Zoom Magazine

On the Naming of Zozimus Bookshop

John Wyse Jackson

‘Dreams is not like human beans or animals. They has no brains. They is made of zozimus.’    – The BFG (Roald Dahl)

People sometimes ask how the bookshop got its name.
One of the earliest Zozimusses (Zozimi?) was a monk of the early church in Palestine. In Ireland, however, the name was used by to a blind street balladeer and reciter called Michael Moran, who was a familiar sight in Dublin in the years leading up to the Great Famine.
But how did this strange eastern name apply itself to Michael Moran? Zozimus the ‘holy hermit’ appears in a long ballad of Moran’s composition, entitled ‘The Life, Conversion, and Death of St. Mary of Egypt.’ This describes how, on a solitary wilderness holiday one Lent, he meets a naked (and rather suntanned) woman, ‘stript for sin’. Under the monk’s benign influence, fortunately, she is persuaded to repent of her wicked ways, and soon becomes so holy that she can walk on water. On her death, she is revealed as a saint, and a passing lion obligingly – and miraculously – digs a grave for her.
So popular was this tale in Dublin, and so exciting the thought of the exotic lady ‘stript for sin’, that the crowds around Michael Moran used to request it frequently, chanting ‘Zozimus, Zozimus’ until the performer obliged and recited it again. And so, the name stuck.
You might wonder why a bookshop should take its name from a blind man.
Well, Zozimus the singer was the tutelary genius who presided over an anthology of comic and quirky verses that Hector McDonnell and I brought out in 2007. Entitled Ireland’s Other Poetry: Anonymous to Zozimus, it features Hector’s drawing of Zozimus on the back. The book contains two of his most famous compositions: ‘The Finding of Moses’, which begins:

‘On Aegypt’s banks, contagious to the Nile,
King Pharaoh’s daughter went to bathe in style …’

And, perhaps best known of all,

‘St Patrick was a gentleman,
He came from decent people …’

So, as it turned out, when one day I was suddenly asked what the bookshop was called, Michael Moran seemed to be whispering in my ear, ‘Zozimus, Zozimus!’ Certainly it has proved a better choice than the alternative,  ‘Anonymous Bookshop’…
And we might also remember what the Big Friendly Giant said – ‘Dreams is made of zozimus.’

Working at Zozimus Bookshop

Althea Farren

It’s a busy day at the shop. Much to my delight, I sell one of our most beautiful books – it’s a very large French book called Le Roi Soleil. I’ve glanced through it several times and on each occasion, I’ve been dazzled by the sheer splendour of the production. There are glorious colour plates depicting Louis XIV as the Sun King triumphant in battle, as powerful monarch and as visionary creator of the Palace of Versailles.
The charming gentleman who buys it visited Rhodesia in 1977 to shoot a television commercial. We reminisce about the UDI era and about the Monomatapa Hotel in Salisbury, where he stayed. He packed a great deal into his brief visit, he says. On his first Saturday there, he was asked to stand in as goalie for a leading soccer team. Their regular goalie had been injured during a training session. This would have been an unusual compliment, since soccer tended to be more of a ‘black’ sport in Rhodesia – the whites preferred to play rugby and cricket.
He was also asked to play the lead in George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Arms and the Man’. This was filmed very quickly, he explains, since it was a low budget production and there was no time or money for takes and retakes.
He was paid in Rhodesian currency, which was worth nothing elsewhere, so he decided to buy UDI stamps with his earnings. Sometime later, when he wanted to sell them, he was offered only £35. So he decided to keep his stamp album as a souvenir of his time in Rhodesia.
Another customer hands me a copy of Deepak Chopra’s Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. She doesn’t want to buy it, she says, but while looking through it, she’s come across a card…
‘It’s delightful. It should really be returned, but I suppose that’s impossible…’ she remarks, handing it over to me.
The small white card is dated 25 November 2003.

