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The Emperor of Ice Cream

By Wallace Stevens

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered three fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.

Wallace Stevens


Some folks have asked me, "Why all the rainbow colors?" The reasons are two:

Firstly, it is a pun on "neapolitan ice cream".

Secondly, the wild colors are simply insane, just as this poem is insane.

This poem, as I read it, is about the insanity of grief after the death of a loved one. But as with many poems, the meaning can be different for different readers. How do you read it?


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