtesy

Death in paradise. 

In a nondescript cemetery, small yet serene, there’s a grave.  It was dug by a black woman named Defilee.  Plunging her shovel into the moist earth, she would scoop the dirt out.  But some always got by the blade of the shovel, so then she knelt, scraping and pushing the marbled dirt with her bare hands.  She began to sweat, some of it trickling into her eyes, stinging them.  She’d stop to wipe it away, using her wrist because of the dirt on her hands.  Still, dirt got in her eyes.  A vicious cycle:  dig, scrape, sweat, sting, wipe, dirt in eyes – repeat. 

When the hole was deep enough and wide enough and it had to be longer and wider than most to accommodate its intended inhabitant, she rolled the mutilated body into it.  Then covered it with the rich, black soil piled in a mound beside the hole.

No one says so, but I suspect she performed certain arcane religious rites before burying the body.  Vodou rites; perhaps she nailed a poppet and an old black leather shoe to a nearby tree, the little person (poppet) to act as a herald to the otherworld, the shoe to denote liberty and freedom since usually slaves went barefoot.  

Defilee then erected a simple marker and left.  Not a cross or a headstone, more likely she placed a group of white and gray stones in an oracular formation.

This is the real grave of Jean Jacques Dessalines. 

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Caryl Chessman – 2

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

His name was Caryl Whittier Chessman.  Born May 27, 1921 in St. Joseph, Michigan, he died May 2, 1960 at San Quentin Prison, San Quentin, California.  He was executed by the order of the State of California.

His life, though simple in one respect, that he spent most of it in one prison or another, was enormously complicated in many other respects.

The beginning of the end began in 1948.  Caryl had just been paroled from prison when the police arrested him in Los Angeles.  Supposedly, he was the “Red Light Bandit.”  This person nicknamed the Red Light Bandit, whoever he was, used a red flashing light on his car to impersonate a police car.  He would come up behind cars and turn on the red light.  Once the cars stopped, he would rob the drivers and passengers or, if they were young and female, rape them.

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Caryl Chessman – 1

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

A few years ago, in 2004 to be exact, Rosalie Asher died.  After her funeral, her niece Bonnie Fovinci was sorting through Rosalie’s office, making two piles of stuff.  One to save and one to throw out. 

She picked up a black vase from the shelf next to Rosalie’s desk.  Junk, she thought, preparing to toss it on the ‘throw out’ pile.  Instead, she weighed it in her hands.  It was heavier than a vase needed to be.  Looking closely at it, she discovered it was metal.  And not really black, but more of a dark, smokey gray color.  There were some scratches on the base.  No, they were letters inscribed into the metal.  A name and two dates.

Holding the vase up to the sunlight, she angled it so she could read the name.  When she read it she stopped breathing for a few seconds.  Slowly she sat down in Rosalie’s chair behind the desk.

Setting the black vase on the desk in front of her, she stared at it, lost in thoughts of a past gone by.  It wasn’t a vase.  It was an urn.  The kind of urn that held the cremated remains of dead people.  Only this urn was empty.

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Imagination – 1

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

New St. Paul’s Cathedral resides in Central London.  The adjective ‘new’ refers to the fact that the extant structure was rebuilt from the ground up after the Great Fire of 1666.  The Old Cathedral dated back to Saxon times, circa 600 A.D.  Saxon, of course, refers to the ancient Northern Germanic people, who spoke the Low German dialect. 

The cemetery holds the bones and ashes of those who await the Second Advent and the trumpet call to eternity, among who:  the Flemish artist Sir Anthony Van Dyck, who died of the Plague in Blackfriars; John Donne, the poet-priest; and Sir Joshua Reynolds, London’s foremost painter of portraits.

Entombed here also is Horatio Nelson, the cyclopean, single-armed libertine; and the Duke of Wellington, hero of the Napoleonic era and emancipator of Catholics.

And over in the corner, near the ashes of the architect Sir Edwin Landseer Luytens, rest the ashes of Walter de la Mare, poet extraordinaire.

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Rock and Ice – 2

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

His real name was Giulio Cesare Andrea Evola, aka Baron Evola, aka Julius Evola.  When he died he was seventy-six years old, had never married, had no children and no remaining family.

Born in Rome into an aristocratic Sicilian family, Evola inherited enough wealth to make him independent.  A natural yet ultraistic intellectual, after participating as an officer of artillery in the Italian Army in World War I, he sought out the eccentric isms of his era, becoming part of the Futurist movement, which he quickly discarded.  Dadaism was his next depot; its meaninglessness inspiring his poetry, essays and paintings. 

