What Rhymes With Wednesday?

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 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.


To get the most out of Stevens’s language, read this aloud to someone. (Or yourself–it can’t hurt.)

In Poetry Out Loud, Robert Alden Rubin writes “Stevens’s theory of poetry was ‘no ideas but in things.’ Ice cream–delicious and tempting–is an absolute good, and not a symbol for anything. The way words sound here is as important as what they mean.”


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