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About this Poem 

This poem is apparently "set" in Key West, a place that inspired much of Stevens's work, and where it was a tradition to have ice cream at funerals.

The Emperor of Ice-Cream

Wallace Stevens, 1879 - 1955
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.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens

Though he did not receive widespread recognition until late in his life, Wallace Stevens—whose work is known for its imagination, whimsy, and relation to both the English Romantics and French symbolists—is now considered one of the major American poets of the century. 

by this poet

poem
I

In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;
But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four
        hills and a cloud.

II

From my balcony, I survey the yellow air,
Reading where I have written,
"The spring is like a belle undressing."

III

The gold tree is blue,
The singer has pulled his
poem
Barque of phosphor
On the palmy beach,

Move outward into heaven,
Into the alabasters
And night blues.

Foam and cloud are one.
Sultry moon-monsters
Are dissolving.

Fill your black hull
With white moonlight.

There will never be an end
To this droning of the surf.
poem
What syllable are you seeking,
Vocalissimus,
In the distances of sleep?
Speak it.