Tea by Maurice Eliot

I am usually happier when I drink tea.

Children Love Stalin

At some point I was taught the elements of humor; the one that sticks with me is incongruity, the juxtaposition of two ideas or images that are different, unexpected, with a humorous result. As an example, to pair one of history’s most ruthless mass murderers, Josef Stalin, with adoring children whose parents will probably be missing when they return home, that’s incongruous. And to me, when I stumbled across these images, funny.

“Congratulations, you will be the first to be executed.”

“I vote for Stalin.”

“Me, too.”

“Today, I redraw the map and smoke a pipe.”

Stalin reads and answers every fan letter.

… and works late for a grateful people.

“Your last ride. It’s official!”


Yes, that’s Orion over there,
the three studs of the belt
clearly lined up just off the horizon.

And if you turn around you can see
Gemini, very visible tonight,
the twins looking off into space as usual.

That cluster a little higher in the sky
is Cassiopeia sitting in her astral chair
if I’m not mistaken.

And directly overhead,
isn’t that Virginia Woolf
slipping along the River Ouse

in her inflatable canoe?
See the wide-brimmed hat and there,
the outline of the paddle, raised and dripping stars?

— “Constellations” by Billy Collins from The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems (2005), because I love Virginia Woolf and Billy Collins, with thanks to Roz Hines