Soon though, Evola decided that even the meaningless nothing of Dadaism was corrupt, since it was being cloned and marketed to the general public.  In protest, he stopped painting and writing poetry, limiting himself to prose alone. 

Seeking the newest new-thing, he immersed himself in soi-disant (so called) spiritual studies, which had assumed the grandiose name of ‘supra-rationalism.’  This mystical nonsense appealed directly to the elitism of his mind.  He believed he had found illumination in the esoteric books he purchased and devoured.  Books on the occult, alchemy, magic and Eastern mystical studies, such as Lamaism and tantric yoga.

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Rock and Ice – 1

By Christopher Zoukis Image courtesy The gravesite is high and cold and detached.  No one knows its precise location anymore.  For it’s been nigh onto forty years since they took him up there. Back in 1974, his ashes were poured in an urn, which was placed in a backpack, which was strapped to a […]

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Open Court – 2

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

Open Court Publishing Company published affordable copies of the classics of philosophy, along with original scholarly books in philosophy, science and religion.  Some of which were vague presentations of newfangled ideas.  One of the newfangled ideas was Pragmatism, which reconciled logic as a system of symbols.  In other words, logic was not a rational system of correct reasoning based on cause and effect.  Rather it was symbolic, that is, correct reasoning is inferred from signs or symbols.  Which means that, like a disease in the human body, logic can only be diagnosed by means of symptoms.  Thus, understanding the symbols of logic is not intuitive, but very businesslike – the systematic recognition of known facts.

Pragmatism was the offspring of Charles Sanders Pierce.

And if you recall, I discussed Charles Sanders Pierce’s rather dismal life when I wrote about Margery Williams and the Velveteen Rabbit.  Pierce was a prime example of someone who is Unreal, someone who lives according to the logical and practical, someone who is, in a word, boring – beyond belief.  Carus was intrigued by Pierce’s scientific philosophy and published a number of Pierce’s articles.   

The articles appeared in his publishing company’s two magazines, The Open Court and The Monist.  Carus was the chief editor of both. 

Carus was not, though, a nutcase.  He was a true liberal in the full, energetic etymology of the word.  Fascinated by anything new and unparalleled, anything not chained by blind conviction, he carried on voluminous correspondence with some of the finest intellects of his day:  John Dewey, Ernst Haeckel, Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Edison, Ernst Mach, Elizabeth Stanton, Nichola Tesla, and Booker T. Washington.

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Open Court

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

There’s a dark green bench near the tombstone, one of the old ones with the wooden slats and iron legs, like the ones city governments placed at bus stops.  It’s as if he’s inviting you stay for a while.  Sit, relax and let us converse. 

His name is on the back of the bench, along with his birth date and his death date.  Of course that got me to thinking that maybe the bench isn’t for sitting and relaxing.  Maybe it’s part of the tombstone, kind of a double display effect:  the actual stone tombstone and the bench forming two sides, like bookends for the dead.

The actual tombstone has his name and dates too.  Two feet wide by eight inches high, it’s a three-layered affair, like a cake, but each layer is smaller than the one beneath it.  The bottom layer is just cement, with the next two higher layers being black granite, which, as usual, isn’t really black.  More of a dark gray.

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Queen of the World – 4

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

Things were now out of control.  Total chaos and anarchy ruled Constantinople, not Justinian or his Empress.  Beyond belief, women left their homes, flocked into the streets and urged their men to fight, to attack the royal palace.

Inside the palace, Emperor Justinian and his high-ranking officials discussed fleeing the city, which appeared to them to be their only option, if they wished to continue to live.

Again beyond belief, because women, even Empresses, did not address such Councils, Theodora rose and spoke to the gathered group of men.  She told them that flight was not only unthinkable, it was cowardly.  She urged them to send troops to the Hippodrome, where the rebels had now massed to select their own leader, to annihilate the rebels.

Shocked by her words and the fire in her eyes, the Council did as she suggested.  Troops marched on the Hippodrome, where they entered and wiped out the rebels.  30,000 to 50,000 people fell to the sword inside the Hippodrome.  In the days after the carnage, the property of all individuals who had joined the rebellion was confiscated.  Justinian used much of this wealth to reward his supporters, one of whom was Theodora.  She received the bulk of the confiscated monies and lands. 

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