     Darling Kay, My beautiful wife and fantastic soul-mate,
     I love you so much and look forward to Thursday.
     Sleep well. All my love,  John.  XXXXXXXX

      I open the book and read Deepak Chopra’s invitation to the reader to join him on a ‘journey of discovery’. I flip through the first few pages of the book, and am struck by the words: ‘People don’t grow old. When they stop growing, they become old.’ The author is quoting an 80-year-old patient. He goes on to say that one’s body is ‘new at every moment’ and that it is ‘infused with the deep intelligence of life’.
John sounds young. There’s a sense of wonder and joy in his message to Kay. Perhaps their love for one another is growing and maturing as a result of Deepak Chopra’s teachings? Where are they now, I wonder, more than 12 years later?
A lady is looking for a book on Irish birds and an atlas. The large atlases we have in stock aren’t really suitable – they’re too heavy – but there is an inexpensive, up-to-date atlas in the children’s section. She tells me that, in the process of downsizing, she had divided her belongings into ‘keep’ and ‘throw out’ categories. Everything had been packed in boxes and clearly labelled. Somewhere along the line, however, the boxes were mixed up and all her books (packed carefully into ‘keep’ boxes) had been taken to the tip.
So she has no books and now wants to replace the ones that really matter. She’s made a list, but has left it at home. She does remember, though, that she’s lost all Patrick Kavanagh’s poetry books and wonders whether we have any in stock. I find one – it’s a scarce limited edition – priced at €18.
‘This was once my book,’ she says in great surprise and reads out the dedication.

     ‘To Mammy,
     In memory of Uncle Liam. Anyone who ever heard him tell a story will never forget him.
     My love always, Siobhan

      The anthology, edited by Robert Platt and published in March 1973, was Copy 276 of a limited edition of 26 lettered copies (reserved for contributors) and 1,000 numbered copies.
She closes the book and reluctantly replaces it on the shelf.
‘It’s too expensive, I’m afraid,’ she says, ‘I’d love to buy it, but I can’t afford it right now. I’ll come back later to pick up the other two books after I’ve done my shopping.’
I phoned John, who was on his day off.
‘I wonder where I got the book from,’ he says, ‘Anyway, it obviously wants to go home. Give it to her.’

…   …   …   …   …   …

     ‘Where’s himself, then?’ I am often asked this question.
‘He’s having a well-earned break. Perhaps I can help you?’
‘He’s out buying books… Yes, I know he buys an awful lot of books…’
‘He’s lecturing in Dublin/London/the States/Romania…’
I’m sometimes asked if I’m John’s wife.
‘No, John’s wife is much younger than me…’
I also get asked if our books are for sale…

[Althea Farren can usually be found in charge of Zozimus Bookshop on Sundays and Mondays. She and her husband, Larry, left Zimbabwe in 2007 and have made Gorey their new home. She is an enthusiastic member of a book club that meets once a week in the Gorey library.]

Six Poems

Chris Hayden



(after Joel 2:13)

The intensely devout
huddle at a shrine
their prayers candlewaxing eloquently
to an invisible deity.
Invisible too, the chasm
between their warmly glowing candles
and the spent and cooling embers
of their compassion.



The impression that I am being smiled at
by a sea of sunflowers
comes with a price.

After a few bends in the Umbrian road
simple consistency gives rise
to the impression
that innumerable other sunflowers
have decided to give me the cold shoulder
in favour of the sun.

Thus I am helped
to take a further small step
from an egocentric
to a heliocentric universe.



A novice scuba-diver tries vainly
to sink off Doolin pier.
I hear his bubbled grunt of annoyance
as he thrashes about.
He is not feeling buoyant
about being so buoyant
and his spirits begin to sink.

It is usually the drowning
who flail so desperately.



You enter a state-of-the-art stadium
and stand in awe at its magnificence.

You enter a museum of technology
and worship at the altar of progress.

You enter a church adorned with gold leaf
and are filled with angry indignation
for the world’s poor.



I raise my hand
to a tousled youngster
and he recoils.

He seems used
to the raised hand,
yet sadly unused
to the hand raised
in blessing.



You bless him because he cannot bless himself,
dampening your fingers
touching his forehead, shoulders, breast.
He flails his tiny arms
as he wriggles in yours.

You bless him because he cannot bless himself,
dampening your fingers
touching his forehead, shoulders, breast.
His arms are folded, still.
A rosary is threaded through his fingers.


[Chris Hayden is a priest of Ferns Diocese. He has worked as Spiritual Director of the Irish College in Rome, and his most recent book, I Believe: Line by Line through the Creed was published in 2014 by Veritas. His poetry received a runner-up award in the Patrick Kavanagh Competition, 2013.]